People wear gloves for many reasons—to protect their hands from cuts and abrasions when working with sharp or abrasive materials; protection from corrosive or toxic substances; or, to shield themselves from temperature extremes, electric shock, and/or slippage. While gloves provide excellent protection against these and other hazards, they can be a hazard if they do not fit properly.

If the gloves are too tight, they can interfere with grasping, dexterity, and finger movements. If they’re too loose, full grip strength is reduced, causing the wearer to apply greater force than if they were not wearing gloves.

Gloves that are too thick tend to reduce “tactile feedback,” that is, when gloves are too thick, workers tend to exert more grip force than is required when grasping tools and objects. Over time, greater grip forces usually lead to musculoskeletal disorders of the hands and arms.

Some points to consider when selecting gloves:

  • Special gloves with rubber dots on the surface have been developed to increase grip stability on surfaces that are slippery (e.g., wet items or items without handles).
  • Workers use a greater grip force with cotton gloves than with rubber gloves for slippery surfaces, but not with non-slippery surfaces.
  • Rubber gloves allow employees to maintain relatively low grip force levels for both slippery and non-slippery surfaces.
  • Studies suggest that rubber gloves help reduce force and provide more efficient control than cotton gloves in tasks requiring precision handling of small objects.
  • The performance time for cotton gloves tends to be longer than that for rubber gloves.
  • In addition to carefully selecting the type of glove provided to workers, gloves of different sizes should also be provided.

Information above refers to a research study conducted at the School of Health and Sport Sciences at the University of Osaka, Japan.