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The Contractor’s Guide to Work Gloves

If you’re working as a tradesperson, then your hands are among your most important tools. But they’re also among the most delicate. According to RIDDOR data, 26,139 injuries were affecting the fingers, thumbs, wrists and arms in 2018/19. This amounts to around 23% of workplace injuries. In truth, it’s likely to be a considerable underreporting of the true scale of the problem – since RIDDOR data is only collected when companies report the injury.

Among the most effective means of guarding against this problem is with the help of the right work gloves. Inappropriate protective equipment or the right equipment improperly used, can be disastrous.

Let’s run through a few of your options.

Leather Gloves

Leather is highly resistant to heat and scratches. It’s been used for workwear for literally thousands of years, thanks to its combination of flexibility and durability. If you’re welding, then leather might be the appropriate choice, as it will offer ample protection against sparks.

Cotton Gloves with PVC grips

Cotton provides better flexibility than leather, but PVC provides superior strength. If you know that the majority of the stress is going to be inflicted on the palms and fingers, then your best bet might be a glove that provides strength there – where it’s needed.

Cotton gloves with PVC grips tend to be favoured by those doing a lot of heavy lifting. They’re affordable and resistant to tears. If you’re carrying things all day, it’s difficult to beat.

Cut resistance

Some gloves might be labelled according to their ability to resist cuts and scratches. This tends to be measured by continually cutting the same section of the material to observe how long it takes to get through the glove. You should be looking for standard EN388 which is measured on a five-point scale, with five being the best and one being the worst.


If you’re working with electricity, then you should favour something that will resist electric shock. Latex and nitrile gloves tend to be the best bet. Note that even the best electrical safety gloves are not a substitute for vigilance when you’re dealing with high voltages.

The Bottom Line

In most cases, you’re looking to strike a balance between durability and flexibility. If your gloves don’t offer the flexibility you need, then you might find yourself dispensing of them – which means less safety overall. If you’re operating tools, like power saws, then you might find that you don’t have sufficient control – which can be a significant safety concern.

Don’t cut corners with your PPE. Look for certified equipment with CE markings. If you’re the manager of a site, you bear responsibility for the safety of everyone in it. That typically means providing an appropriate level of protection.

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