Gloves are the single most widely used device containing NRL. The Health and Safety Executive in their guidance on glove selection (see below) states that, “Single use disposable natural rubber latex gloves may be used where a risk assessment has identified them as necessary. When they are used they must be low-protein and powder-free”.
Reducing glove use
The best way to prevent work-related latex and chemical allergy is by not using gloves at all. All staff should be aware that they do not need to wear gloves for a lot of tasks.
Aim to reduce your risk of developing Latex Allergy and chemical allergy by minimising glove use as much as possible.
Think before you put them on, what is the risk, why am I wearing them?
If risk management has identified that there is a real need to use gloves (eg in order to protect yourself against the risk of cross-infection from blood-borne pathogens), choose the correct glove for the task in question.
Remember that latex gloves can be substituted with gloves made of latex-free or synthetic materials, which reduces the risk of sensitisation and allergic reaction to latex.
However your choice of synthetic material will be governed by the task you are about to undertake (e.g. nitrile and neoprene materials are suitable for tasks with the risk of transmission from BB pathogens. Vinyl may be used for low/no risk tasks, e.g. catering).
Chemically resistant gloves come in a variety of materials such as natural rubber or latex, butyl rubber, neoprene, nitrile, polyethylene, PVC, PVA etc. sometimes in combination and in differing thickness and style. Each material protects well against certain chemicals but poorly against others. The choice of material and its thickness depends on its resistance to permeation taking into account the factors listed above: — commonly, manufacturers’ literature and performance tables have to be consulted to find this information.
Manufacturers’ tables of glove performance often refer to the following indicators:
Breakthrough Time ~ the time, in minutes, for a measurable amount of chemical to pass through the glove material, one side of the glove being immersed in that chemical
Permeation Rate ~ Obvious meaning; — the units are milligrams per square metre per minute
Degradation ~ Loss of physical quality, perhaps becoming brittle or soft. May be measured as change in tensile strength after fixed periods of immersion
Useful Time ~ A parameter combining permeation and degradation data.
Disposable gloves are often chosen for routine laboratory work because they are cheap and convenient. Unfortunately, the most popular choice, latex gloves are fully effective only against water-based solutions and are almost transparent to many organic solvents.
Nitrile disposable gloves may give more protection in certain cases.
Some Rules for Glove Use
- Select gloves which are resistant to the chemicals you may be exposed to. Check the information sources listed below and also consult the relevant Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) which may recommend a particular glove material.
- Select gloves of the correct size and fitting; gloves that are too small are uncomfortable and may tear whereas overlarge gloves may interfere with dexterity. In some cases, such as use of HF, it may be advisable to select gloves that can be removed very rapidly in an emergency.
- Before use, check gloves (even new ones) for physical damage such as tears or pin- holes and for previous chemical damage: this is especially important when dealing with dangerous materials such as HF.
- When working, it may be advisable to wash the external surface of the gloves frequently with water.
- Some gloves, especially lightweight disposables, may be flammable: keep hands well away from naked flames or other high temperature heat sources. When removing gloves, do so in a way that avoids the contaminated exterior contacting the skin.
~ Wash hands after removing gloves.
~ Dispose of contaminated gloves properly.
~ Do not attempt to re-use disposable gloves.
~ Never wear possibly contaminated gloves to handle telephones, computer keyboards, etc.
You may find this Hand Care Protocol helpful.
Links to sources of information about glove performance
Glove chemical resistance guides to help you choose disposable gloves to wear during different processes. Please note, the content of the list below in no way implies endorsement of the product produced by these companies.
- Ansell Europe indicates the recommended glove material for protection from various chemicals, and also has information about latex allergies. Ansell’s SpecWare is an online interactive application that helps you quickly sort through nearly 200 industrial chemicals and mixtures to identify the recommended hand protection.
- Showa Best Glove has Chemical Resistant gloves.
- Marigold Rubber Gloves website lists their range of Chemical Resistant Gloves.
- Superglove from BM Polyco Medical has a guide to their gloves and performance.
- Mapa Glove has a Chemical Resistance Guide to gloves.