Workers in the automotive industry tend to be seen as hardworking technicians who are covered in oil and grease. In many cases, these substances can present a safety hazard, be hard to wash off skin or even stain light-colored interior. Here is The Right Gloves for the Job: Part I Automotive -
Transmission fluids, such as brake fluid, for instance, are among the dangerous fluids found in cars. When the fluids are changed or simply filled, there is a chance they could spill on a technician’s hands. After prolonged contact, these fluids can absorb through the skin. The resulting health risks can include nerve damage, weakness in the affected areas and even paralysis. In addition, if the fluids come in contact with workers’ eyes, such as by rubbing their contaminated hands on their faces, eye irritation and redness can occur.
Many automotive mechanics are now protecting their hands by wearing gloves. This provides a barrier between their hands and the many fluids and greases they come in contact with while working on vehicles. While the benefits of wearing gloves in the automotive industry are clear, there is some debate regarding which glove material is best, especially when choosing between latex and nitrile.
The more well-known glove
When it comes to thinking about protective gloves, many people probably think of latex. These gloves are moderately puncture resistant, tear resistant and conform well to the hand. Of course, when working with the rough and at times sharp surfaces that are present under the hood of a car, mechanics want a glove that will not easily tear. However, the lower puncture resistance of latex may mean the gloves can be punctured. Although a hole may be small, prolonged exposure to harmful chemicals and solvents can occur.
There are both powdered and powder-free versions of latex automotive gloves. Powdered latex gloves are easier to don when hands are wet, as the powder can absorb sweat and other moisture. However, powdered latex gloves can present an issue because powder particles can escape into the air and contaminate vehicle finishes, paints, varnishes and sealants. In the automotive industry, this fact has presented issues when windshields are installed. If the powder weakens the seal around the glass, leaks can occur.
This glove material was part of the reason disposable gloves did not make much of an impact on the automotive industry right away. When some latex gloves came in contact with oil, grease and gasoline, they didn’t stand up to the substances, which left many workers looking for a more durable product.
A more durable, latex-free glove
Nitrile is a type of synthetic polymer that does not contain latex. For this reason alone, nitrile gloves are a suitable option for many auto mechanics, as wearers do not have to worry about latex allergies, which can lead to various symptoms that can inhibit a technician’s work. These include hives, itching, skin redness and rashes.
Nitrile is created by combining three monomers: acrylonitrile, carboxylic acid and butadiene. These gloves do a better job of standing up to the many chemicals and solvents – particularly grease, oil and gasoline – auto mechanics come in contact with on a daily basis. This means workers can go through fewer gloves and lower their chance of exposure to hazardous fluids. The resistance is the result of the acrylonitrile.
“Nitrile gloves have excellent tear resistance, which is provided by the carboxylic acid.”
They are also three to five times puncture resistant than latex, a key benefit for auto mechanics who regularly work with sharp objects. The butadiene is responsible for nitrile gloves’ flexibility. As such, wearers may feel their hands can move freely while wearing these gloves, which can be advantageous if they are trying to reach into a tight space. However, nitrile does not have the elasticity of latex, but will conform to the hand as the glove is warmed by body heat.
Which glove is used more often?
Although latex gloves have some uses in the automotive industry, many mechanics opt for nitrile gloves. Nitrile’s chemical resistance provides a key safety benefit, but that doesn’t mean latex gloves do not have their place in automotive applications, particularly if they are heavy duty, which means they are made to stand up to more intense use.