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This information bulletin is intended to provide guidance to employers and employees for the selection, use and maintenance of personal protective gloves.
The three steps in determining whether gloves should be worn for protection in the workplace are to identify each hazard, assess the risk of injury or harm and consider the means to reduce the risk from the hazard.
If it can be clearly shown that:
then the employer has a legal responsibility to provide suitable protective gloves to each employee who may be exposed to risks.
All protective gloves provided must comply with Australian/New Zealand Standard AS/NZS 2161.1:2000 – Occupational protective gloves – Selection, use and maintenance, and be compatible with:
Occupations where workers are required to wear gloves include:
In addition to providing adequate gloves as necessary, employers must also provide the following:
Employees have a responsibility to:
Before gloves are purchased, consider the following:
For more information on selecting gloves refer to:
Take care to ensure the gloves fit correctly to reduce the risk of entanglement with moving parts of machinery.
Some gloves may not be safe to wear when working with machinery, eg mesh gloves while using a bandsaw.
A protective glove can fail to protect the user from exposure to hazardous substances if any of the following occurs:
Common signs of failure include:
Gloves with obvious weaknesses or faults should be discarded.
Employees are at risk from exposure to ultraviolet radiation (UVR), which causes skin cancer. Outdoor employees are most at risk, but indoor employees who go outside for short periods may also be at risk.
Even in winter it is important to protect hands from the sun, as sunscreen does not offer 100 per cent protection. Gloves should be made of SPF 30+ sun protective material.
On occasions wearing gloves may cause skin irritations due to:
Dermatitis is an inflammation of the skin. This inflammation occurs when a substance comes into contact with skin. The skin is irritated and there is an abnormal reaction.
Some irritating substances affect the skin immediately and are obvious. Other substances may be used for a long time prior to the skin reacting.
Latex sensitivity is when the proteins in the natural rubber latex of the glove cause an allergic reaction by the wearer.
AS/NZS 2161.2:1998 Occupational protective gloves - General requirements requires manufacturers to list on the packaging the substances used in the gloves and whether the substances are known to cause allergies. This list may be useful in providing a choice of alternative products such as low allergy natural rubber, powder-free latex or PVC gloves.
Anyone with latex sensitivity should avoid contact with latex products and choose non-latex gloves.
Employers should provide powder-free or low allergen gloves wherever possible.
Employees who experience any signs or symptoms of irritation such as itching, redness, peeling, cracking or bleeding of the skin on the hands must report this to the employer immediately. In some cases medical treatment may be required, and/or different tasks allocated.
Acknowledgement: This bulletin was prepared in consultation with the Hazards Advisory Committee of the Commission for Occupational Safety and Health.