Your employees wear protective gloves while working, so their hands are completely safe. Right?

Well, maybe.

The truth is that in workplaces across the world, workers are wearing the wrong gloves for the job. Protective gloves are not one-size-fits-all, and the cheapest option will not work for every application. Even more surprisingly, a very cut-resistant glove that provides maximum protection may still not be the right glove for your application. Why? Here’s the lowdown.

Cut Resistance: The Basics

If you’re running an ice cream parlor and need your employees serving the ice cream to wear gloves for sanitary reasons, you don’t need to worry about cut resistance at all. In this case, there’s no need to buy gloves made of stronger materials; instead, opt for comfortable poly gloves.

But let’s say your employees are handling more than just an ice cream scoop. Let’s say they’re hospital employees, handling instruments that can cause cuts and lacerations. In this case, you’ll want gloves that are much more cut resistant, but still allow them to have the dexterity they’ll need. Your best bet, in this case, might be 3 to 5 mil nitrile gloves.

Now imagine that you’re in the pest control industry, and your employees may have to deal with rabid animals or stinging insects. In these cases, you’ll want to choose gloves that are extremely strong, such as those made from Kevlar or metal mesh. You might also want to look into options that include gauntlets or extended sleeves to protect your employees’ arms.

You’ll also want to think about whether your employees’ hands will be exposed to caustic chemicals or intense heat. Either of these situations would require different glove specifications.

Some gloves also include a gripping surface to deal with slippery surfaces, such as those covered with motor oil. Workers in the automotive industry may prefer this option.

The Dangers of Overgloving

So why not just buy the most protective glove possible, no matter what the job? Besides the added expense, the most protective glove may still not be the best option for your needs. Gloves with higher levels of cut resistance tend to have lower levels of dexterity. For example, a surgeon would have a hard time using a metal mesh glove, because it would be difficult to maneuver the fingers in the precise way to perform surgery. Using an overly protective glove, in this case, could severely compromise the surgeon’s ability to successfully complete his job.

In addition, if your employees view the protective gloves as too restricting and uncomfortable, they may decide to avoid using the gloves altogether. This can put them at a far higher risk of hand injury than if they had been provided with adequate -- but not as strong -- protective gloves.


Glove Size

In addition to looking at cut resistance and material, you’ll also want to make sure that the gloves are sized correctly. Gloves that are overly large can be difficult to manipulate, and gloves that are too small can tire out the employee’s hands, plus they are prone to tearing more easily.

If you choose the wrong glove for the application, you may be putting your worker’s safety in jeopardy, while thinking that you’re actually ensuring their safety. So no matter which industry you work in, choosing the right glove for each application is essential.

Written by Rob Brown