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Ohio State University Extension


Hand Protection

Small Farm and Gardening Safety and Health Series
Agriculture and Natural Resources
S. Dee Jepsen, Associate Professor and State Safety Leader, Agricultural Safety and Health, Food, Agricultural and Biological Engineering
Jeffery Suchy, Graduate Student and Lecturer, Food, Agricultural and Biological Engineering

Farmers and gardeners rely on their hands to perform day-to-day tasks. Exposure to sharp objects, thorns, poisonous plants, hot objects and chemicals can cause damage to skin tissue. Wearing proper hand protection can prevent this painful and infection-causing damage. Gloves can protect hands and forearms from cuts, abrasions, burns, puncture wounds, bites, skin contact with hazardous chemicals and some electrical shocks. It is important to choose the type of glove that will offer the most protection from the hazards present on the job. Not every job requires gloves, and in some cases, wearing gloves may be dangerous.

Choosing Protective Gloves

Gloves are made of a variety of materials that offer different types of protection. Use the table below to learn what kind of protection each type of glove can provide. Using the wrong type of glove can cause injury.
• Fabric gloves can absorb liquids, including dangerous chemicals. For example, wearing cotton gloves while working with pesticides would not repel the chemical from the skin.
• Nitrile and latex gloves offer little heat protection and may be flammable if exposed to high temperatures. These types of gloves do not provide adequate protection from fire or other heat sources. Therefore, latex gloves should not be used when building a fire for burning brush.
• Never wear gloves of any type while working on or around moving machinery parts such as rotating shafts, belts, pulleys and similar sliding or rotating movements. Gloves can get caught in machinery, causing a risk of injury or amputation to the hand and arm.

Gloves should be selected to best suit the task at hand. If general weeding and planting bed maintenance are being performed, a fabric or fabric-coated glove may be adequate.

Proper Fitting

Although gloves typically do not come in sizes to fit every hand, it is important to select a glove size to be snug without being overly tight or loose. Gloves that are too tight may restrict movement and cut off circulation to the fingers. Gloves that are too large may make work very cumbersome and difficult, especially work involving small objects requiring increased dexterity. Finding the right size and fit may require trying several different brands and styles.

Type of Glove Level of Protection
Metal Mesh and Kevlar Knit
mesh gloves
• Protects against cuts from sharp objects.
• Used for pruning and grafting, and cutting with knives.
white leather glovessoft leather gloves
• Protects against rough objects, abrasion, sparks and moderate heat.
• Used for general chores, construction activities, tree work and fence maintenance/installation.
Fabric and Coated Fabric
fabric gloves
• Protects against dirt, splinters and abrasions.
• Helps grip slippery or smooth objects.
• Used for general chores such as raking, shoveling, hoeing and weeding.
• Do not use when working with rough, sharp or heavy objects. 
Rubber, Neoprene, Vinyl, Nitrile, Latex
rubber gloveslatex gloves
• Protects against chemical, fluid and pathogen exposure.
• Check chemical packaging for specific instructions.
• Used for pesticide application, painting/staining, and livestock care and medications.

Proper Care

Inspect gloves before each use to make sure they are not torn, punctured or compromised in their ability to provide protection. Whether they can be reused or discarded depends largely on the work they are being used for and the desired protection. A hole in a glove while weeding may not pose a problem, but a puncture in a rubber glove when handling pesticides could create a dangerous situation. Reuse of gloves used to handle chemicals should be carefully considered and depends on the toxicity of the chemical, manufacturer’s recommendations, chemicals handled and factors related to exposure duration, condition of gloves and temperature.


• Personal Protective Equipment, OSHA 3151-12R. Washington, DC: Department of Labor, Occupational Safety and Health Administration, 2003.

Reviewer: Kent McGuire, CFAES Safety and Health Coordinator, Food, Agricultural and Biological Engineering
Originally posted Nov 12, 2015.