Glove Selection Guide: Food & Beverage Manufacturing
In the world of food and beverage manufacturing, food safety and hand protection is a two-way street. In addition to protecting themselves, workers must also protect food products from the threat of cross-contamination and the spread of foodborne pathogens. Harsh chemicals, sharp-edged tools, bacteria, grease, and extreme temperatures are only a few of the hazards workers face on the job. Gloves have the power to mitigate or amplify these hazards. Matching the right glove to the right application in your facility is critical in reducing cost, eliminating the risk of injury, and preserving your product's quality.
Regulations for Food Handling
When selecting gloves that will come into direct contact with food, manufacturers and processors should ensure glove materials meet regulations outlined by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Food Code. The FDA considers it necessary for all food service and food-manufacturing gloves to be covered under 21 CFR 177 parts 170 – 199 for repeat contact with food items under indirect food additive regulations. Additionally, the FDA recognizes three types of food contact:
Direct Contact – Handling or preparing food
Indirect Contact – Working or touching something that is in contact with food
Incidental Contact – Rare or unplanned touching of food
Factors to Consider When Selecting Gloves
In most cases, a “one size fits all” solution is rare, especially in a food-manufacturing environment where many tasks are involved in creating a finished product. When selecting the right glove for your worksite, it is essential to consider various factors such as:
Before selecting PPE for any work environment, a workplace hazard assessment of each job type must be performed. This will allow you to examine unique scenarios and food handling conditions within your environment and physically remove hazards where possible. The correct glove for the task will often feature characteristics specifically designed for the application. Examples are nitrile or natural latex gloves, which feature a textured coating designed to increase dexterity and grip in a wet environment. Kevlar or cotton knitted gloves, on the other hand, are best suited for environments with extreme temperatures.
Comfort & Fit
A glove’s overall comfort level plays a vital role in promoting safety. Workers are less likely to wear a glove that is uncomfortable to them. If they decide to wear an incorrect glove or none at all, they put themselves and the product at risk.
A glove that is too big can significantly decrease dexterity, which is hazardous when working with sharp-edged tools and equipment. If a glove is too small for the hand, it is more likely to rip or tear. Tight gloves can also cause a worker’s hand to sweat, leading to hand fatigue and increased risk for injury.
With over 40% of food manufacturing injuries resulting from cuts or lacerations, cut-resistant gloves provide superior protection against cut hazards. A glove tested according to ANSI/ISEA 105 and EN388 standards will display a badge with a specific cut rating, indicating how many grams of cutting load it can withstand from a sharp blade before being penetrated.
The nine cut levels are as follows:
- A1: 200 - 499 grams
- A2: 500 - 999 grams
- A3: 1000 - 1499 grams
- A4: 1500 - 2199 grams
- A5: 2200 - 2999 grams
- A6: 3000 - 3999 grams
- A7: 4000 - 4999 grams
- A8: 5000 - 5999 grams
- A9: 6000+ grams
Learn more about the ANSI/ISEA 105 and EN388 standards by downloading our Glove Protection Infographic! (Insert Infographic CTA)
With a wide variety of glove types and materials to choose from, it is important to weigh each type's pros and cons within your work environment. The most common glove materials include:
Pros: Comfortable, offers excellent dexterity in a variety of environments, protects against acids and bases
Cons: Allergic reactions, low resistance to heat and oils, not suitable for beef and pork processing
Pros: Latex-free, puncture-resistant, longer break down time, resistant to fats, oils, and harsh chemicals
Cons: Low sensitivity to touch
Pros: Inexpensive to replace, good resistance to aging and weather, latex-free, anti-static
Cons: Not ideal for handling chemicals, less durable than latex or nitrile, poor skin breathability
Pros: Lightweight, protects against extreme temperatures, heat and flame-resistant, cut-resistant, machine washable
Cons: Bulky, can breakdown when exposed to strong acids or bases
Your Solution for Hand Protection
Selecting a hand protection solution that is both compliant and within budget can seem like a daunting task. However, it is crucial to weigh the cost of gloves against the cost of potential injuries. When selecting the proper personal protective equipment (PPE) for your worksite, an expert opinion can help. By performing a usage-spend analysis of your worksite, our team of safety experts can create a custom safety program that controls costs and standardizes products.