A Guide to Hand Protection

Proper hand protection is a critical concern in today's demanding and ever-changing work environment. Since potential injuries can be severe and debilitating, selecting the appropriate gloves can save workers from lost workdays. The right gloves ensure safety, provide comfort, and help increase productivity.

Because of the wide variety of hand protection products available, gloves can be matched to particular applications and you'll want to consider the following:

  • Physical Conditions: Hazards workers are exposed to, including punctures, cuts, abrasion, voltage, and temperature extremes
  • Chemical Resistance: Ability of the gloves to withstand chemical penetration. Permeation guides help determine the level of protection required. For information on the chemical permeability of different glove materials, please call our knowledgeable Technical Support Department at 1-800-571-4646, 8 am - 5 pm ET, Monday - Friday, or email us
  • Product Protection: The need to protect products from outside contamination through contact with worker's hands. Contamination could also occur in the work environment if gloves contain powder or some other ingredient that shouldn't be present
  • Glove Design, Construction, and Fit: Strength, thickness, powders, linings, cuffs, sensitivity, dexterity, finish, and color. Materials used in glove construction and a proper fit ensure comfort and reduce fatigue
  • Allergies: Possibility of workers having allergic reactions to glove contents, including latex

Hand Protection Types and Materials

Based on worker activities, workplace conditions, and materials being handled, a wide assortment of hand protection is available.

Disposable Gloves
Made of latex, nitrile, vinyl, polyethylene, chloroprene, or a tri-polymer blend of rubber latex, neoprene, and nitrile. Designed to protect both the wearer and products. Disposable gloves are ideal for one-time use where fingertip sensitivity is required. Styles are available for food processing, exam, cleanrooms, and medical and laboratory applications.
Leather Gloves
Breathable and durable, leather protects against abrasion. Can be constructed with cotton and synthetic materials, different cuffs, leathers, linings, and thumb styles to ensure a good fit for a variety of applications. Leather gloves are ideal for material handling, construction, maintenance, machinery and heavy equipment operation, and more.

