The disposable glove market is anything but disposable to workers and safety managers around the world. A recent report from Allied Market Research noted the global disposable market was valued at $6.14 billion in 2016.1 Gone are the days when disposable gloves were perceived to be only applicable to the health care field for addressing and maintaining hygienic conditions. Advancements in newer manufacturing technology and industry expansion have created a need for disposable gloves and their inherent benefits across industries ranging from aerospace to automotive to electronics.

An increased abundance of chemicals in the workforce has driven an increased need for disposable personal protective equipment (PPE) in such industries—and with that comes greater safety risks. Occupational exposure to chemicals costs U.S. businesses more than $1 billion every year, according to a report published by the National Center for Biotechnology.2 The report includes estimates for decreased productivity, medical expenses, and loss of work due to illness. Add to that the potential hidden costs such as litigation, increased insurance premiums and the hardships—physical, mental, and/or monetary—a worker and his or her family may face, and the costs of chemical exposure are dramatically higher.

The evidence is clear that protection really does matter in the workplace. Workers need disposable gloves to work harder for them than ever before.

To Don or Not to Don: When is a Disposable Glove Applicable?

National and workplace safety standards require the use of appropriate hand protection wherever the risk of exposure to hazardous chemicals exists. For heavy-duty exposure, there are a multitude of reusable, robust products on the market. Featuring thicker construction, these gloves resist chemical penetration, permeation, and degradation longer than splash-resistant gloves. The use of chemical-resistant reusable gloves is vital wherever the exposure risk to harmful chemicals is high or where the exposure will be prolonged or immersive.

However, in today's evolving workplace, much of a worker's day-to-day chemical exposure may not be as intense as described above. Approximately 82,000 chemicals are used in industries that range from manufacturing to maintenance to life sciences3—and many of those chemicals are more common than you may think. They include everyday products such as detergents, cleaning agents, paints, solvents, and metalworking fluids.

Therefore, heavy-duty protection isn't always needed for day-to-day interaction with common chemicals, and in fact, might not be ideal. Heavy-duty gloves come with inherent bulk, hindering fit, grip, and tactile sensitivity, whih can result in reduced ability to manipulate equipment, as well as slow productivity. Furthermore, ill-fitting gloves are more likely to be removed or left unworn due to the wearer's discomfort and inability to handle materials. For workers dealing with lower-level chemicals, a happy medium between traditional disposable gloves and heavy-duty chemical gloves is often needed and necessary.

Bridging the Gap: Building a Better Disposable Glove

With chemicals more abundant in the workplace—and with them a greater risk for injury—proper personal protection is a critical requirement. However, the design and designated applications of chemical and disposable gloves is quickly evolving. Technology and availability of more robust options to better bridge the gap between traditional disposable and heavy-duty chemical gloves is making a much-needed splash across workplaces.

While disposable gloves are commonly constructed of latex, nitrile, or neoprene, unique composites of these materials and innovative layering technology are delivering the splash-resistant benefits of a chemical glove while still maintaining the comfortable thin feel and secure grip associated with traditional disposable gloves. Together, these attributes can reduce hand and forearm muscle fatigue to prevent the likelihood of costly or dangerous accidents or spills.