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  3. A Guide to Safety Glove Ratings

It’s fair to say that not all gloves are created equally. In our everyday lives, whether we work as surgeons or just use them for the washing up, we’ve experienced the vast differences between the various kinds of gloves – and we definitely know that having the wrong kind of gloves can make a difference.


Why safety gloves are important


Our hands are our primary tools; the majority of employees use them all day every day, no matter their role. It’s really important in this respect that our hands are adequately protected – especially considering that many occupational injuries are hand-related. You need to make sure you have the right gloves for the job at hand, and it’s important to understand their safety ratings.


Gloves make up a really large proportion of all protective equipment, and they are a particularly crucial piece of uniform – especially when you work around sharp objects, chemicals, or abrasive surfaces. Gloves can actually be really cost effective when you know how to choose them.

PPE gloves

When it comes to gloves used for personal protective equipment, or PPE for short, wearing the wrong gloves can have drastic consequences. In order to conform to the European regulations surrounding gloves and PPE, they must have been designed according to PPE directive 89/868/EEC.


In short, what this means is that all gloves used for PPE must meet certain standards according to a three-category safety glove rating system. This is designed to help employees and employers know which gloves are suitable for certain tasks. Here’s a quick summary of what the levels mean.


Category 1 – Simple Design


These gloves are designed for tasks that involve minimal risk of injury or illness when gloves are not used, or when such consequences are easily treated or reversible. These would essentially be everyday tasks such as washing up, and applying non-hazardous materials and substances where the risk is very small or only applies to possessions or equipment (such as oiling a bike chain). These gloves are marked with the CE typical safety marking.


Category 2 – Intermediate Design


Gloves in this category are designed for areas where there is a specific risk of injury. These gloves are tested against the European body standard in order to qualify for their safety rating (designated by a CE sign with accompanying 3121 markings). These gloves are required when there is a risk of injury or contamination during use, for example when using machinery or substances that are potentially hazardous. The gloves should be tear-resistant, blade cut resistant and puncture resistant.


Category 3 – Complex Design


These are gloves designated for use when there is a serious risk of illness or injury when not used, which is often irreversible and long term. These safety gloves must be tested by an approved quality system. They are marked with the CE sign followed by the number 1234 and are resistant to permeation by chemicals.


Other things to consider


Whilst the safety rating is a primary indicator of the levels of protection a glove can offer, there are many other features to take note of, too. Because you can find gloves for virtually any conceivable situation, you can find a glove to suit even the most unique of roles.


You should start by considering the nature of the task, and matching this to the appropriate safety rating. Following this, you need to consider any allergies the wearer might have – a lot of gloves use latex, for example, and this is a common allergy. Another important factor is the environment in which the glove will be worn. If there are extreme temperatures involved, this needs to be noted.


If an employee is required to use the equipment whilst wearing the gloves, you may also need to consider how much grip they have. If gloves are not slip-resistant when they need to be, this could be just as dangerous as if they were wearing no gloves at all.


And, finally, comfort is key. When people are comfortable, they perform to the best of their ability – so if an employee has the right gloves, they will be most effective.


To help you choose, you should look at the safety rating alongside any symbols that indicate the properties of the glove. Safety standards applied across the board like this help to keep us all safer at work. By understanding the rating system and applying these safety glove regulations to the workplace, we can protect our hands and prevent injury.


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