Selecting alternative gloves during a PPE shortage
Date Posted: 03/30/2020
With the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak, gloves and other personal protective equipment (PPE) may be in short supply for some time, so be prepared to identify feasible alternatives if your usual PPE is not available.
Many employers have been facing problems getting respirators, and the World Health Organization (WHO) recently noted that other forms of personal protective equipment (PPE) are also in short supply, including gloves, goggles, and face shields.
Latex and nitrile gloves are used extensively in health care, and their disposable (single use) nature means that large quantities are being consumed. According to WHO, the shortage may be due to increased use as well as hoarding by consumers. In addition, some businesses and government agencies are using these gloves to protect employees, even if their workers don’t normally require gloves on the job.
If your workers rely on latex or nitrile gloves as PPE, now is a good time to evaluate which materials offer appropriate protection from specific chemicals, in case you have difficulty obtaining your usual gloves. All glove materials are not suitable for all hazards, so employers must select material appropriate for the chemicals handled.
Here’s a summary of glove types and the protection given to help evaluate alternatives.
Butyl gloves protect against a variety of chemicals such as peroxide, highly corrosive acids, strong bases, alcohols, aldehydes, ketones, esters and nitrocompounds. Butyl gloves also resist oxidation, ozone corrosion and abrasion, and remain flexible at low temperatures. However, they do not perform well with aliphatic and aromatic hydrocarbons and halogenated solvents.
Natural (latex) rubber gloves have good elasticity and temperature resistance, and resist abrasions well. They protect against most water solutions of acids, alkalis, salts, and ketones. Latex gloves may cause allergic reactions and may not be appropriate for all employees. Hypoallergenic gloves, glove liners, and powderless gloves are possible alternatives for employees who are allergic.
Neoprene gloves protect against hydraulic fluids, gasoline, alcohols, organic acids, and alkalis. Their chemical and wear resistance are generally better than gloves of natural rubber.
Nitrile gloves are intended for jobs requiring dexterity, and they stand up 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 not recommended for use with strong oxidizing agents, aromatic solvents, ketones, and acetates.
OSHA Publication 3151 on personal protective equipment provides a list of specific chemicals (from Acetone to Xylene) with ratings on the effectiveness of various glove materials. The chart can help you evaluate alternative PPE for the chemicals your employees handle.
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