Always Wear Your Gloves: Understanding The Basics on Gloves
By: Rich Gojdics
“Always wear your gloves.” A phrase emblazoned on every electrical glove bag, a seemingly straightforward statement, and a necessity for electrical workers—with good reason. Electrical incidents are common, and one slip could result in shock or electrocution..
While arc flash protective suits are designed to reduce or eliminate injury after an incident takes place, rubber insulating gloves are the first line of defense, providing protection against shock and electrocution when contacting energized electrical parts and equipment. Today, we will explore the basics of insulated gloves and discuss how the right gloves protect you.
Electrocution and Electrical Injuries
While arc flash incidents are well-known for their pressure, heat, sound, and blinding light, electrocution and shock incidents are among the most common reasons for injuries and fatalities in the workplace, considered one of Construction’s “Fatal Four” by OSHA and among the leading causes of workplace fatalities in the United States.
Electrical shock is Common and Often Deadly
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), “exposure to electricity” is among the top causes of workplace fatalities in the United States with 3,120 injuries and 136 worker deaths in 2017; nearly 1,600 fatalities and nearly 22,000 non-fatal electrical injuries in the past decade. Add to this the number of arc flash incidents or falls resulting from exposure, and the rate goes much higher.
What Happens When the Body is Exposed to Shock?
Electrical shock occurs when a body part comes into contact with any source of electricity with a high enough current to pass through flesh, viscera, or hair. Depending on the magnitude of the current, the result of a shock may range from a light tingling sensation all the way up to internal and external burns, neurological damage or death (electrocution).
Four Ways That Workers Are Injured in an Electrical Incident
Electrical injuries consist of four main types: electrocution (fatal), electric shock, burns from arc flash, and falls caused as a result of contact with electrical energy. Fatal electrocution occurs when the human body becomes part of an active electrical circuit with current high enough to overstimulate the nervous system, cause cardiac arrest or damage internal organs.
This is a testament to why gloves are so important to workers in the electrical field. The right gloves for the job are designed to protect workers from injury that may result from contacting energized equipment, insulating the worker from the voltage and current before it causes harm.
Insulated Gloves: Your First Line of Defense When Working with Energized Equipment
While PPE is your “last line of defense,” your glove system is the first thing a worker relies on when energized work is necessary.
The Glove System
When someone talks about gloves for electrical safety, it is often in reference to two separate yet necessary components: Rubber Insulating Gloves and Leather Protectors, each of which play a vital role in protecting workers from shock:
- Rubber insulating gloves: The “glove” itself, designed to insulate workers from shock hazards. These are classified by the level of voltage and protection they provide.
- Leather protector gloves: These are a necessary part of the glove system, as they protect the rubber insulating gloves from wear and damage. Worn over rubber insulating gloves to help provide the mechanical protection needed against cuts, abrasions and punctures. Leather protectors should be the same size as the rubber insulating glove.
In the coming weeks, we will explore the inspection and testing process, required every six months to ensure the glove still offers the necessary insulation.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) outlines glove classifications in its electrical protective equipment standard 29 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) 1910.137. Guided by ASTM D120 Standard Specification for Rubber Insulating Gloves, there are six categories of gloves—Class 00, 0, 1, 2, 3, 4, with most situations handled by the following three classes:
- Class 00 (Beige Label): Class 00 Gloves provide protection up to 500V (AC) and 750V (DC) Max.
- Class 0 (Red Label): Class 0 Gloves provide protection up to 1000V (AC) and 1,500 (DC) Max.
- Class 1 (White Label): Class 1 Gloves provide protection up to 7,500V (AC) and 11,250 (DC) Max.
- Class 2 (Yellow Label): Class 2 Gloves provide protection against high voltage up to 17,000V (AC) and 25,500V (DC) Max.
- Class 3 (Green Label): Class 3 Gloves provide protection against high voltage up to 26,500V (AC) and 39,750V (DC) Max.
- Class 4 (Orange Label): Class 4 Gloves provide protection against high voltage up to 36,000V (AC) and 54,000 (DC) Max.
This is the first decision you will need to make regarding your glove choice. In order to select the right insulated glove for the job, first determine the maximum voltage you will be exposed to during work. Labels will display the voltage that exists. Read more about the labels you will likely see when approaching energized equipment here.
There are many factors that go into selecting the right glove for your unique needs. From finding the right fit to choosing a glove that doesn’t get in the way of your work, here are a few questions to ask:
- Is this the right size? Choosing the right sized glove requires workers to complete necessary measurements of hand diameter. Measure your hand by wrapping a flexible measuring tape all the way around your palm. This will provide an estimate of the right glove size while allowing for personal preference.
- What Length of Leather Protector Should I Use? Leather protectors should be shorter than the glove itself. Class 00 and 0 should have no less than 1/2” gap between the top of the glove and the leather protector, while class 2 should have no less than a 2” gap.
- What Else Should I Know? In order to find the right supplier of electrical gloves for the job, you should consider how they work for you. Depending on the work being done, some gloves may provide better dexterity than others. Comfort is another key concern, and many workers are opting to use curved gloves to provide them a more natural hand position while holding tools.
At Enespro PPE, we know that the right glove for the job is a life or death matter. Electrical shock injuries are still very common in this line of work, so having the right level of protection is a must. We carry Class 00, 0 and 2 glove kits in stock. Each kit comes with our Enespro leather protectors and ComfortFIT cotton liners, as well as a heavy-duty canvas carrying bag that fits perfectly into the Enespro PPE gear bag. Learn more about our complete line of voltage gloves here and order today.
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