Personal protection is a must.
In fact, no matter what kind of job it is, you will always find environmental health and safety guidelines for workers and personnel popping up.
Surprisingly, throughout my journey to understanding cleanroom glove usage, I have searched for some information through search engines, but actually I got confused by the end of the day!
There are numerous articles that interlink cleanroom gloves with industrial gloves. However, I have gained invaluable insight into that search I made. As a result of the global market expansion, you could lose yourself while finding the proper product you need.
Actually, there are different ways to label products on websites, and this leads to confusion. For example, in this case, I couldn’t find on several marketing websites a specific category called cleanroom gloves to purchase.
Despite this, according to OSHA or ISO, the current international standards for cleanrooms require wearing specific gloves with specific features in the protective clothing routine.
On the contrary, the industrial glove is a very well-known product among the market. My implication is that there are few similarities between both types, which may cause that confusion from the beginning.
Therefore, in this article, I will provide a perfect guide about the uses and the main features of either industrial or cleanroom gloves, in addition to making a comparison between both types… All you need to do is to relax and continue reading!
What is a cleanroom glove, exactly?
First, we should illustrate the cleanroom environment at this point to completely comprehend the glove’s genuine purpose.
So, a “cleanroom” is a controlled-contamination environment that is free of microbes, bacteria, and various hazards.
In fact, it is also designed to prevent damage to a certain product through the manufacturing process.
Therefore, conventional protective clothing is required in this environment to safeguard personnel from pollution and illness. So, protective gear aids in the containment of pathogens, skin, and hair in order to maintain a clean atmosphere.
Eventually, as one of the standard protective outfits in the cleanroom, wearing gloves is mandatory.
How can you choose the correct glove for such a situation?
Cleanroom gloves are gloves that look a lot like examination gloves.
They are often thin and disposable. They have also been specially manufactured and packaged in a sterile setting.
Surely, there are many other glove characteristics to consider once the major reason for wearing the gloves has already been established. The glove material, for instance, could be nitrile, latex, or vinyl.
According to ISO, there are some extra criteria depending on the application. Not only is the ISO number printed on the glove packaging, but also there is the cleanroom classification.
Based on a research published, it has been found that cleanrooms are designated by classes (1). The smaller the number, the less particles are found in the environment.
Besides, there are both the US Federal and ISO international classifications, and all refer to the maximum number of particles larger than a certain size per a certain volume.
Finally, the allowable levels of particles, extractable and nonvolatile residues(2) (nVR) will differ such as the following:
- iSo level 8 – medical device manufacturing – raw processing
- iSo level 7 – assembly and packaging
- iSo level 5 – aseptic assembly/QC testing for sterility
- iSo level 5 – pharmaceutical manufacturing – sterile filtration and aseptic filling/stoppering
- iSo level 7 – solid dose granulation, blending, compression and coating or aseptic compounding
- iSo level 8 – solid dose packaging and cleaning, sterile materials staging, sterile capping, labelling and packaging.
Sometimes, gloves are labelled as “critical” or “controlled” cleanroom gloves.
What about industrial gloves?
First of all, industrial Gloves are also known as protective, safety, and work gloves. These gloves are a sort of personal protective clothing that envelops and supports the hands starting from the wrist till the fingertips.
Also, industrial gloves protect the user’s hands and fingers from accidents or work injuries such as cuts, bruises, glass shards, tissue wounds, wood splinters, and heat or chemical burns while handling any project.
For this reason, work gloves are available in a variety of shapes, designs, and material, depending on the work environment.
What are the differences between industrial and cleanroom gloves?
Here are some important distinctions between both types of gloves.
Basically, cleanroom gloves have to be sterile and fulfil the FDA guidelines. On the other hand, industrial gloves do not have FDA certification.
Afterwards, due to the different hazards and situations that several employers encounter, there are numerous types of gloves. Therefore, the type of glove required by a professional is determined by the nature of the task.
As an example, industrial gloves usually are used for heavy machinery duties.
So, the physical properties of these gloves have to be resistant to corrosion, at the same time they need to be easy to wear, comfy, and flexible.
Rubber, latex, cotton, leather, Kevlar, and nitrile are among the materials used in industrial gloves, depending on the job.
Meanwhile, cleanroom gloves are often thin, symmetric and disposable. And, as we mentioned before, they are made of nitrile, latex and vinyl materials.
Moreover, a powder coating may be applied inside of these for easy donning and doffing.
Is this to suggest that cleanroom gloves are more durable than industrial gloves?
Cleanroom gloves are stronger and recommended for handling products or performing specific jobs within only the cleanroom.
On the other hand, industrial gloves are better for dealing with machines.
In fact, the only difference between these two types is the FDA approval.
Industrial gloves may be made of the same materials as cleanroom gloves, yet they may never pass certification. For this reason, if you work, for example, in a factory, this does not mean you should choose a cleanroom glove over an industrial one.
Moreover, for better grip and reduced fatigue, industrial gloves are composed of thick materials with rough patterns in the palm.
So, when you’re working in an environment where your hands are subjected to grease, oil, and other slippery substances, the textured grip can allow you to do your job faster and with less muscle fatigue at the end of the day.
What are the guidelines to choose the right glove?
Here are some tips for choosing industrial or cleanroom gloves…keep reading!
1. Check the AQL level
First of all, the majority of gloves now available in the market are disposable. This implies that you can only wear a glove once.
The glove’s quality is essential to guarantee that your hands and health are guarded. But, when it comes to gloves, how can the quality be determined? To put it in other words, it all simply refers to the AQL.
What does the AQL level actually mean?
The term “acceptable quality level” or (AQL) describes the level of quality that can be tolerated in manufacturing.
The AQL level(3) for each type of glove must be achieved. This defines and specifies the acceptable degree of quality in terms of risk and glove damage.
If the AQL level is higher, then the gloves provide less protection. The standards for different types of gloves are:
- Industrial Grade – 4.0 AQL
- Surgical Grade – 1.5 AQL
- Medical Grade – 2.5 AQL
- Cleanroom Grade 0.65 or even 0.25 AQL
The manufacturing process must maintain these levels to ensure acceptance and approval of the gloves.
2. Look for the glove’s material
Second, pick gloves based on the substance they are made of. As previously said, industrial and cleanroom gloves are constructed of a wide range of materials, the most well-known materials of these are nitrile and latex.
Besides, the material should always be thick enough to provide adequate protection for the wearer. Therefore, different levels of hardness and components will be required for different tasks and work conditions.
To sum up, let’s explain the benefits of each material:
Fabric or Cotton Gloves
Fabric gloves offer only modest protection from punctures, sharp materials, and hot surfaces. They are, however, sometimes used as liners inside bigger safety gloves to just provide protection against mild heat and cold.
Latex and Nitrile Gloves
Both gloves are commonly used in laboratories and healthcare settings. These gloves are form-fitting, enabling users more freedom to manipulate small objects and perform standard work.
Gloves must be able to withstand tears!
However, Vinyl is less stretchy than latex and nitrile gloves. Also, Vinyl gloves may not be able to withstand tension for long periods of time.
On the contrary, Latex and nitrile are both tear-resistant materials.
But, unfortunately they don’t offer enough protection against pricks or abrasive surfaces. Nitrile medical gloves, on the other hand, are useful for handling sensitive equipment and soft tissues. Their goal is to prevent contamination, not to be tough against mechanical pressure.
Leather gloves provide excellent grip, resistance to fire, and protection from sharp surfaces. They also protect the wearer from moderate heat, such as that produced by welding or friction caused by a rope sliding across the palms.
They can, however, dry out hands if still not worn with a liner.
Surely, heat resistance is a key feature for aluminized gloves. They are used in welding, furnace and foundry work, including laboratories with high-heat ovens. These gloves are also beneficial when working in extreme cold.
This one is both heat and tear resistant. Actually, its strength comes from its molecular structure, which is made up of many small inter-chain links.
This material seems to have a significant impact on industrial hand protection since it enables the construction of lightweight, resilient gloves with exceptional cut and abrasion resistance.
3. Consider the task type
Earlier in this article, we discussed multiple cleanroom and industrial applications. Along with this one, there is a list of distinct materials and each manufactured purpose.
In the workplace, our hands are two of the most valuable and frequently used tools.
Thus, the incorrect glove that is frequently chosen for the job task, putting the worker at risk of injury or reduced productivity.
In other words, it’s crucial to understand that no single glove can protect you against every threat or toxin in every situation.
4. Consider the glove’s size
Keep in mind that when it comes to glove sizes and shapes, men and women have different preferences. Therefore, employers should select gloves that seem to be the appropriate size.
To sum up, a glove that is too small and snug may cause discomfort to the wearer, while a glove that is too wide will most likely prevent him from finishing his job.
The OSHA Requirements
In 1970, the United States Congress established the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to ensure that employees have safe working conditions.
As part of this mission, OSHA has adopted several personal protective equipment (PPE) laws and regulations concerning employers and small business owners.
To stay in compliance with OSHA’s general hand protection standard, stated in 29 CFR 1910.138, and to protect employees from injury, accurate selection is necessary. OSHA(4) Standard 1910.38 states:
Employers shall select and require employees to use appropriate hand protection when employees’ hands are exposed to hazards such as those from skin absorption of harmful substances; severe cuts or lacerations; severe abrasions; punctures; chemical burns; thermal burns; and harmful temperature extremes.
Employers shall base the selection of the appropriate hand protection on an evaluation of the performance characteristics of the hand protection relative to the task(s) to be performed, conditions present, duration of use, and the hazards and potential hazards identified.
In fact, according to OSHA(5) Fact Sheet 93-03, the financial cost of these injuries in lost production time, medical expenses, and worker’s compensation is more than $300 million per year.
The ANSI/ISEA 105 Guidelines (6)
Finally, the American National Standard for Hand Protection has provided the following guidelines.
The ANSI/ISEA 105 standards define the classification and testing of hand protection for:
- Mechanical, for example (cut-resistance, puncture resistance, and abrasion resistance).
- Chemical, such as (permeation resistance, degradation).
- Other functional properties such as ignition resistance and vibration reduction.
Actually, as I have mentioned before, the available material for understanding the difference between both types of gloves is too superficial and needs intensive research.
By now, we have offered information in this article based on case studies, statistical analysis, and academic papers supplied by well-known authors in order to provide almost all the information for you.
Finally, I hope you found this article useful and informative so that you can easily deduce which glove type meets your work requirements.