Selecting the right glove

Selecting the proper industrial glove may seem simple, yet look at what is required:

  1. Understanding the hazard(s) at the workstation/application.
  2. Evaluating the level of risk associated with the hazard.
  3. Satisfying legal and internal policies towards health and safety.
  4. Satisfying purchasing strategy to reduce the number of suppliers and references.
  5. Evaluating the possible alternatives available from the various manufacturers and distributors in the market
  6. Testing of the potential gloves to ensure they satisfy worker, safety and quality requirements.
  7. Ensuring that everyone understands the need for change and buys in.
  8. Implementing, monitoring and managing the change process making corrective actions if needed.

Easy to see why an estimated 7 out of 10 people are using the wrong safety glove isn’t it?

Developing a holistic glove program can take many months and even years; just assessing one application and finding the right glove can easily take weeks.

Why does selecting a glove take so long?

The two main reasons are complexity and broad product ranges. The key requirements are:

  1. Comfort - dexterity, flexibility, cushioning, sweat/transpiration management
  2. Grip - dry, wet, oil
  3. Mechanical - abrasion, cut, tear, puncture
  4. Heat protection - contact heat and molten splash
  5. Liquids - chemical and liquid repellence.

Combining the key criteria creates a staggering number of possible combinations to consider making it extremely complex and that is even before looking at what’s available, the source of the second key problem.

Most of the key suppliers boast extensive product ranges; a glove for every application. The largest manufacturer in the UK has more than 350 gloves in its product range.  The key players in the UK collectively offer in excess of 2,500 gloves.

Gloves also have to be considered in the larger picture given that safety officers also need to have knowledge about glasses, helmets, respiratory equipment, breathing equipment, hearing protection and shoes for example.

Is it reasonable to ask safety officers to have expert knowledge on thousands of products?


How do people selecting gloves deal with the complexity?

They tend to fall into or focus on one of two categories:

  • Performance - emphasis on safety compliance.
  • Comfort - emphasis on worker acceptance.

Performance focuses on safety.  The benefit of this approach is highly protective products. The downside is the selected product frequently fails to address comfort requirements leading to low worker acceptance which can lead to low compliance and increased levels of injuries.

Comfort focuses on worker acceptance, the thinking being that something is better than nothing. However, many of these products provide insufficient levels of protection as emphasis is given to criteria such as dexterity, flexibility and sweat management.

The merging of the two along with the appropriate advice to place gloves at the correct application represents a major opportunity to take the whole industry forward.


What has been the response from the industry?

Most glove manufacturers offer technical specialists who can provide glove surveys/plans. Whilst this can be seen to be a step forward, these surveys only recommend products from the supplier providing the service and miss the data to qualify and quantify the level of suitability of products in the application(s).

Guidance is also provided through pictograms and complex data sheets which although technically correct, fail to communicate to end-users in a useful way.

At the source of the problem is access to knowledge for the user and meaningful communication by the supplier.   Typically the knowledge resides only in the head of the commercial representative so accessing this information is difficult. The experience, preferences and communication capabilities of the person delivering it risks making it inconsistent.


Where are the opportunities for improving glove selection?

Three opportunities present themselves to move the industry forward:

  1. An integrated approach that optimizes the two schools of thought i.e. performance and comfort.
  2. Processes that qualify and quantify the risk making the selection and communication process transparent.
  3. Transferring the tacit knowledge residing in the minds of the industry technical specialists to end-users.


These may seem like unattainable opportunities for improvement, however other industries sectors have moved forward so why not the PPE market? Just look at the insurance sector where five years ago people would compare policies from 2 or 3 companies when looking for coverage.

The advent of comparison websites has enabled consumers to compare hundreds of policies within minutes, empowering them to make an informed decision.  Companies such as, and to name a few have become familiar to all as brands, concepts and working tools.


Who can help me make better glove selection?

Radar Gloves can.  We make product selection easier.  Enter your requirements and press “search for gloves”.   That’s it. Within seconds the most suitable glove(s) from each of the large branded suppliers are shown and rated.

If you have further questions or would like more information you can email

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Other useful references:

BSIF Guide 2009

Health & Safety Executive