Personal Protective Equipment

Hand Protection: When are Work Gloves a Bad Idea?

Carpenter Severiano Barajas was pushing wood through a jointer on May 7, 2012, when the piece he was cutting became stuck. Barajas wiggled the piece back and forth, trying to work it free. While he was doing so, the glove he was wearing on his left hand caught on the jointer’s blade, became entangled, and drew his hand into the blade. The tip of his left little finger was amputated.

Barajas claimed he wore gloves at the jointer because of splinters in the wood. Besides splinters or burrs, workers may want to wear gloves because of contaminants on the part they’re working with, or to protect existing cuts or blisters on their hands. But gloves are not always a good idea; sometimes, they create a greater hazard.

Hands in Danger

Gloves can create a greater hazard when:

  • Workers use machinery with spinning or rotating parts. Gloves are, essentially, an item of “loose clothing” that can be caught and pulled into machinery, trapping the worker and causing a far more serious injury than a splinter or scrape.

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  • Workers are exposed to chemical hazards. Although a chemical-resistant glove can help to protect workers against contaminants, workers should be careful not to wear ordinary work gloves in the presence of chemical hazards. The gloves can trap contaminants against workers’ skin.
  • Workers have bad information. Workers may believe that latex or nitrile gloves are safer than leather or cotton work gloves, because they will tear free if caught. Make sure they know this is not true; these kinds of gloves can also lead to dangerous entanglements.

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As this case demonstrates, if you require or permit workers to wear gloves for some jobs, you must make sure that you clearly identify job tasks and machinery where gloves are forbidden due to the hazards they create.

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