Electrical injuries account for 4.7% of all workplace deaths. To prevent injuries, it’s critical to use effective safety equipment and test it regularly. If you’re doing electrical work of any kind, electrical gloves are mandatory.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) regulates electrical gloves to make sure they maintain a high safety standard. It also mandates regular equipment testing, and it outlines what testing entails.
This post determines which tasks you’ll need electrical gloves for. Discover which materials are best suited to electrical work. Then, learn when and how to test your gloves—and how often to replace them.
What Are Electrical Gloves Used For?
Electrical gloves are gloves for electrical work. They’re distinct from electric heated gloves, which are not protective gloves.
Electrical gloves are your primary defense from electrical injuries. Electrical work means you’ll encounter electrical hazards.
Hazards can include charged wires and energized circuits. Arc flashes, arc blasts, electrical fire, acidic chemicals, and biological waste can also pose safety risks in the field. Ideal electrical gloves mitigate all of these risks.
Use electrical safety gloves when working with low-voltage equipment in any facility. Also, use them as you work in high-voltage plants.
All work that involves handling electrical wires or equipment requires gloves. Electricians, technicians, and electrical engineers all use electrical gloves. For example, you’ll need electrical gloves when you:
- repair electrical wiring
- work as an electrical lineman
- handle hotwires
- fit junctions
- wire boxes
You need to mitigate the risk of electrical burns. Yet, these jobs require manual dexterity. So, it’s important to choose electrical gloves that grant a full range of motion and fine motor control.
What Gloves Are Good For Electrical Work?
For electrical work, it’s wise to use a glove system. A glove system combines insulating gloves, liner gloves, and leather protector gloves.
Insulating gloves resist electric currents. These gloves execute the system’s critical function. Without them, the glove system won’t protect anyone from electrical burns or shocks.
Glove liners make the glove system more comfortable. They can keep hands warm in cold weather and absorb sweat.
To use a complete glove system, you’ll wear leather protector gloves over the insulating gloves. The leather gloves protect hands from sharp machinery parts. The leather resists cuts, abrasions, and punctures.
Rubber-Insulated Gloves vs Lineman Work Gloves
A glove system combines insulated gloves and liner gloves. Rubber is the most common insulating material. So, some sources call insulating gloves “rubber-insulated gloves.”
Glove liners make it easier to use a glove system. These gloves increase the wearer’s comfort. They adapt the rubber safety glove.
They’re particularly critical for electrical lineman work. So, some manuals call rubber gloves with liners “lineman work gloves.” Lineman insulated gloves, such as the Klein Lineman Gloves below, are reasonably priced and available through online retailers such as Amazon.com.
Rubber safety gloves use different types of rubber as an insulator. Lineman gloves use a range of strategies to accommodate the human hand. These features set different models apart.
Rubber Safety Gloves
Rubber safety gloves are critical Personal Protective Equipment (PPE). They fit snugly around all fingers of a hand. The glove’s “wrist” extends halfway down the forearm.
Some manufacturers label these gloves “Electrical Insulated Lineman Rubber Gloves.” So, there’s some overlap between these two categories.
Electrical Lineman Gloves
Electrical lineman gloves incorporate rubber insulation. But, typically, these gloves adapt the shape to make it more comfortable. For instance, some gloves incorporate a knit wrist as a protective layer.
Many lineman gloves’ design elements grant finesse and dexterity that regular rubber gloves miss. Different manufacturers use different strategies, so it’s wise to compare reviews.
Wear leather gloves over the rubber gloves (or lineman gloves). Even small pinpricks can damage rubber gloves. Small abrasions render insulation useless.
Leather protective gloves prevent cuts or tears. Most are cowhide are goatskin. Look for leather gloves with useful qualities, including:
- Enhanced grip
- Fatigue-reduction design
- Skin-safe coating
- Debris-resistant design
Remember: leather protective gloves are not insulated. They must be worn over rubber gloves.
Rubber-insulated electric gloves resist electric currents. Manufacturers create gloves out of natural and synthetic rubbers because rubber does not conduct electricity. It’s also fairly flexible.
Four popular materials insulate electrical gloves. These are:
Dielectric rubber latex
Dielectric materials are non-conductive. Technically, all rubber latex is dielectric.
This specific rubber latex is a durable natural compound. Synthetic rubber latex is also dielectric. Some electrical gloves that offer Class 4 voltage resistance use latex insulation.