Types of Leather

  • Comfortable, durable, and abrasion resistant
  • Extremely breathable
  • Returns to original pliability after getting wet and drying
  • Offers greatest softness and tactile sensitivity
  • Delivers strength and abrasion resistance
Grain Leather
  • Especially soft for superior dexterity
Split Leather
  • Great protection and abrasion resistance
Hand Protection Grades
Coated Work Gloves
Provide a better grip and added protection. Coatings include PVC, rubber latex, bi-polymers, nitrile, polyurethane, foam, plastic, and vinyl. Dots and lines, palm and full length dips with textures, ensure a wide variety of coating styles. String knit glove material includes cotton, nylon, polyester, and Kevlar®. Coated work gloves are ideal for use in a wide variety of applications.
Cotton Chore & Work Gloves
Provide protection against abrasion, punctures, and cuts. Made of cotton, cotton canvas, or brown jersey. Can include different knitwrist, gauntlet, pull-on, or band top cuffs, linings, and coatings to improve grip. Cotton chore and work gloves are ideal for lifting, moving, handling, maintenance, construction, lumber industries, and more.
String Knit & Inspection Gloves
Ambidextrous for wear on either hand and can be worn alone or as liners. Comfortable string knit gloves are ideal for light duty material handling, assembly, or maintenance applications. Feature knitwrist cuffs for a better fit and to keep out debris. Inspection gloves include cotton lisle that absorbs oils and helps prevent smudges and stains on delicate parts, and lint-free tricot nylon.
Cut Resistant Gloves
Reduce risk of cut, puncture, and abrasion injuries with the various levels of protection available in cut resistant gloves. Special materials include Kevlar®, Spectra®, stainless steel, Dyneema®, and tough synthetic yarns. Materials can be used as linings, constructed in combination with leather, and with a variety of coatings, including rubber or nitrile to improve grip.
Welding & Heat Resistant Gloves
Protect against high temperatures, flames, or sparks. Leather welding gloves are constructed of goatskin, pigskin, or cowhide. Sometimes nitrile dot coated for a better grip or fully coated to resist abrasion. Heat resistant glove materials include Kevlar®, Nomex®, Zetex™, cotton, aluminized, and glass cloth with linings of foam, jersey, wool, or cotton.
Supported & Unsupported Gloves
Made from many different materials or mixtures, including latex, PVC, nitrile, butyl, and neoprene. Unsupported gloves are created by dipping a hand form into a liquid. Supported gloves involve placing a knit lining over the hand form before partial or complete dipping. Process can include double and triple dipping, and gritty additives for a better grip. Separate liners are also available for unsupported gloves.
Chemical Resistant Gloves
Shield against penetration from petrochemicals, acids, solvents, detergents, alkalis, and a wide range of other chemicals and substances. Chemical resistant gloves can be unsupported or supported, coated and made from latex, PVC, nitrile, butyl, and neoprene. Look for specific chemical and degradation resistance. Features include different lengths and patterns or textures for improved grip.
Mechanic's & Utility Gloves
Durable, comfortable protection provides dexterity and flexibility with an excellent fit and grip. Features include hook and loop closure at wrist or pull-on cuffs. Constructed of synthetic materials and can include leather. May have padding or gel to absorb impact. Mechanic's and utility gloves are ideal for garage, construction, power tool and material handling, and much more.
Voltage Insulating & Lineman's Gloves
Natural rubber lineman's gloves and leather protectors provide protection in tasks involving electrical voltage. Six classes of lineman's gloves include Class 00, 0, 1, 2, 3, and 4. Proof test voltage and maximum use voltage, for both AC and DC, are provided by manufacturers based on tests performed. Leather protectors help protect against cuts, abrasion, and punctures.
Cold Resistant Insulated Gloves
Choose from a variety of insulating materials to keep hands warm, including thermal, jersey, fleece, and foam. Exterior shell construction can be leather, cotton, PVC, neoprene, or nitrile. Cold resistant insulated gloves are ideal for use outdoors and indoors in cold environments, for material handling, general maintenance, and when driving or operating heavy equipment.
Lifting & Anti-Vibration Ergonomic Gloves
Lifting gloves protect from cuts and abrasion and can have padding for added protection. Anti-vibration gloves are padded to dampen vibration and reduce repetitive impact injuries. Constructed of leather and cotton or synthetic materials with padding or gel to reduce vibration. Often equipped with wide hook and loop wrist wrap for added support.
Cleanroom Gloves
Cleanroom compatible gloves ensure product protection and are available in vinyl, nitrile, tri-polymer, and more. Powder-free and usually disposable, cleanroom gloves are ideal for use when manufacturing and handling sensitive parts, working with electronics, and in laboratories.
Finger Protection
Latex fingercots, leather finger guards, and finger wraps are ideal for use in unique applications when a full glove isn't necessary. Latex fingercots protect products from fingerprints and ensure tactile sensitivity. Leather finger guards protect when handling small sharp objects, and finger wrap sticks to itself so skin can breathe while improving grip.
Hand Protectors
Tying cord, wrapping ties, bending copper tubing, and working with cables is easier with bundler's gloves and cable former's gloves. Hand protectors feature double layer, reinforced palms and are available in goatskin, split leather, or grain leather.

Glove Features

Cuff Styles

Rolled Cuffs
Provides strength in donning and helps prevent tearing.
Safety Cuffs
Help protect the wrist area and are 2 1/2" in length.
Wrap Cuffs
Adjustable cuffs feature hook and loop or Velcro® closures at the wrist for a secure, custom fit.
Gauntlet Cuffs
Ensure added forearm protection and are 4 1/2" or more in length.
Knitwrist Cuffs
Designed to hold the glove in place and prevent debris from entering at the wrist.
Band Top Cuffs
Allows wear over a shirt cuff for added protection.
Pull-On Cuffs
Provides easy-on and easy-off. Usually have an elastic gathering on the top or bottom of the wrist.

