Why Use Protector Gloves?
Protector gloves have two primary purposes:
- Mechanical protection for the rubber insulating glove worn underneath.
- Arc flash protection of the rubber and hands.
Historically, ASTM F696 Standard Specification for Leather Protectors for Rubber Insulating Gloves and Mittens has been used for protector gloves. OSHA requires “protector gloves” be worn for arc flash protection and lists ASTM F696 as a standard, but it is assumed that OSHA would also allow other options which meet the requirements above. OSHA only allows rubber gloves to be worn alone in certain controlled situations and when there is really no other option.
The issue with leather has always been that it provides limited puncture resistance and relatively poor cut resistance. To help with this situation, gloves in ASTM F696 have required protector gloves to be leather (“shall be grain cowhide, buffed grain cowhide, grain deerskin, grain pigskin, grain horsehide, or grain goatskin”) but also allows “grain sheepskin and grain capeskin” for Class 0 and 00. The thickness of the glove is defined for each of the classes in the standard, but recent testing shows that some leathers which meet this standard provide cut and puncture resistance of Level 0 using ANSI 105-defined test methods.
The ASTM F18 committee has been in process for a few years to write a new standard to allow for non-leather or combination materials. The proposed standard at the time of this writing is proposed to be titled “Standard Specification for Leather and other Material Protectors for Rubber Insulating Gloves and Mittens.”
This standard will define several performance-based criteria to meet or exceed leather in practice and testing. Cut, puncture, arc flash performance, abrasion and chemical resistance can all be required using the test methods and levels defined in ANSI 105.
A Cut Above ASTM F696 Alone
Before this standard is even final, companies are already exceeding the ASTM F696 standard by several methods. To increase cut resistance or warmth, companies have been using liners to the rubber gloves or lining the protector glove. Many have added Kevlar or Twaron knit to line the protector to increase cut and puncture resistance beyond a standard leather glove.
Some companies have been using ASTM F2675-13 Standard Test Method for Determining Arc Ratings of Hand Protective Products Developed and Used for Electrical Arc Flash Protection to determine the arc rating of the leather protector alone or in combination with the rubber insulating glove. While arc ratings are not required for F696 or D120 gloves, the standards do not prohibit such testing.
Several companies have now upgraded to Kevlar thread, which has been shown to add protective value to leather gloves. Originally, the ASTM F696 standard required nylon or polyester thread for strength; it was also thought these threads would allow opening of the leather in an accident which would increase protection by relieving pressure. This however, has been shown not to be the case; Kevlar, a much stronger thread, would not break open and proved in investigation to be more protective to the wearer.
No Longer Slippery When Wet
Other upgrades of gloves now on the market include the addition of grips (like PowerGripz brand) to allow better gripping of tools in wet conditions. While wet conditions are not ideal for line work, they are frequently encountered in storm restoration work and troubleshooting. As long as the leather is in place and the coating or sewn-on grip does not abrade the rubber glove or add to risk of ignition of the glove, it should be within the intent of the current standard and definitely allowed by the proposed multi-material protector glove standard.
Protector gloves aren’t always necessary…
If your hazard assessment for an electrical task includes a shock hazard, ASTM D120 gloves are still your ONLY option with or without a leather protector (see OSHA, NFPA 70E and ASTM F496 requirements for protector gloves).
…nor are rubber insulating gloves.
Arc rated gloves without rubber insulating gloves can be used for the following:
- “Heavy duty leather gloves” for arc flash protection (NFPA 70E Standard for Electrical Safety in the Workplace requires these for jobs without shock hazards). When there was no arc rating test method for gloves, they were required to be of a certain thickness. Now the gloves can be made thinner and still meet the required arc protection.
- To replace “heavy duty leather gloves” when they are inadequate for other multiple threats. Non-leather gloves are being worn in more workplaces today. Non-leather specialty gloves that grip when wet or oily can be engineered to make the gloves more task-specific and ergonomically designed. Now these gloves can also be arc rated so a machine operator who is operating a disconnect will have no need to change gloves for arc flash, and the glove can also be cut-resistant para-aramid.
- The 2015 NFPA 70E Table 130.7(C)(16) Personal Protective Equipment requires “arc rated gloves” for tasks under PPE categories 3 and 4; [Note (3) states: “The combination of rubber insulating gloves with leather protectors satisfies the arc flash protection requirement.”] Now there will be “arc rated gloves” for the non-shock hazard tasks which have arc flash potential.
- The coming standard from the ASTM F18 committee will allow OSHA-required (1910.137) “protector gloves” to be something other than leather. The 90-year-old technology of using rubber gloves for shock and leather gloves for protection of the rubber could soon be turned on its head by innovation because the cut standards, puncture standards and now arc flash standards for gloves are in place to specify new options to protect workers from shock and arc flash while making gloves lighter, thinner and giving a better grip. See the OH&S article Gloves, Arc Flash, and the New ASTM Test Method.
When selecting gloves for arc flash exposures, two considerations must be followed:
- Assess the hazard for shock first. If shock hazards exist, use an ASTM D120 rubber insulating glove under the arc flash protector glove. Protector gloves must be shorter than the rubber gloves by a distance specified by ASTM F496. Most companies choose ASTM D696 leather protectors.
- Assess the arc flash hazard from a realistic distance from the hazard. Most arc flash calculations are for a working distance of 18-36 inches. However, the hands may well be closer and this should be considered in the hazard assessment.
These arc-rated multi-hazard protection gloves for cut, chemical and arc flash may be in your safety program soon. These protectors might even get an upgrade to have better grip, cut and arc flash protection in a thinner package than before.
Hugh Hoagland, is Sr. Managing Partner of e-Hazard, a leading provider of arc flash, and electrical safety training, and Sr. Consultant at ArcWear, the leading testing company for arc rated materials and PPE.
Update Feb. 18, 2019: New Article
Specifying Arc-Rated and Flame-Resistant Gloves, by Hugh Hoagland and Stacy Klausing