Guide written by:
Jennifer, Self-taught DIY enthusiast, Manchester
Safety gloves are an essential part of your Personal Protective Equipment (PPE). Designed to protect you from hazards like electricity, heat and chemicals, they come in a variety of materials including cotton, rubber, kevlar, leather and latex. Read on to find the right protective gloves for you.
Protective glove classification
Each pair of safety gloves come with a marking that denotes usage (i.e. safety standards), size and the product reference number. There are three categories of gloves depending on performance and the type of protection offered. Please note that the second category is split into several levels of protection.
Safety gloves: category I
Category 1 gloves are used for minimal risk applications. They conform to safety standard EN 420:2003 which sets out requirements in terms of design, performance and safety. Disposable gloves designed for household use fall under this category. Unlike the other categories, the manufacturer is able to test for compliance with CE standards without outside intervention. As such, they do not have to stamped with the CE mark; even if the logo is present, it does not necessarily mean the gloves have been tested by a notified body.
Safety gloves: category II
Gloves in category II must conform to safety standard EN420:2003. As an intermediary class, there are several different types of gloves in this category.
- Protection against mechanical risks (EN 388:2003).
- Protection against cold (EN 511:2006).
- Protection against thermal risks: heat and/or fire (EN 407:2004).
All gloves in this category have been tested by a notified body.
Safety gloves: category III
Safety gloves that fall under category III offer the most comprehensive protection.
- Safety gloves in this category protect against mechanical risks. They also offer enhanced puncture resistance and protection against chemical permeation. In short, these are professional-grade gloves!
- Protection against microorganisms (EN 374-2:2003).
- Protection against chemicals (EN 374-3:2003).
These gloves must be tested and given approval before they are put on the market. They must also be sold with an instruction manual.
Of course, this is not an exhaustive list and it's important to remember that safety gloves should always be paired with eye and respiratory protection, where required. You may choose to opt for specialist gloves such as electrician's gloves, anti-vibration gloves and any type of glove designed for industrial use. Please note that specialist gloves will also fall into different categories based on their performance.
Protective glove materials
In terms of material, you can follow a kind of common sense approach.
The material should give you a good idea of what kind of applications the gloves are suitable for, without having to check the code every time.
For example, you can bet that cotton gloves aren't going to protect you from fire just like latex won't be impact-resistant!
These are the main materials you'll come across:
- polyurethane: abrasion- and tear-resistant;
- latex: chemical-resistant. If you have a latex allergy, a pair of nitrile rubber gloves will work the same;
- leather: highly resistant to mechanical risks and heat-resistant (up to a certain point!);
- butyl rubber: allows you to safely work with hydrocarbons;
- neoprene: resistant to heat, cold and chemicals;
- kevlar: resistant to slashing, heat and flying particles;
- Nomex: resistant to high temperatures and many chemicals;
- Zetex: high resistance to flames and sparks;
- Viton rubber: resistant to most organic compounds including hydrocarbons.
Choosing the right level of protection
As outlined above, each pair of protective gloves has been designed to meet a different safety standard. But even within these standards, there are different levels of protection. We won't go into every level, but here is an example of how it works.
Protective gloves for mechanical risks
Gloves designed to protect you from mechanical risks (EN 388) are tested against different hazards and are rated from A to D, as follows:
- A: abrasion resistance;
- B: cut resistance;
- C: tear resistance;
- D: puncture resistance.
All types of protection are graded from 0 to 5. The lowest grade corresponds to little to no protection and 5 denotes a high level of resistance. This information should be noted in the product specifications. If you see the letter 'X', this means the product hasn't been formally tested. Each pair of gloves on the market will note the type of resistance and level of protection offered.
Protective gloves for chemical protection
Gloves designed to protect you from chemicals will be marked with a letter symbol, each corresponding to a different chemical:
- A Methanol;
- B Acetone;
- C Acetonitrile;
- D Dichloromethane;
- E Carbon disulphide;
- F Toluene;
- G Diethylamine;
- H Tetrahydrofurane;
- I Ethyl acetase;
- J N-heptane;
- K Sodium hydroxide (40%);
- L Sulphuric acid (96%).
Choosing the right gloves for your task
Manufacturers may offer a range of features aimed at improving user comfort.
For example, if you work outdoors in winter, your protective gloves may be fur-lined to keep your hands warm. If you have to plunge your hands into hot water or chemicals, your gloves must come up to your elbows! You'll also find gloves with elasticated wrists or Velcro straps to stop them sliding down.
If you often work with chemicals or high temperatures around the home, you can go for a pair of multi-purpose glovesthat offer a medium level of protection; this should give you enough protection to safely go about your DIY or gardening tasks. If you're not doing anything too dangerous, it's worth noting that gardening gloves are very affordable and are often made of very strong materials.
If you choose to use disposable gloves, make sure you buy in bulk so you don't have to pop out to buy more every weekend.And if you're just looking for a pair of gloves for day-to-day DIY tasks, go for a basic multi-purpose pair. Protective gloves won't usually be covered by a warranty as their lifespan will differ depending on usage.
Remember to pair your gloves with any other PPE you may need.
Guide written by:
Jennifer, Self-taught DIY enthusiast, Manchester, 13 guides
I didn’t receive any special training, I learned everything on the job as it came up. And what a joy it is to be able to do little jobs around the house that we love so much. That is, until the moment we decided to move and had to do everything; from the floor to the ceiling, from the kitchen to the bathroom...In short, you become as good as a pros. So today, my friends don’t hesitate to call me when they need help. And when you dip your toe in, there’s no turning back. It’s a true passion that drives us to take on the challenges, to have an idea in mind and see it come alive with just a few tools. And a passion is even better when you can share it. So, whenever I can give you a little advice, it’s with great pleasure that I do it.