Thumb Styles

Wing Thumbs
Reduce fatigue and stress on seams.
Keystone Thumbs
Ensure comfort and flexibility while providing added wear resistance.
Straight Thumbs
Constructed to provide a closed thumb gripping position for comfort and durability.
Ambidextrous Thumbs
Reversible style allows wear on either hand for longer lasting use.

Glove Linings

Soft, interlock knit lining helps keep hands warm in cold environments.
Adds lightweight warmth and is soft and comfortable against the skin.
Insulates to protect hands in cold temperatures and when handling cold materials.
Includes acrylic terrycloth, cotton, and Thermonol materials to protect against the cold.
Cotton fiber applied to the inside of unsupported gloves. Absorbs perspiration and is more comfortable against the skin.
Cut, abrasion, and heat resistant material. Used as a lining in leather and can be coated for a better grip.
Provides support for dipped gloves. Adds durability and insulation.
Used as a lining to dissipate heat in aluminized and glass cloth gloves and mitts.

Measuring for a Proper Fit

With a proper fit, gloves can be easy to work with, comfortable, reduce hand fatigue, and provide the safety your workers need.

Hand Protection
For accurate glove length, measure from the tip of the middle finger to where the cuff edge should be on the wrist or arm, then select the proper cuff and length for your needs.
Hand Protection
To measure your hand size, wrap a tape measure around the palm at its widest point. This measurement, in inches, is equivalent to the glove size. i.e. 9" measurement = size 9. Letter sizes to measurements: S (7-8), M (8-9), L (9-10), XL (10-11)

More Information

OSHA 29 CFR 1910.132 provides general requirements for personal protective equipment and 29 CFR 1910.138 provides requirements for hand protection.

Additional personal protective information is available through OSHA's Safety and Health Topics.

A wide variety of standards apply to hand protection. The following are examples of some of the standards, regulations, or information that apply to hand protection. Please note, additional standards and regulations could apply and would depend on your specific applications and uses of hand protection.

  • Voltage insulating and lineman's gloves information ANSI/ASTM D120-09, F696-06, F496-08, F1236-96(2007), Electrical Protective Devices OSHA 29 CFR 1910.137, OSHA eTools for PPE and insulating gloves. NFPA 70E also provides standards for electrical safety
  • Protective gloves may provide a CE EN 388 marking. This identification ensures gloves meet stringent European Standard requirements, test methods, marking, and information for protective gloves against mechanical risks that include abrasion, blade cut, tear, and puncture resistance. Scores may also associated with these markings
  • Disposable glove information for meeting FDA's accepted materials requirements under 21 CFR 170-199
  • Cut resistant gloves for meat and poultry are generally covered under OSHA 29 CFR 1910.138. OSHA also provides an industry eTool for poultry processing and assistance for the meat packing industry. Cut, abrasion, and puncture resistant levels include 0 to 6 and ASTM F-1790 provides test methods. ANSI/ISEA 105-2005 also provides guidance for selecting the correct gloves that will protect workers and assist employers in complying with OSHA regulations
  • Cleanroom gloves need to meet certain particulate cleanliness classes to allow use in cleanrooms. Class identification may include Class 10, Class 100, ISO 4, ISO 5, M2.5, M3.5, etc. Although still widely used, FED-STD-209E (uses "Class" for English and "M" for Metric) has been replaced by ISO 14644. ISO 14644 (uses "ISO") has been adopted to provide standards for cleanrooms and associated controlled environments. IEST (Institute of Environmental Sciences and Technology) also provides information on FED-STD-209 and ISO 14644 standards for environmental management
  • USDA accepted materials for glove components allowed for repeated use in a direct food contact zone, must comply with the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (FFDCA)

Questions about Hand Protection?

Call our knowledgeable Technical Support Department at 1-800-571-4646, 8 am - 5 pm ET, Monday - Friday, or email us.

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