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Lab Health and Safety

It’s In Your Hands: Choose the Right Gloves to Safeguard Your Process and Your Workers

The right choice of gloves can have a positive impact on both employee satisfaction, and product and process yields

Anita McLean


To avoid contamination in your lab or cleanroom, you have to look at its primary source: People. They are a major contributor to process contamination if personal protective equipment is not used or is inadequate. That’s why it’s crucial to ensure that the barrier protection you select safeguards your process from skin flakes, oils and other human contaminants.

Protect your science

Gloves are a critical component of this protection. The right choice can have a positive impact on both employee satisfaction, and product and process yields. The wrong choice could put your research at risk and could cause thousands—or even millions—of dollars’ worth of rework, recalls, and rejects if the gloves don’t perform as expected. Something as simple as an exam glove can compromise the quality and integrity of your work in several ways:

  • Breakthroughs and tears: Glove tears from low-quality gloves can lead to process contamination. This can ruin days, weeks, or even months of painstaking work.
  • Contamination: The ease or difficulty of donning or doffing can increase sample contamination risk, especially when removing contaminated gloves.
  • Excessive consumption and cost: A low-quality glove can get compromised too quickly, resulting in multiple pairs being used in a short period of time.
  • Landfill waste: Twenty-nine percent of a university’s solid waste comes from labs and research buildings, and lab gloves contribute 22 percent of that waste.

Protect your scientists

Inadequate or compromised gloves, or difficulty donning or doffing also can increase the risk of self-contamination or other injuries to the scientist. And the consequences can be significant:

  • Thirty percent of people who experience a hand injury were wearing the wrong kind of glove.[i]
  • The indirect costs of an injury can be four to 10 times the amount of direct medical costs.[ii]
  • The average time off work for a hand injury is six days.[iii]

In addition to the personal harm caused by inadequate protection, there are ramifications to project costs and timelines due to lost productivity.

Key Characteristics

While many gloves may look alike, not all gloves can protect the integrity of your science and the safety of your scientists. When selecting a glove, consider the following:

  • Comfort : Do the gloves offer tactile sensitivity and good grip? Glove material can have a dramatic impact on comfort. Nitrile gloves offer protection and the sensitivity of latex, without the risk of allergic reactions to natural rubber latex. Nitrile provides the best of both worlds, often at a value price. Look for features that improve dexterity while minimizing hand fatigue, such as textured gloves or fingertips.
  • Quality: Are the gloves strong enough to withstand the work conditions in your lab or cleanroom? Are they tested against safety and quality standards such as ANSI or for use with hormones and chemotherapy drugs? performance standards. Also be sure that the gloves you pick are designed to protect against contamination from workers and protect workers from environmental hazards such as chemicals, acids or biologics. Remember that one glove does not suit all situations.
  • Fit: Does the manufacturer offer gloves in a range of sizes? Gloves that are too small are more likely to rip, exposing researchers to contamination. If a glove is too large, it can inhibit dexterity and also leave the wearer vulnerable to health risks. Proper fit also leads to enhanced productivity. To ensure safety, it’s important to choose the right glove size and length for the situation.
  • Disposal: What happens to your gloves after use? Are they sent to a landfill? Look for a manufacturer that will give your gloves a second life by recycling them and turning them into new consumer goods. With an increasing commitment from labs and research facilities to boost sustainability, glove recycling can help you reduce your environmental footprint and enable you to reach or exceed your goals.

Lastly, keep in mind that operator training is critical. When educating employees about gowning procedures, it’s essential to cover proper donning and doffing of gloves as well as when to change them. Glove donning or doffing problems can increase the risk of contamination and injury to the scientist. That’s why proper gowning—including gloving—should be evaluated on an ongoing basis, with refresher training conducted as needed.

Anita McLean is glove category leader, North America, for the Kimberly-Clark Professional Scientific Business. For more information, visit


[i] U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

[ii] Safety Management Group

[iii] U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics