OSHA mandates employers to select and require workers to wear the right safety gloves for the job. Employers must assess the needs and hazards of their workplace to determine what properties (materials, thickness, and length) the gloves will need to adequately protect employees.
The first step is to identify what chemicals are being handled and consult the corresponding data sheets; section 8 of the SDS will indicate exposure limits and recommended personal protective equipment and section 11 details toxicological information such as potential absorption avenues and the effects from short- and long-term exposure.
When selecting safety gloves for employees, it is important to consider where and how the gloves will be used. What tasks are being completed? What is the length of the exposure? Are there additional hazards? Chemical-resistant gloves come in different thickness and length options; a thinner glove will allow an employee to better use their fine motor skills while a longer glove length will work to protect the wrists and arms from immersion or splashes. Some gloves are made from a material designed to absorb perspiration, some gloves are both resistant to chemicals and cuts, and some gloves are textured for a better grip.
The American National Standard for Hand Protection Classification (ANSI/ISEA 105-2016) establishes classification and testing requirements for safety gloves or other items protecting the hand from hazards. The three identified classes are divided by hazard protection: mechanical (cut, puncture, abrasion) protection, chemical (permeation resistance, degradation) protection, and other (impact, vibration, dexterity, etc.). The gloves are then assigned a number based off the level of protection with zero representing no to minimal protection.
To test gloves for chemical protection, the material of the glove is tested in accordance with ASTM F739, the Standard Test Method for Permeation of Liquids and Gases through Protective Clothing Materials under Conditions of Continuous Contact. A pair of level 0 gloves means the chemical will break through the protective layer in less than 10 minutes while a pair of level 6 safety gloves will last through the whole workday, approximately 480 minutes.
ANSI/ISEA 105-2016 also outlines testing requirements for flame resistance, heat degradation resistance, conductive heat resistance, dexterity, vibration reduction, impact resistance as well as protection from cuts, abrasions, and punctures.