Questions about gloves link to work safety

The proper hand protection plays a tremendous role in keeping plant workers safe. This article answers questions often posed by workers and managers about hand protection products, their applications and limitations.

By Nelson Schlatter, Ansell

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The proper hand protection plays a tremendous role in keeping plant workers safe.  Below are questions often posed by workers and managers about hand protection products, their applications and limitations.

We have applications that involve handling small, hot parts.  Workers need heat protection, yet they require dexterity.  What type of glove do you recommend?

Unfortunately, these requirements are in direct conflict.  The best insulator is air that is not moving.  Materials used for thermal insulation—from wool in clothing to fiberglass in the walls of a house—typically are just different ways of trapping air in small pockets so it cannot move.

To protect workers from contact with hot parts, gloves must contain a thick layer of small air pockets.  But for dexterity, gloves must be thin, which is a direct conflict. 

The gloves selected for this type of application should, therefore, represent a compromise by providing heat protection and dexterity.  Gloves are available that are made with DuPont® Thermastat® yarn, which has individual fibers that contain tiny air pockets.  Gloves made with this type of yarn can insulate and still provide some dexterity.

If parts handled are very hot, a KEVLAR® aramid layer may be needed to resist thermal degradation.  Because cotton and wool are effective in trapping air in small pockets and wicking sweat away form the skin, cotton or wool may be preferable for the inner layers.

Some glove manufacturers do not specify temperature ranges for their insulated gloves.  Why is this?

Because applications vary so greatly, it is difficult to designate one particular temperature as the maximum or minimum for hand protection.  Many factors must be considered, such as whether the source of heat or cold is a liquid, solid or gas.  If a solid, is the material that will be handled made of a thermally insulating plastic that will minimize heat transfer to the glove?  Or, is the material a thermally conducting metal that will maximize the heat transfer?  Is the material heavy, and how long will it be held?  Will the worker repeat the actions that require him or her to wear an insulated glove?

Many glove manufacturers specify useful temperature limits for gloves based on the materials used to manufacture the products (See Table 1).  While a glove’s applicable temperature range will be restricted by these limits, its true useful temperature range will depend on use factors such as those mentioned above.  Other parameters include compressibility of the insulation, coating thickness and type of liner, and coating formulation.  PVC, for example, can vary widely in its thermal properties, depending on how it is formulated.  The ultimate suitability of any insulated gloves must be determined by the end users after proper testing.

 

Appropriate Useful Temperature Limits for Various Polymers

Approximate Low Temperature Limit (ºF)

Polymer Continuous Exposure Intermittent Exposure Short-term Exposure
Cotton

-50

-75

-100

Kevlar®

-20

-40

-60

Natural Rubber

-10

-25

-50

Neoprene

-10

-25

-40

Nitrile

-20

-20

-40

Nylon

-20

-40

-60

Polyester

-20

-40

-60

PVC

0

-10

-50

Approximate High Temperature Limit (°F)

Polymer Continuous Exposure Intermittent Exposure Short-term Exposure
Cotton

200

300

400

Kevlar®

300

600

900

Natural Rubber

170

300

350

Neoprene

200

300

400

Nitrile

250

300

400

Nylon

150

175

200

Polyester

150

175

200

PVC

150

175

200

I am seeking an industry standard for cut resistant gloves—something I can use to compare brands and styles.  Does this type of standard exist?

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