PPE (personal protective equipment) has been front of mind for most of us over the last few years thanks to COVID-19. But PPE has long been a staple in many diverse occupations, from medical and healthcare services to the food industry and many others.
Among the most common, widely used PPE is gloves. From disposable rubber latex gloves used in the home during cooking or cleaning to heavy, fire-retardant gloves used in the industrial sector, hand protection is of paramount importance for the health and safety of both the wearer and others.
Latex has previously been preferred in many industries that required people to wear disposable hand protection. Many people across different sectors, however, are now making the switch to disposable nitrile gloves.
What are they? And what benefits do they offer?
What are Nitrile Gloves?
Nitrile gloves are a great alternative to latex, especially for the medical and healthcare industry. Inexpensive and disposable, they are made of acrylonitrile-butadiene rubber. Latex-free and synthetic, they are non-allergenic and ideal for use by and with people who are allergic to latex.
Nitrile is made by transforming natural rubber (from rubber trees) into latex rubber. From here, it is reprocessed and the components acrylonitrile and butadiene are bonded before all of the latex proteins are removed.
Making nitrile gloves is now a cost-effective process and the cost profile is comparative to that of producing latex gloves.
They provide, at minimum, splash protection over a short period from:
· Micro-organisms (bacteria, fungi, viruses, parasites)
· Weak acids
· Weak caustics
· Some organic solvents
· Oils, petroleum products, and fuels
Benefits of Nitrile Gloves
Why choose synthetic nitrile gloves in preference to natural latex gloves?
· Latex-free, meaning it is non-allergenic for almost all users and suits people who have sensitive skin. This is important not just for the wearer, but for patients in medical settings, as any patient with a latex allergy is vulnerable if their doctor, nurse, or other professional is using latex gloves during their care.
· High puncture resistance – making it ideal for use in medical and surgical settings where needlestick wounds and tears are high risks. They will also not break easily, thus preventing exposure of the wearer’s skin to environmental contaminants.
· High level of chemical resistance – which exceeds that of latex. Offers heightened protection against chemicals, solvents, acids, and oils. When tested against numerous substances, nitrile proves to have a good level of splash resistance and chemical degradation resistance. While not resistant to all substances, nitrile will provide adequate protection against exposure to ethanol, acetone, methanol, isobutyl, and isopropyl.
· Comfortable and a better fit – natural body heat warms nitrile, enabling it to conform more effectively to the wearer’s hand for a snug but comfortable fit. This enhances the wearer’s dexterity and suits longer durations of wear (e.g., during surgery).
· Ease of use – the lower friction resistance of nitrile compared with latex makes it much easier to put nitrile gloves on and take them off. Unlike latex, nitrile gloves do not need to be powdered for ease and comfort – which is much better in healthcare, surgery, food handling, and other environments.
No disposable glove is completely impermeable. Nitrile, however, offers greater protection than latex and resists chemicals for a longer period – giving the wearer more time to safely change gloves in the event of harmful chemical exposure.
Nitrile does not provide suitable protection against:
· Highly corrosive chemicals
· Concentrated acids
· Aromatic solvents
Another glove material such as neoprene will be required for these applications.
Who Can Use Nitrile Gloves?
Nitrile gloves are ideal in many industries as they offer dependable, durable hand protection at an affordable price. They are suited for protecting against an array of hazards including liquids, biohazards, cuts, punctures, and abrasive materials. Comfortable to wear and easy to put on and take off, they work as well for frequent changes as they do for extended single-use wear.
These workers can benefit from using nitrile gloves:
· Hospitals and medical facilities – nitrile gloves offer a two-way barrier for contact in medical examinations, surgery, handling biological materials, and for medical waste disposal. Nitrile is the recommended PPE glove material for surgery, medical procedures, dental, pharmaceuticals, medical and biological research, pathology, and other areas.
· Chemical laboratories – nitrile’s chemical resistance makes it the right option for protecting workers from organic solvents and other hazardous chemicals.
· Food service – gloves made from nitrile are safe for food handling and protect both the wearer and the product during food preparation. They are easy to change and, thanks to the availability of different colours, a colour-coding system can easily be implemented to help prevent cross-contamination.
· Industrial facilities – including manufacturing, automotive, and janitorial services; nitrile gloves can offer protection from chemicals, commercial cleaning products, poisons, pesticides, and more.
· Also emergency services workers, tattooists, hair and nail salons, and many more.
When considering which gloves are right for your needs, consider the type of exposure you need protection from and investigate whether nitrile gloves will be right for your needs. You will also need to consider glove thickness and whether contact exposure to harmful substances is likely to be incidental or extended.