Nitrile rubber is a synthetic rubber. Some chemists call it nitrile butadiene rubber, or NBR.
It’s resistant to oil, fuels, and other chemicals that cause burns. NBR is also more puncture-resistant than other rubbers. This is particularly true in its foam form.
Electrical gloves made from NBR protect hands from electricity and chemical burns. The compound has no proteins, so it doesn’t trigger latex allergies.
Butyl rubber is a copolymer compound. Chemists often refer to butyl rubber as “butyl.” Butyl is an effective insulator.
It also resists corrosive acids. Butyl has low permeability, so it protects hands from harmful vapors and gases. Butyl rubber has no proteins, so it won’t trigger a latex allergy.
Some lineman gloves use polyethylene rubber as insulation. Polyethylene is a cheap, synthetic rubber.
But, it does not resist electricity as well as other insulators. Electrical gloves that use polyethylene rubber are typically Class 0-1. They don’t resist extremely high-voltage currents.
ASTM D120 Classifications
The American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) publishes technical and quality standards for a range of products and systems.
ASTM standards specify the degree of resistance of each grade of electrical rubber gloves. The standards also determine other glove qualities. The result is the ASTM D120-21 classification set.
ASTM classes electrical gloves from 00 to 4. You’ll need higher-classed gloves to work with higher voltage AC currents. Determine the voltage of the electricity in the wires to choose the right gloves:
- Class 00 gloves are safe up to 500 volts.
- Class 0 gloves are safe up to 1000 volts.
- Class 1 gloves are safe up to 7,500 volts.
- Class 2 gloves are safe up to 17,000 volts
- Class 3 gloves are safe up to 26,500 volts.
- Class 4 gloves are safe up to 36,000 volts.
ASTM publishes this Active Standard in the Book of Standards, Volume 10.03. You can read it to learn more about ASTM’s test methods and safety ratings.
Ozone deterioration is a hazard in some types of industrial work. If you might interact with ozone, it’s wise to choose ozone-resistant gloves.
ASTM designates gloves that are NOT ozone-resistant “Type 1.” Ozone-resistant electrical gloves are “Type 2.”
Electrical Insulated Gloves: Size and Comfort
Make sure to get comfortable gloves. The right-size gloves will stay on your hands. At the same time, they allow the full range of motion.
Measure your hands to find the right fit. Measure the circumference of the widest part of your hand. This is your hand’s width.
Then, measure from the base of your palm to the tip of your longest finger. This is your hand’s length.
Use a size chart to find the right size. If you’re between sizes, round up. Consider wide-sized gloves if those are a closer fit.
Note comfort layers in a glove’s design. If it warms or reduces sweat, that’s a bonus. We highly recommend these Klein Electrician Gloves for day-to-day electrical work.
Should I Wear Gloves When Working With Electricity?
Yes. You should always wear gloves when you work with electricity.
Electrical gloves are critical PPE. Wear them even if you think the system is not live or charged. Wear electrical gloves even for small-scale circuitry work.
If your gloves impair your dexterity, buy different gloves. Don’t let bad gloves become an excuse for no gloves.
How Often Should Electrical Gloves Be Tested?
First, test gloves before you use them. You should inspect your gloves every day.
To do this, roll the outside surface between your hands. Visually inspect the inside and outside of the glove. Inspect any suspicious areas by pinching and rolling rubber between your fingers.
Then, run an inflation test.
Roll up the bottom of the glove to trap air inside it. Then, squeeze it. Listen closely for any air leaks.
You can also run an inflation test with a portable inflator. Whether you do the test manually or mechanically, do not tolerate leaks. If you feel a leak, destroy and discard the glove.
OSHA requires workers to run an electrical test on gloves every six months. You can’t do this on your own. Instead, you’ll have to send your voltage-rated gloves to a dielectric testing lab.
The testing lab determines if the glove is still safe to use with its rated voltage. OSHA maintains a directory of Nationally Recognized Testing Laboratories.
When Should I Replace Electrical Gloves?
You should replace electrical gloves when either glove fails a test. If it fails an inflation test, it is not functional. If it fails a dielectric lab test, replace it.
You should also replace any gloves that have visible damage. Most electrical gloves last five to eight years. But, high-risk work can burn through gloves quickly.
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