Skip to Main Content
CWRU Links
Environmental Health and Safety

Glove Selection and Use

Glove Selection and Use

Choosing the proper glove for your laboratory can prevent the possibility of uncomfortable or even harmful exposure. For example,

  • On the mild side, contact dermatitis, the most commonly reported occupational disease, is basically a rash that occurs when the skin reacts to exposure to allergens or irritants.
  • Some chemicals like dimethyl sulfoxide, nitrobenzene, and methyl ethyl ketone, easily absorb through the skin and get into the bloodstream which may cause harmful effects.

Gloves must be worn when handling hazardous chemicals or materials, corrosives, very hot or very cold items, or materials that have an unknown hazard or toxicity.

Gloves should never be worn outside the laboratory, nor should clean or common use surfaces such as door handles, elevator buttons, telephones, or computer keyboards be touched while wearing a glove, even if the glove was just put on or you feel that it is clean.

Out of respect for CWRU personnel who may not know if you handled hazardous materials or contaminants, all personal protective equipment should be removed before you leave the laboratory.

Different glove material is needed for different chemicals. Most laboratories use gloves made of latex or nitrile, which are effective most of the time. When using an acutely toxic material or a material known to permeate skin easily, a different material is needed. When working with mixtures choose a glove with a long breakthrough time for all chemicals in the mixture.

When choosing a material, consider three properties:

  • Breakthrough time: The time it takes for the chemical to travel through the glove material. 
  • Permeation Rate: Time it takes for the chemical to pass through the glove once breakthrough has occurred. This involves the absorption of the chemical into the glove material, migration of the chemical through the material, and then de-absorption once it is inside the glove.
  • Degradation rating: This is the physical change that will happen to the glove material as it is affected by the chemical. This includes, but is not limited to swelling, shrinking, hardening, cracking, etc. of the glove material.
Hazard LevelGeneral Information
Low: Incidental chemical contact (occasional drip or splash) EXCEPT for corrosives, toxins, or materials that can readily penetrate skin. Disposable nitrile gloves are appropriate for most laboratory tasks. Nitrile is more chemical- and tear-resistant than latex gloves.
Moderate-High: Handling corrosives, toxins, and or materials that readily penetrate the skin. Contact likely with carcinogens, reproductive toxins, mutagens, or other highly toxic chemicals. Glove material must protect hands from chemical permeation and breakthrough. Manufacturer's glove selection chart must be consulted.

Policy on Working Alone

The Laboratory Safety Committee has approved policy pertaining to working alone. Review the following documents:

Working Alone Policy

Prohibited Work Activities

Working Alone Permission Form with Guidelines

Protective Clothing

Lab coats should extend to knees. They are available through the University BookstoreFisher Scientific, or Grainger.

Laboratory Safety Manual

The CWRU Laboratory Biosafety Manual (PDF) and Laboratory Safety Manual (PDF) cannot possibly take into account all procedures that are conducted in laboratories campus wide. For this reason each must keep a Chemical Hygiene Plan (PDF) in the laboratory.