By Barb Abrahms, CEO and co-founder of PalmFlex
When you think of construction site safety, you likely picture workers wearing hard hats, safety glasses, and steel-toed boots. But do you think of work gloves? While construction workers need some dexterity in order to properly handle various tools and materials, the proper PPE (personal protective equipment) is invaluable.
In fact, the Occupational Health and Safety found that 40–60% of workplace incidents are hand incidents, and construction sites are no exception. Injuries can include cuts, scrapes, punctures, impact damage, chemical burns, regular burns, and more. Wearing gloves appropriate to the construction job is essential to preventing these injuries. Here are seven types of construction work gloves and the reasons why every employee on the site should be wearing a pair.
Types of Construction Gloves
Beginning with the simplest option, lightweight cotton or fabric gloves may not stand up to all of the rigors of a construction site. However, they will protect your hands from scrapes and minor cuts if you’re just doing a walkthrough of the site. These breathable gloves are suited for people who are overseeing work or inspecting completed projects, as opposed to those involved in hard or repetitive tasks.
You may also need to wear these reusable gloves if you’re handling light materials or doing a small remodelingproject, such as hanging drywall. They protect your hands from scraping against stray nails or getting cut by the sharp corners of materials or tools.
Coated Fabric Gloves
These are a step up from regular fabric gloves, offering an extra layer of rubber coating for better protection against cuts and some protection against chemicals. Made from nitrile, PVC, or neoprene, these gloves are slightly more durable than their fabric counterparts.
When fitted correctly, coated safety gloves don’t inhibit workers’ dexterity, as they are so flexible. Moreover, some coatings imitate leather, so they provide the wearer with a better grip, resulting in fewer dropped materials and fewer workplace accidents.
Coated gloves are ideal for transferring or cleaning certain dangerous chemicals, like pesticides, fuel, oil, or sewage from wastewater. People on construction sites who are handling rough materials like bricks or wood planking also benefit from coated fabric gloves.
This is a broad category that includes rubber, plastic, and other synthetic gloves. They’re ideal for transporting and handling chemicals, including everything from alcohol to acids, as the chemicals can’t penetrate the non-absorbent materials. Rubber gloves also resist corrosion and oxidation.
If you’re on a construction site and handling chemicals like solvents, paints, industrial cleaners, flammable materials, and the like, you need to wear rubber gloves. Any spilling of these types of chemicals on bare skin is very dangerous. Solvents can pass right through your skin, causing kidney damage and other health issues. Industrial cleaners and paint can dry out or damage skin. Flammable materials can lead to burn injuries. Stick to workplace safety standards and glove up.
Insulated Rubber Gloves
Regular rubber gloves are great for chemicals, but there’s a subset that’s ideal for electrical work. Insulated rubber gloves are made from thicker materials and sorted based on the voltage they’re designed to withstand.
Any construction worker handling electrical work, such as wiring, circuit breakers, and portable electrical apparatuses or tools, needs to wear properly rated insulated rubber gloves. This prevents shock injuries and burns.
Leather gloves, typically complete with an inner layer of wool or cotton for comfort, are arguably some of the most versatile PPE. They’re durable, insulating, and offer a strong grip. They’re designed to protect against both hot and cold temperatures, and workers get better protection from cuts, scrapes, or punctures. Whether you choose synthetic or cow leather, you get the same level of protection.
These gloves are great for general construction work. Any time you’re on a site hammering in nails, installing glass, or even using sanders and other power tools, consider wearing a pair of leather gloves. This is especially applicable to scaffolding welders and those working with heat or flame.
The CDC warns that vibrating hand tools like those often found on construction sites can cause Vibration Syndrome. This syndrome results in numbness and pain in the fingers and hands. Vibration Syndrome can result even after less than a year’s exposure to these tools. It doesn’t matter whether the tool is hydraulic or battery-powered, the damage is the same.
Construction workers who regularly handle vibrating tools, like pneumatic hammers, chain saws, and other power tools, need to wear vibration-resistant gloves. These gloves are designed to absorb some of the energy from the tool to keep it from transferring to your hands and arms.
Just like bulletproof vests, kevlar gloves are designed to resist cuts and especially punctures. It takes a lot of energy to break through the tightly made plastic, which is similar to reinforced concrete in its strength. In fact, kevlar is so tightly woven that, even if the fibers are forced apart, enough energy is dissipated through the material that the damage is lessened.
You’ll find these gloves on the hands of welders, glass handlers, metal workers, and others who are likely to need puncture resistance. They’re especially useful for welders, as kevlar gloves are incredibly heat resistant. Kevlar gloves are also lightweight, making them a good choice for workers who rely on their hand’s dexterity.
The Importance of a Proper Fit
Donning the perfect pair of gloves for your unique construction job won’t matter if the gloves don’t fit properly. Gloves should fit snugly, with no gaps or extra material at the fingertips. The length of the gloves will depend on their purpose. For example, rubber gloves for handling chemicals should reach farther up the arm than leather gloves needed for general construction work. This is because chemical spills can splash higher up your arm, whereas general construction work is usually focused more on just your hands.
Additionally, workers need to ensure they’re wearing the correct gloves for their job. It doesn’t do an electrician any good to wear kevlar gloves; they need the insulated rubber to protect against shocks.
Don’t neglect this vital part of construction personal protective equipment. Keep your hands safe and reduce injury by wearing the properly fitted type of glove for the job.
Barb Abrahms is the CEO and co-founder of PalmFlex. Abrahms has over 20 years of experience consulting her team and customers on their ideal personal protective equipment (PPE) needs for a variety of industries and applications.