Week 2 of Safety@TTU is devoted to personal protective equipment, or PPE. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) requires the use of personal protective equipment (PPE) to reduce employee exposure to hazards when engineering and administrative controls are not feasible or effective in reducing these exposures to acceptable levels. At Texas Tech, employees are required to use PPE when working in laboratories, workshops, studios, and other places deemed appropriate if there are interactions with hazardous materials, machinery or other objects.
Download the “No Pants, No Shoes, NO SCIENCE” poster for your lab.
To lead off Week 2 of Safety@TTU, we’re covering some basics of hand protection, focusing primarily on gloves.
Whether you work in a laboratory, studio or workshop, you are likely familiar with any number of hazards that could cause injury to your hands. Chemicals, sharp objects, tools, flames, welding and cold weather are among often cited causes of injury on the job—giving you all the more reason to guard your hands.
Based on the type of hazard that you encounter, a specific type of hand protection will be needed. There are gloves and other types of hand protection that are resistant to chemicals, flames, cuts, punctures, and heat, as well as hand gear that is warming and suited for general work purposes. While hand protection options include thimbles, mitts, hand pads, sleeves and forearm cuffs, this blog concentrates on gloves.
Types of glove material
- Leather, canvas or metal mesh gloves—these sturdy gloves provide protection against cuts and burns. Leather or canvas gloves also protect against sustained heat.
- Leather gloves protect against sparks, moderate heat, blows, chips and rough objects.
- Aluminized gloves provide reflective and insulating protection against heat and require an insert made of synthetic materials to protect against heat and cold.
- Aramid fiber gloves protect against heat and cold, are resistant to cuts and abrasions, and wear well.
- Synthetic gloves of various materials offer protection against heat and cold, are resistant to cuts and abrasions, and can withstand some diluted acids. These materials do not stand up against alkalis and solvents, however.
- Fabric and coated fabric gloves—these gloves are made of cotton or other fabric to provide varying degrees of protection.
- Fabric gloves protect against dirt, slivers, chafing and abrasions. They do not provide sufficient protection for use with rough, sharp or heavy materials.
- Coated fabric gloves are normally made from cotton flannel with napping on one side. By coating the un-napped side with plastic, fabric gloves become general-purpose hand protection, providing slip resistance. These gloves can be used for tasks that range from handling bricks and wire to laboratory containers.
- Chemical- and liquid-resistant gloves—these gloves are made with varieties of rubber, including butyl, fluorocarbon (viton), natural (latex), neoprene and nitrile. They also are made with plastics, such as polyvinyl alcohol (PVA) and polyvinyl chloride (PVC). These materials can be blended or laminated for better performance.
As a general rule, the thicker the glove material, the greater the chemical resistance, however, gloves that are too thick for a particular task may impair grip and dexterity—a negative for safety.
Additionally, gloves should fit properly and cover all exposed skin, as there should be no gap between glove and sleeve.
About Hand Protection in Laboratories
For individuals working in labs, there are a number of points to consider, besides those related to the hazards listed above. Many of the chemicals found in a laboratory can cause skin irritations and burns, and absorption through the skin could have harmful effects.
So when choosing gloves for your lab, consider:
- degradation rating, which indicates how well a glove will hold up when exposed to a chemical. Degradation is the change of one or more of the physical properties of a glove after it comes into contact with a chemical. Degradation is apparent when the glove hardens, stiffens, swells, shrinks or cracks. When looking at a chemical compatibility chart, degradation is usually reported as: E (excellent), G (good), F (fair), P (poor), NR (not recommended) or NT (not tested).
- breakthrough time, which is the elapsed time between the initial contact of the test chemical on the surface of the glove and the detection of the chemical on the inside of the glove.
- permeation rate, which is the rate that the test chemical passes through the glove material once breakthrough has occurred and equilibrium is reached. Permeation involves absorption of the chemical on the surface of the glove, diffusion through the glove, and desorption of the chemical on the inside of the glove. Resistance to permeation rate is usually reported as: E (excellent), G (good), F (fair), P (poor) or NR (not recommended). If no chemical breakthrough occurs, permeation rate is not measured and is reported as: ND (none detected).
Glove manufacturers typically make chemical compatibility charts for their gloves available through their websites. Also, safety data sheets recommend glove materials in the Exposure Controls/Personal Protection section.
The following list provides an overview of chemical- and liquid-resistant glove materials and their best uses:
- Butyl—offers the highest resistance to permeation by most gases and water vapor.
- Fluorocarbon (viton)—exceptional resistance to chlorinated and aromatic solvents. Good resistance to cuts and abrasions.
- Natural (latex)—provides flexibility and resistance to a variety of acids, caustics, salts, detergents and alcohols.
- Neoprene—compatible with many acids, caustics and oils. Provides moderate abrasion resistance but good tensile strength and heat resistance.
- Nitrile—provides protection from a range of solvents, oils, petroleum products and some corrosives. Excellent general duty glove and is resistant to cuts, snags, punctures and abrasions.
- PVA—highly impermeable to gases and excellent resistance to aromatic and chlorinated solvents. Cannot be used in water or water-based solutions.
- PVC—provides excellent abrasion resistance and protection from most fats, acids and petroleum hydrocarbons.
Notes on Glove Use
Before putting on gloves, be sure to inspect them for signs of degradation or punctures. To test for pinholes, blow inside a glove to trap air, and then slowly roll the glove out. Do not fill gloves with water—doing so makes them uncomfortable and may make it difficult to detect a leak while wearing the gloves. If using disposable gloves, these should be discarded when there are any signs of contamination—do not clean and reuse them.
Reusable gloves need to be washed frequently if they are used for an extended period of time.
Always be sure to wear protective gloves when handling hazardous or corrosive materials, chemicals of unknown toxicity, very hot or very cold materials, and rough or sharp objects.
When you are wearing gloves in a laboratory, be careful not to handle anything other than the materials used in the procedure. Avoid touching equipment, wast
ebaskets, phones and other surfaces, as this may cause contamination. Also, do not touch your face, hair and clothing.
If you are wearing gloves near machinery, be cautious. Do not wear gloves around reciprocating or rotating machine parts. Allow moving parts to come to a stop before working on them. Do not wear gloves with metal parts near electrical equipment.
Removing your Gloves
The following process of glove removal will help to prevent accidental skin exposure:
- Grasp the exterior cuff of one glove with your other gloved hand.
- Carefully pull the glove off of your hand, turning it inside-out. (Doing this helps to isolate any contamination on the glove’s exterior.)
- Ball up the glove and hold it in your other gloved hand.
- Slide your ungloved finger into the cuff opening of the other glove. (Avoid touching the exterior, in case of contamination.)
- Pull the glove off of your hand, turning it inside out again.
- Dispose of the gloves, and immediately wash your hands.
Having the right type of hand protection will go a long way in protecting you, whether you are handling chemicals in a laboratory, using tools in a workshop or working in a studio.
For More Information
Learn more about hand protection by reading OSHA’s overview on personal protective equipment. (https://www.osha.gov/Publications/osha3151.html)
This information is not exhaustive and should not be construed as containing all the necessary compliance, safety, or warning information available. Please make sure you consult with EH&S or appropriate supervisors for all safety information and procedures.
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