Wear proper protective gloves for potential contact with corrosive or toxic materials, materials of unknown toxicity, sharp edged objects, and very hot or cold materials. Select gloves based on the material handled, the particular hazard involved, and their suitability for the operation conducted.

Chemicals eventually permeate all glove materials. However, gloves are safe for limited periods if one knows the specific use and glove characteristics (such as thickness and permeation rate and time). Common glove materials include neoprene, polyvinyl chloride, nitrile, butyl, and natural rubbers (latex). These materials differ in their resistance to various substances (Appendix 5-B). Consider double gloving (the wearing of two gloves on each hand) when handling highly toxic or carcinogenic materials. Before each use, inspect gloves for discoloration, punctures, and tears. Before removal, wash gloves if the material is impermeable to water. Dispose single-use gloves after they are contaminated, or after you have removed them. Do not reuse single-use disposable gloves. Always store gloves properly (e.g. away from windows, transilluminators, etc.), since some glove materials are susceptible to ultraviolet damage.

Laboratory gloves have a shelf life stamped on the box. Dispose gloves if they are old. You can dispose gloves in the regular trash if they are not contaminated with bloodborne pathogens, radionuclides, highly toxic chemicals, or select carcinogens. For gloves contaminated with these substances, dispose in the proper waste stream. Do not dispose of contaminated gloves in a manner that could expose other personnel.

While it is important to wear gloves while performing laboratory manipulation of potentially hazardous materials, it is equally important to remove gloves before contacting “clean” areas such as food area surfaces, or common equipment such as telephones, computer keyboards, and photocopiers. Do not wear gloves outside the laboratory, as you could possibly contaminate surfaces you touch such as doorknobs, elevator buttons, or restroom fixtures (Figure 5.3). Remove your gloves even if you believe they are non-contaminated, as others do not know if you might have handled hazardous materials with your gloved hand(s). Consider posting a reminder at the exit door to your lab so that you do not wear lab gloves into common areas of your building. Use secondary containment for items that you must transport from your lab but do not want to touch with bare hands (e.g. samples susceptible to RNAse).

Wear sturdier gloves such as leather for handling broken glassware, inserting glass tubes into rubber stoppers, and similar operations where you do not need protection from chemicals. Use insulated gloves when working at temperature extremes. Various synthetic materials such as Nomex® and Kevlar® can briefly withstand temperatures up to 1000 °F (538 °C). Gloves made with these materials or in combination with other materials, such as leather, are available. Do not use gloves containing asbestos, a regulated carcinogen under OSHA. Contact EHS for disposal of any asbestos containing gloves. The laboratory supervisor must determine the need for specialized hand protection in any operation, and ensure that needed protection is available.

Do not wear woven gloves while working with cryogens as the liquid may work its way through the glove to your hand. Use gloves specifically designed for work with cryogens. Gloves worn for working with elevated temperatures may not be appropriate for working with extremely low temperature liquids.