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The right pair of work gloves will keep you safe.
Just about anyone who has worked on a manufacturing floor, in a woodshop, or any place where mechanical work or heavy lifting takes place has a story to tell about how work gloves saved them — or someone they know — from serious injury.
Offering comfort, dexterity, and protection, work gloves give you the confidence to do your job without worrying about getting hurt.
However, selecting the right work glove is not a simple pick-and-click exercise. One size does not fit all.
The nonprofit industry association American National Standards Institute (ANSI) offers ratings and advice on the proper glove by type of task.
Using basic cotton work gloves for metal stamping, sheet metal handling, or glass handling, for example, not only would be inadequate for protection, it could be more dangerous than having no gloves at all.
We can help you make the decision about which work gloves to get!
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If you already know what you want in a work glove, simply consult the matrix above for our top five picks.
But to learn more about what goes into making a wise work glove purchase, keep reading.
When creating safety rules for your workplace, don’t just look at data from incident reports. Consider a near-miss reporting plan to help predict where injuries might occur in the future.
While different industries have different standards for materials and construction, there are four basic things to look for in any work glove.
Gloves should have strong seams, a sturdy palm, and fingertips that fully cover your hands. They should be comfortable as well, so as not to get in the way of your task — from cutting glass to putting up drywall.
Button length is the measurement from the base of the glove thumb to the cuff of the glove.
No one expects to send lengthy text messages while wearing work gloves, but tactile interaction with your tools and related projects is important.
If a worker is unable to feel the intricacies and details of an airplane wing, engine part, or even concrete block, accidents and injuries can happen.
Without proper dexterity, wearing work gloves may be worse than wearing none at all.
Work gloves are used to prevent injuries such as cuts, puncture wounds, splinters, abrasions, and burns, to name a few. Again, the protection needed will be based on the type of work performed.
For example, string knit gloves are good for dealing with oily metal parts such as sheet metal or metal stampings, while coated gloves are best for small-part assembly, aerospace manufacturing, appliance manufacturing, and the handling of glass.
Hand and finger injuries make up nearly 50% of incidents in the oil and gas industry. At some facilities, that number is closer to 80% of all reported incidents.
There are no standards for when it's time to toss out your work gloves and get a new pair. Gloves last until a worker considers them no longer suitable for the tasks at hand.
OSHA recommends inspecting your gloves before each usage for wear and tear. A glove that is rated cut-resistant will be of no value if the palm or fingers are worn out.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there were 186,830 non-fatal occupational injuries to hands and wrists in 2012 that involved days away from work.
Work gloves are manufactured from a variety of natural and manmade materials. In addition, most work gloves have a synthetic protective coating.
The best leather for work gloves is goat skin. It’s strong and offers a good range of motion despite its thinness. Goat skin is sturdy and good at protecting against abrasions. Cowhide, horsehide, and water buffalo hide offer good durability. If you need ultra-fine dexterity for tasks such as welding, the best choice is sheepskin. However, sheepskin is not durable and does not make a good multi-purpose work glove.
While known for durability and dexterity, leather work gloves will not protect against cuts.
For protection against cuts and extreme heat, Kevlar is the top choice for work gloves. By itself or combined with another material such as goatskin, Kevlar is the material of choice for most firefighter gloves.
While not as strong and durable as other materials, cotton and knit gloves are used to prevent abrasions and keep hands clean. Coated fabric gloves are often used in laboratories to protect against harsh chemicals.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) conducted a study that found 70% of workers who suffered hand injuries in a manufacturing setting were not wearing gloves. Among the remaining 30%, injuries occurred because gloves were ill-fitting, damaged, or not suitable for the application.
Protective work gloves for any job that involves chemicals should use a material specifically designed for the chemicals being handled. Here are some basic guidelines.
Butyl rubber gloves are for use with nitric acid, sulfuric acid, hydrochloric acid, and peroxide.
Natural latex/rubber gloves are for use with water solutions or acids, alkalis, salts, and ketones.
Neoprene gloves are for use with hydraulic fluids, gasoline, alcohols, and organic acids.
Nitrile rubber gloves are for use with chlorinated solvents.
In addition to wearing gloves, be sure to use other safety tools like eyeglasses and earmuffs.
Wash your leather gloves with saddle soap in cold water and lay them out flat to dry. Do not wring the water out, as that can warp the shape of the gloves. Keep leather gloves in a cool, dry place out of sunlight.
Wash cotton work gloves in a washing machine with warm water and tumble dry. For knit gloves, wash them in cold water and allow them to air dry.
Wash chemical-resistant gloves thoroughly with soap and water in a utility sink before removing them. After removing them, wash your hands thoroughly. Hang the gloves up to dry, and then store them in a dry place to combat mildew.
Disposable gloves, cotton or knit gloves, and some uncoated cowhide gloves are the least expensive choices. You can find gloves used for work with chemicals under $20, but they are thin and lightweight in nature. Work gloves made of synthetic material (but mimicking the fit and comfort of more expensive leather work gloves) also sit in this price range.
When it comes to your safety on the job, spare no expense. It’s futile to buy cheap work gloves that aren’t really designed for the work you need to do — and it could be dangerous, too.
As you go up in price, the better-known brands begin to appear. Here you’ll find tactical gloves with reinforced knuckle and thumb guards used by the military, police, and other protective agencies.
On the high end are gloves made of Kevlar or other flame-resistant materials. The best Kevlar gloves have double-layer leather on the fingers, palm, fingers, knuckle, and saddle. This provides extra protection and ensures durability.
Q. For leather gloves, should I get split or grain leather?
A. Grain leather comes from the smooth external side of the hide. It offers superior durability and dexterity and is more oil- and water-repellant. Grain leather is better for outdoor work.
Split leather is from the rougher internal side of the hide. Split leather is more economical and is good for applications that involve oil absorption.
Q. What are the most common hand injuries in the workplace?
A. The most common are lacerations (63%), crushes (13%), avulsions or detachments (8%), punctures (6%), and fractures (5%), according to the Safety and Health Council of North Carolina.
Q. What exactly is Kevlar?
A. Kevlar is the registered trademark for a para-aramid synthetic fiber developed by DuPont in the 1960s. It was first used commercially in the early 1970s as a replacement for steel in racing tires.
At BestReviews, we purchase every product we review with our own funds. We never accept anything from product manufacturers. Our goal is to be 100% objective in our analysis, and we do not want to run the risk of being swayed by products provided at no cost.