A pair of gloves is among the most important pieces of PPE you’ll ever buy. The importance of gloves is indisputable; they’re your ticket to a safer, cleaner environment. But with thousands of products to choose from, how do you know where to start?

The need for fit-for-purpose PPE has led to the development of a vast range of hand protection. Safety gloves can be manufactured from natural and man-made materials, waterproof or absorbent fabrics. They’re layered with different coatings and a plethora of grip patterns. Some are filled with a variety of linings and others have no lining at all. These elements are then applied in any manner of combinations to provide a necessary level of protection or functionality to suit almost every job in almost every industry.

But how do you choose?

Hand protection can be a minefield. Of course, representatives from every manufacturer will eagerly promote a glove from their own range. But the truth is, no one glove can provide a perfect solution for multiple activities in the workplace. Instead, it’s important to choose a pair of gloves based on its ability to significantly reduce the risk of injury or product contamination in your business.

Selecting the right safety gloves may seem like a daunting task. But a good hand protection expert will combine experience of working environments with product knowledge to narrow down the possibilities using five tips for selecting the right gloves. They are:

1) Assess your working environment and identify risks

No-one can possibly know what gloves will suit your employees without assessing their working environment. An expert will need to understand your business, what it does and what safety legislations it adheres to. He or she will determine the risks in your work environment and categorise them in order of priority using EU standards for hand protection as specified in EN 420 guidelines. Risks to a person, for example, relate to mechanical risks, chemical/liquid, thermal, antistatic, micro-biological, cold, or radioactivity. Risks to products could relate to anything that can affect/violate a clean environment, sterile environment, food environment and medical environment.

2) Identify procedures and protocols

Once the risks are known, it’s important to identify specific processes and protocols that form part of an employee’s day that might influence the type of gloves he or she wears. Protocols should be in place to ensure different levels of protection are adhered to.

Workers in a food environment, for example, may need to replace gloves at certain points during their shift, in the same way they need to replace other protective items such as headwear, sleeves or aprons. These protocols will influence the type of gloves that the employee wears. For example, the class of clean environment combined with the risk present will determine the glove's specifications, whether disposable or reusable gloves should be worn, and for which tasks.

3) Understand the tasks performed by the wearer

A hand protection expert should get to know your employees, find out what their jobs entail, the hours they work and the conditions they work in. What are their daily targets and what safety processes do they need to follow? By looking at these variables, you can determine what’s needed to deliver appropriate protection against the risks. Specifically, what materials protect against the chemicals an operator could make contact with and what is the breakthrough time (the time it takes for a chemical to penetrate the glove layer) for each of these? What are the highest and lowest temperatures the employee is exposed to, or what class/level of cleanliness does the environment need to achieve?

It’s natural to want to over-protect the wearer, providing more layers of protection than are needed just to be on the safe side. However, wearers need to do their jobs productively, so a glove with too much protection may be too bulky or cumbersome. If you can strike the right balance between protection and practicality, a wearer is more likely to want to wear the glove and is, therefore, more likely to stay safe.

Your industry probably rates certain elements of hand protection as more important than others. If you're a food manufacturer or processor, you're more likely to need a glove with grip, which saves food from slipping out of an employee’s hand and from being contaminated with bacteria. If you're a car manufacturer, you're probably more conscious of the glove's durability and its ability to protect the wearer from mechanical risk.

4) Prove point 3 in product trials

Product trials are essential, not only to ensure the gloves provide appropriate protection for the tasks at hand, but also to ensure they’re accepted by employees. For this, establishing the right fit and comfort levels is key. Therefore, correct sizing is vital. A glove that’s too large is a hazard because fingertips can get caught. A glove that’s too small will stretch, meaning areas of the glove will be under more stress than necessary and the product will not last as long. Your hand protection expert and product trials can help get this right.

5) Work with procurement to find the right supplier

When your employees are confident and happy with your selected range of specified gloves, your procurement team can engage with suppliers to secure the best commercial deal for the business. This will include the added value available from the supplier. Price is important, as well as sustainability of supply and capability of supply. Your business needs to be aware of and comfortable with the costs involved, and assured of a good stock and size availability at all times. The right glove is only as good as its supplier - if you run out, operations come to a halt. And that's a risk not worth taking.

Anchor Safety can help with all your hand protection needs. For more information about our Hand Protection Programme, please contact us on 0800 328 5028.