Protecting your hands is critical when performing confined space work. But what is the best way to keep them from harm? Is there a possibility of contamination or chemical exposure as well as sharp edges? Do your safety gloves allow you to perform rope access work? Unfortunately, there is no one type of glove that covers every situation. You will need to understand what hazards your confined space offers before you can know how best to protect your hands. We've put together a few guidelines to help you choose the best gloves for your confined space entry.
If you are performing rope entry work, you need to have gloves that will protect against rope burn as well as provide a good grip. Petzl is a company that is on the forefront of rope access work. Their CORDEX Belay and Repelling gloves have reinforced palms and provide excellent dexterity.
Firefighting gloves are made to NFPA standards and are excellent at keeping out heat and water. They are also resistant to cuts and tears. However, they are bulky and not great for confined space work because they make it difficult to work gas monitors and machinery.
Contamination is another issue to be addressed when choosing the right gloves. Latex, nitrile, or vinyl gloves are designed to prevent transmission of disease and can be helpful in sewers and or when treating injured workers. They are limited because they tear and rip easily.
Confined space workers that are expected to come in contact with chemicals have another set of problems. Neoprene gloves like the MCR Safety gloves (sold here by the pair) offer good resistance to most solvents, but they are not particularly great for cut resistance. HazMat gloves like the B131R Butyl Gloves from North offer extremely good protection to toxic chemicals and cut resistance due to their 13 mil. thickness. But they are much more expensive.
Sometimes the best solution is a combination of gloves. For non-chemical environments, leather work gloves provide good grip and cut resistance, and when combined with nitrile or other gloves underneath can provide protection against contamination as well.
A final note: Remember that latex, nitrile or other gloves that become contaminated must be properly discarded. Any gloves that are worn over them must also be properly decontaminated or discarded as well.
Each type of glove has a purpose and limitations. Knowing what specific hazards you will be encountering during your confined space entry will guide you in choosing the correct hand protection. If you have questions, we have folks who know a ridiculous amount about just which gloves are best for your situation. Please don't hesitate to call us at 800-829-9580.