Personal protective equipment (PPE) is used whenever engineering or administrative controls are not feasible or do not adequately protect workers from hazards. PPE includes safety glasses, chemical splash goggles, gloves, lab coats, hard hats, safety shoes, respirators, disposable or cloth overalls and other protective gear. REHS assists departments in evaluating work tasks that require PPE, providing appropriate selection criteria, and offering training.

It is essential to choose PPE that is specific to the hazard and type of work to be performed. PPE must be compatible with chemical hazards, provide proper dexterity, limit eyesight interference, fit properly, and be comfortable (and stylish). If these factors are not considered, the likelihood of consistent PPE use is diminished.

Some types of PPE (i.e. respirators) require a medical exam and fit test prior to use. Please refer to the Respiratory Protection section for further information.


Protection against contact with hazardous materials is important for health and safety. Many chemicals can cause skin damage or provoke allergic reactions. Some toxic chemicals can be absorbed through the skin. Skin can be damaged by friction or from extremes of heat. In biological work, skin contamination can lead to infection.

Given the wide range of work being done at Rutgers no single glove will meet the needs of everyone. Gloves must be selected on the basis of the materials being handled and the type of work undertaken.

When Should Gloves Be Worn?

Gloves should be worn when handling:

  • Hazardous materials
  • Toxic chemicals
  • Corrosive materials
  • Materials with sharp or rough edges
  • Very hot or very cold materials

They are a control measure of last resort and should always be used in conjunction with other measures. This is because:

  • Gloves only protect the wearer – they do not remove the contaminant from the workplace environment.
  • If protective gloves are used incorrectly, or badly maintained, the wearer may not be protected - when gloves fail they fail to danger which exposes the user to the contaminant.
  • Gloves themselves can cause skin problems.
  • Wearing gloves interferes with the wearer’s sense of touch.
  • The extent of protection depends on good fit.
  • Some types of glove are inconvenient and interfere with the way people work.

However, by selecting the right glove for the task at hand, by understanding the limitations of the selected glove and by knowing how to use them, gloves can help eliminate most dangerous exposures.

Disposable vs Reusable Gloves

Disposable gloves are thin, generally 4 - 8 mils thick. This allow the user to retain good touch sensitivity and dexterity but they have poor chemical resistance. They are designed to protect against incidental rather than intentional contact with chemicals and should be changed after any splash. They are designed for single use only and should never be re-used.

Disposable gloves are not suitable for handling some aggressive or highly hazardous chemicals. They provide little useful protection against physical hazards as they easily tear or puncture if snagged.

Re-usable gloves are 18 - 28 mils thick. They offer greater protection than disposables against abrasion and other physical hazards, are less likely to tear in use and will resist chemical attack for longer. However, they interfere more with dexterity and touch sensitivity and can still be damaged or penetrated by many chemicals. They need to be looked after to prolong there usefulness.

Re-usable gloves usually have a longer cuff length than a disposable glove made with the same material, and so offer better protection against liquid slopping over the top of the glove.

Care of reusable gloves – Re-useable gloves need to washed and dried after work to avoid accidental skin contamination when next putting the gloves on. This is especially important if the work has involved immersion or handling of chemicals that can permeate the glove material.
If frequently re-used the gloves should periodically be turned inside out and the inner surface washed and rinsed off. Re-useable gloves should be inspected before each use for discoloration, cracking at flexion points or damage and should be discarded if found. They must also be discarded if the inside becomes contaminated.

Incidental Contact vs Intentional Contact

Incidental contact refers to tasks where there is no intended direct contact with the hazardous material. Exposure will only occur through a splash or spill.
Most types of disposable gloves can provide adequate protection provided that, when used to protect against chemical hazards, they are changed immediately after a splash or spill occurs.

Intentional contact refers to tasks where contact with the hazardous material is inevitable e.g., immersing hands in liquids, direct handling of a substance rather than its container or handling of materials coated or saturated with the hazardous substance(s) e.g. a cleaning rag. There is therefore relatively lengthy contact with significant amounts of the hazardous substance.

When selecting a glove for protection against intentional contact with chemicals, it is necessary to select a glove made from a material that offers good resistance to attack or permeation from the specific chemicals in use. This will often require a reusable glove.

Gloving Materials

There are a number of gloving materials available and each glove type has its own advantages and disadvantages. Use the links below for the glove manufacturers to determine the appropriate glove for your application.

There are four factors to consider when deciding which glove is suitable for your work

(a) The type of hazard (chemical, etc.)
(b) The task
(c) The user (size and fit, state of health, etc.)
(d) The workplace conditions (ergonomics, temperature, wet or dry, etc.),

They need to be considered together and not in isolation as it is their interaction that will determine the suitability of the glove.