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Disposable Gloves for Heavy-Duty Industrial Jobs?

Mar 2, 2018
Anthony Di Giovanni - Marketing, Protective Industrial Products

Many current studies related to the global safety market will highlight how disposable gloves account for growing share of glove consumption. One research document boldly professes that "disposable gloves are durable and used for high performance tasks in manufacturing." This statement is an oversimplification. Disposable gloves are typically 4 to 8 mil thick and regardless of the material - whether latex or nitrile, they can't really stand up to heavy-duty industrial use. Yet, we see more and more workers opting for the convenience of disposable gloves for completing daily tasks. This trend is worth addressing.

Excessive Waste

While convenient and abundant, disposable gloves do not environmentally recycle easily. They are not operationally efficient for multiple uses either. Attempting to put on a previously worn, perhaps sweaty disposable glove is next to impossible. The choice of tossing it and grabbing a "fresh" pair is easier, faster and convenient. The result is an excessive amount of waste.

Mil Matters

Disposable gloves were never developed for industrial applications. They are just too thin, have insufficient grip and have the tendency to snag easily. If one opts for thicker versions of disposable gloves, dexterity is exceedingly reduced and the effort required to flex the hand against the inherent elastic properties of the polymer only results in excess hand fatigue. Choosing to remain in the 4 to 6 mil range means the glove will not last. Thus, the payoff is low either way.

Sweaty Hands

Often, workers hands are nestled in sweaty disposable gloves for long periods of time. This is very uncomfortable, but discomfort isn't the only issue? Just like how we get wrinkly toes and fingers when swimming or hanging out in the pool for too long, our skin, which is the largest organ of our body, will suffer maceration. Although it's a relatively harmless manifestation of excess moisture that will typically clear up quickly once the skin is exposed to fresh air and allowed to dry, long periods of maceration may be vulnerable to fungal and bacterial infection as an opportunistic organism. Undoubtedly, macerated skin becomes more susceptible to injury from rubbing or abrasion.

Choosing the Right Glove

So, what is the answer? It's simple, choose the right gloves for the job. Coated seamless knit gloves with some level of cut protection should be considered for most industrial applications where there is handling or assembling of parts. Fully coated polymer gloves are ideal for handling chemical liquids or powders. Leather or synthetic composite gloves are ideally suited for heavy-duty jobs. Disposable gloves do serve a purpose specifically when handling very light materials or food items to prevent cross-contamination or direct contact with dirty/soiled items. They are not wear-resistant in industrial application and are typically not tested for specific chemical protection.

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