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The COVID-19 outbreak created a shortage of latex and nitrile gloves in many workplaces.

Latex and nitrile gloves are used extensively in health care, and their disposable (single use) nature meant that large quantities were consumed during the peak of the pandemic. The shortage was also worsened because of hoarding by some consumers. In addition, certain businesses and government agencies began using these gloves to protect employees, even if their workers didn’t normally require gloves on the job.

If you have trouble obtaining your staff’s usual gloves, be prepared to identify feasible alternatives. You don’t want to endanger them by having them wear any old gloves they find lying around.

To identify alternatives for workers who rely on latex or nitrile gloves as PPE, you must know which chemicals workers handle or come in contact with. That’s because all glove materials are not suitable for all hazards.

Evaluate which materials offer appropriate protection from the specific chemicals that workers handle to select appropriate alternative gloves.

Alternative glove selection for COVID-19

Here’s a summary of glove types and the protection given to help evaluate alternatives.

Butyl gloves protect against a variety of chemicals such as peroxide, highly corrosive acids, strong bases, alcohols, aldehydes, ketones, esters and nitrocompounds. Butyl gloves also resist oxidation, ozone corrosion and abrasion, and remain flexible at low temperatures. However, they do not perform well with aliphatic and aromatic hydrocarbons and halogenated solvents.

Natural (latex) rubber gloves have good elasticity and temperature resistance, and resist abrasions well. They protect against most water solutions of acids, alkalis, salts, and ketones. Latex gloves may cause allergic reactions and may not be appropriate for all employees. Hypoallergenic gloves, glove liners, and powderless gloves are possible alternatives for employees who are allergic.

Neoprene gloves protect against hydraulic fluids, gasoline, alcohols, organic acids, and alkalis. Their chemical and wear resistance are generally better than gloves of natural rubber.

Nitrile gloves are intended for jobs requiring dexterity, and they stand up even after prolonged exposure to substances that cause other gloves to deteriorate. They offer protection when working with greases, oils, acids, caustics, and alcohols but are not recommended for use with strong oxidizing agents, aromatic solvents, ketones, and acetates.