• Dorset Health and Safety


"The use of PPE must not increase the overall level of risk," says the Health and Safety Executive's guidance (L25) on the Personal Protective Equipment Regulations, "i.e. PPE must not be worn if the risk caused by wearing it is greater than the risk against which it is meant to protect."

We know that PPE should be the last consideration in controls, but as the last and most local defence against a hazard it has to function as intended. In hand protection this is particularly important; too often generic statements such as "wear gloves" or "gloves provided" appear in the control measures in risk assessments, inspiring no confidence that the assessor has considered the risks fully or the user will know which gloves are required. And the wrong gloves may be worse than none at all, as they can give false confidence to the wearer that they are protected.

There is no single glove that protects all, and even the right glove is likely to offer time-limited protection. So there is no substitute for understanding the specifics of the hazard you need to protect workers' hands against, whether it is corrosive chemicals, hazardous micro-organisms, heat or cold, abrasive surfaces, sharp edges or pointed objects. An assessment also has to account for the type and duration of contact and for the user's size and comfort needs.

Practitioners considering hand protection as part of a range of controls are not expected to know all the detail of these specifications, but it is important to understand the ratings of glove performance that are adequate for a risk flagged in your assessment; the difference between cut level 1 and cut level 6, for instance, or the permeation performance level for a specific chemical, which correlates to the breakthrough time in minutes, after which the glove's protection will have failed.