Personal protective equipment is a term that refers to working tools and equipment designed to minimise the danger of harm and accidents during the carrying out of a range of working activities, i.e., to reduce risks regarding the health and safety of workers. The principal items of PPE include protective gloves, which are considered essential in almost all operative situations.
Wearing protective gloves means safeguarding hands from contact with potentially hazardous, contaminating or infectious agents; it is no coincidence that these items are used on a daily basis in practically all sectors, from cleaning to industry, and to the hospital/healthcare sector.
It goes without saying that specific protective gloves are available that offer particular technical characteristics that respond to determinate functions, in accordance with the field of application. As well as protective gloves, there are also models available that aim to reduce the risk of contamination and cross-infection (for example in healthcare or food preparation sectors).
Protective gloves should be chosen on the basis of the risk of lesions
Considering that, in the workplace, operators’ hands are exposed to a wide range of potential hazards, which vary in accordance with the relative sector, it is also important to consider that the choice of the most suitable protective gloves needs to be made on the basis of a range of risk categories:
- Level I risk; i.e., minor. This refers to an extremely limited or even totally absent risk of lesions to the hands. The operator can therefore be guaranteed protection with a simple, even light, protective glove.
- Level II risk; i.e., medium risk. This means that hands may be subject to laceration, cuts, scalds, scratches, puncture wounds and similar lesions. In these cases, a CE-standardised protective glove with specific marking will be necessary.
- Level III risk; i.e., high or even irreversible risks to the hands. Therefore, it requires the use of protective gloves made specifically for the handling of the materials in question or for the professional environment in which the worker operates.
With regards to the medical-healthcare sectors, suitable gloves are those known to provide “biological protection” and are generally made with a range of materials; nitrile, latex or vinyl. Whatever the model chosen, it must always respect the 93/42/EEC directive and regulation EN 455 parts 1, 2, 3 and 4, as well as the Consolidated text on the Health and Safety of Workers.
Lastly, there are the so-called “food-contact gloves”, i.e., working gloves that must be used when handling foodstuffs.
Protective gloves; how to choose the right ones
In order to be sure that you are wearing the right protective gloves, it is obvious that one must begin with the type of task that needs to be carried out, and the level of risk of lesions to the hands.
However, the correct choice is not based exclusively on the assessment of these parameters (although they are in any case particularly important); protective gloves must, in fact, protect the health of the operator while not hindering movement. This means that the chosen glove needs to guarantee hand dexterity, in other words the ability for the operator to manipulate objects in as precise, simple and facilitated a manner as possible. This characteristic is influenced by technical specifications such as the material the glove is made of, its thickness, its deformability and its elasticity.
It is also important for protective gloves to always be ergonomic and comfortable to wear; the size must therefore be chosen carefully in order to avoid them proving to be either too small or too big for the operator. The length of the glove (up to the wrist or to the forearm) is another discriminating factor that needs to be taken into account, as is the tactile sensitivity that the glove is able to provide; touch is, in fact, an extremely important sense that, in some cases, allows hazards that may be invisible to the eye to be identified.
Lastly, protective gloves must always be made with good quality material, suitable for contact with the skin and therefore able to reduce the risk of skin breakouts or allergic reactions. In the event that the material used could effectively cause allergic reactions, this risk must be reported in detail by the manufacturer of the PPE.
How to wear protective gloves.
To conclude, we would like to dedicate a few words to explain how to correctly use this personal protective equipment for the hands.
Correctly wearing protective gloves means knowing how to put them on and take them off in a suitable manner; one classic example is disposable gloves, which are often used to defend the operator from possible biological risks. In this case, it is important that the hands are carefully washed before wearing gloves, and that the gloves are replaced if they are damaged or dirty. To remove gloves, grip the cuff, touching only the exterior of the glove, and slide it off, turning it inside out, with the second glove inside.
After this, hands must once again be thoroughly washed with soap and water.
In general, the use of protective gloves in the workplace, wherever it may be, must always be accompanied with suitable employee training. The purpose of said training is both to foster understanding of the importance of using this form of protection and in terms of its correct use and its storage and disposal.
REFLEXX is a leader in the design, manufacturing and sale of disposable and reusable gloves in nitrile, latex, polyethylene, vinyl and other materials. Highly sensitive and extremely elastic, our protective gloves are the result of cutting edge technology and carefully selected raw materials, and respond to the most specific and demanding requirements for hand protection in an extremely wide range of areas; from industry to the medical sector, from cosmetics to food processing.