OSHA’s standards for hand protection require employers to provide, and employees to use,
personal protective equipment (PPE) such as gloves that are designed to help protect workers
from the hazards of exposures to harmful chemicals. The effects of different types of chemical
exposure could range from slight (dermatitis) to severe (cancer). So it is vitally important to
make certain that the gloves you select for use are adequate to protect against the specific
chemical(s) you use. You should always read the SDS to gather more data prior to making a decision on what glove to wear for the task at hand. Only “chemical resistant” gloves will provide adequate protection for the hands. Leather or cloth gloves will simply soak up solvents and hold them against the skin and latex gloves will be softened or dissolved by some solvents.
Chemical-resistant gloves are made with different kinds of rubber: natural, butyl, neoprene, nitrile and fluorocarbon (viton); or various kinds of plastic: polyvinyl chloride (PVC), polyvinyl alcohol and polyethylene. These materials can be blended or laminated for better performance. As a general rule, the thicker the glove material, the greater the chemical resistance but thick gloves may impair grip and dexterity, having a negative impact on safety. Some examples of chemical-resistant gloves include:
• Butyl gloves are made of a synthetic rubber and protect against a wide variety of chemicals,
such as peroxide, rocket fuels, highly corrosive acids (nitric acid, sulfuric acid, hydrofluoric acid
and red-fuming nitric acid), strong bases, alcohols, aldehydes, ketones, esters and
nitrocompounds. Butyl gloves also resist oxidation, ozone corrosion and abrasion, and remain
flexible at low temperatures. Butyl rubber does not perform well with aliphatic and aromatic
hydrocarbons and halogenated solvents.
• Natural (latex) rubber gloves are comfortable to wear, which makes them a popular generalpurpose glove. They feature outstanding tensile strength, elasticity and temperature resistance. In addition to resisting abrasions caused by grinding and polishing, these gloves protect workers’ hands from most water solutions of acids, alkalis, salts and ketones. Latex gloves have caused allergic reactions in some individuals and may not be appropriate for all employees.
Hypoallergenic gloves, glove liners and powderless gloves are possible alternatives for workers
who are allergic to latex gloves.
• Neoprene gloves are made of synthetic rubber and offer good pliability, finger dexterity, high
density and tear resistance. They protect against hydraulic fluids, gasoline, alcohols, organic
acids and alkalis. They generally have chemical and wear resistance properties superior to those
made of natural rubber.
• Nitrile gloves are made of a copolymer and provide protection from chlorinated solvents such
as trichloroethylene and perchloroethylene. Although intended for jobs requiring dexterity and
sensitivity, nitrile gloves stand up to heavy use even after prolonged exposure to substances
that cause other gloves to deteriorate. They offer protection when working with oils, greases,
acids, caustics and alcohols but are generally not recommended for use with strong oxidizing
agents, aromatic solvents, ketones and acetates.