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  • 19 February 2014
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Work gloves: what you need to know

Whatever your trade or profession, if you carry out tasks that involve working with your hands, it is more than likely that you will wear work gloves at some point during your duties.

So depending on your job, you may need to replace your gloves regularly - but how do you really know when is the right time to do so?

Soiling

Obviously there are lots of different trades in which clothes and protective wear can become heavily soiled. Anyone who works in a kitchen environment will get more than their fair share of spills and stains and often come into contact with high temperatures, which can burn through materials.

Fat, grease and oils can also cause clothing to get into such a state that no amount of cleaning can salvage them. This is something that also affects those who work in other industries such as manufacturing, engineering, and of course, the oil and gas sector.

For many workers, the health and safety regulations that their employers have to adhere to will determine how often clothing, such as protective gloves, needs to be renewed or replaced by their employer. For those who work for themselves, it can be tricky to get the balance right between investing in health and safety equipment and ensuring that enough is left in the spending spot to cover other expenses.

Wear and tear

No matter what your field of operations, ‘workwear’ has to stand up to far more wear and tear than everyday clothes. Of course, in the case of gloves there are so many applications that a 'one size fits all' approach to deciding when a pair comes to the end of their usefulness simply doesn't apply.

For instance, in a hospital environment hygiene is the utmost priority, meaning that disposable gloves are most likely to be used. As a result, the question of when to replace gloves becomes obsolete.

PPE

Work gloves come under the banner of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE). The use of PPE is in many cases mandated by law. It is a legal responsibility to adhere to the standards set out for a particular workplace or profession.

Employers have both a general and, in many cases, a more specific responsibility to reduce employee exposure to hazards and this ranges from practical and administrative processes through to the correct use of PPE.

A PPE programme should address the unique hazards present in each particular set of circumstances that govern any given working scenario. The selection, maintenance and use of PPE should be implemented, and the training of employees to make sure they are aware and conversant in the procedures is paramount.

The ongoing effectiveness of a PPE system involves making sure that everybody involved is left in no doubt that any equipment or protective clothing should always be fit for purpose and if there is any doubt, replacements should be sought and provided.

An important part of any PPE programme is ensuring that employers and managerial staff alike are fully aware of how to assess protective workwear (such as gloves) and that they are able to make an accurate evaluation of when they need to be replaced.

Types of gloves

In an industry where a range of potential hazards are encountered on a daily basis, such as the construction industry, work gloves can be used as part of a package of health and safety measures to help protect the welfare of workers.

With work gloves being so common across so many avenues of employment, it is easy to forget that they can present as many complex challenges as any other form of PPE. 

It is important to note that not all work gloves will suit all purposes, so it is crucial for employers to find a type of work glove that will suit the needs of their particular industry.

It is also essential that employers have an awareness of the factors that can impact the performance of work gloves.

Texture, materials and design all affect performance and so too does the way in which gloves match up to other pieces of PPE clothing. Having to reduce the need to change gloves may help raise safety standards in some cases but in others, where more specific environmental challenges may be faced, it can be detrimental.

Reasonable diligence

The ability to make a decision as to whether or not to replace any form of PPE, including work gloves, comes down to an assessment of 'reasonable diligence'.

The degree of knowledge and any past experience about work processes, site locations, specific material hazards or the likely nature of unexpected events all have a bearing on whether or not an employer can be said to have acted appropriately.

The question of reasonable diligence comes into effect when there is a question of culpability or responsibility for any incidents that may occur. If an employer can be found to have acted incorrectly in the face of a consideration of various factors relating to specific circumstances, or to have failed to enforce adequate work rules and training programmes, then there can be serious consequences both in terms of legal sanctions and compensation claims.

The conclusion is that not only is it in the interests of individuals to know when their protective workwear should be replaced in order to avoid injury; it is also beholden to the employer to take similar measures.

 

Further information:

Tony Skelton, Director of Intersafety Ltd , a UK supplier of work safety PPE equipment.