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June 23, 2021

How are you equipped?

Personal protective equipment

Steve Zink

Sometimes, the simplest things are the best, and personal protective equipment (PPE) is exactly that: simple. PPE is equipment designed to protect the wearer against some type of hazard. This could include a wide range of equipment that protects employees from head to toe. The most popular forms of PPE include gloves, eye/face protection, hearing protection, footwear, and even clothing. It is important to evaluate the hazards you are trying to protect against with a PPE hazard assessment.

Why is the type of PPE used important to consider? Safety data sheets (SDSs) have a specific section on PPE. It may address the type of gloves to wear, eye/face protection requirements, and more.


When considering gloves, few people realize that there are different types of gloves for different types of hazardous substances. Using the incorrect type of glove may not provide any protection against the hazards present. A leather glove dipped into a vat of acid isn’t going to provide much protection. Different materials have different features that make them ideal for specific applications. Assess the type of gloves used to ensure the greatest level of employee protection for various work tasks.

  • Nitrile is one of the more popular glove materials and has many of the positive characteristics of latex (flexibility, strength, and durability) without the latex allergy threat. Nitrile is a synthetic material that exhibits rubber-like characteristics.  

  • Vinyl is composed of polyvinyl chloride and plasticizers that soften the material. Vinyl gloves are good multi-purpose gloves for general use and activities that don’t require a high degree of fine touch sensitivity.

  • Leather gloves offer good protection from cuts or abrasions but little in the way of hazardous substance protection.

Important properties to consider when choosing a disposable glove are thickness, finish, barrier protection, elasticity, and puncture resistance. In addition to providing protection, disposable gloves should offer comfort. Properly fitting gloves can help improve performance and reduce hand fatigue.

Get to the Point

In addition to protection against hazardous substances, you should also look at puncture resistance. If the glove can be punctured, this is potential for chemicals to come into contact with the skin.

In what settings are cut-resistant gloves required?

  • They are required when using sharp object such as knives or chainsaws.

  • High voltage electrical work requires both leather exterior gloves with heavy rubber interior gloves. These need to be tested prior to use or at least every six months.

  • Typical leather gloves provide protection against abrasions and blisters but do not provide protection when working with chemicals.

As with all PPE, what we choose depends greatly on the hazards we face. The first stop may be the SDS or the container label. Using the wrong PPE may provide your employees with a false sense of security.

As with all safety best practices, practice PACE.

  • Pause to think about that you are going to do.

  • Assess the process and potential risks.

  • Consult the container label or SDS for the recommended type of PPE.

  • Engage in the activity knowing you are properly protected.

If you have any questions, please feel free to contact your Marsh & McLennan Agency team and learn how safety exposures impact your risk strategy today—and every day.

“Stay safe, and PACE yourself.”