The best electrical lineman work gloves provide the necessary level of shock and cut protection, while also enhancing user comfort, dexterity and overall productivity. Here's what leading glove manufacturers have to offer.
With all of their lifting, climbing and working around electricity, power line workers need the proper personal protective equipment from head to toe. That includes the hands — a power line worker's most valuable tool.
Safety First: Pick a Good Rubber Insulating Glove
First and foremost, power line workers need gloves that enable them to safely work around electricity. Since rubber is not a conductor of electricity, rubber-based gloves are a logical solution. That said, not all rubber gloves are created equally.
ASTM International develops technical standards for a wide range of products, including work gloves. The standard known as ASTM D120 defines the requirements for rubber insulating gloves. There are six glove classes based on the level of voltage protection:
- Class 00 (beige) – 500 AC and 750 DC
- Class 0 (red) – 1,000 AC and 1,500 DC
- Class 1 (white) – 7,500 AC and 11,250 DC
- Class 2 (yellow) – 17,000 AC and 25,500 DC
- Class 3 (green) – 26,500 AC and 39,750 DC
- Class 4 (orange) – 36,000 AC and 54,000 DC
In order to select the correct class, power line workers must understand the level of voltage they will be working with. Once that is determined, color-coding (as shown above) makes it easier to quickly identify which glove is needed for the task at hand.
Salisbury by Honeywell is a leading manufacturer of rubber insulating gloves. Their gloves are manufactured by dipping porcelain forms into a tank of liquefied rubber. That thin layer of rubber is allowed to dry. The process is repeated until the necessary thickness is achieved to meet the desired class requirements.
In addition to class ratings, ASTM also defines two "types" of rubber insulating gloves:
- Type 2 – provides ozone protection
- Type 1 – does not provide ozone protection
It is critical that rubber insulating gloves remain in excellent condition in order to provide the necessary level of electrical protection. To that end, a Type 2 glove is manufactured to resist the cracking that can result from ongoing ozone exposure. Type 2 gloves are ideal in locations where ozone levels are higher.
Comfort is Key: Consider Adding a Liner Under Rubber Insulating Safety Gloves
Once safety requirements are satisfied, comfort is another characteristic to consider when comparing rubber insulating gloves. A nice-fitting glove that allows efficient use of the hands will be much appreciated by power line workers.
For example, Cementex Products is a leading manufacturer of rubber insulating gloves. Featuring natural rubber construction, their gloves are anatomically shaped to reduce hand fatigue and improve dexterity. Cementex gloves also feature rolled cuffs to guard against perspiration drips.
To further increase comfort, power line workers often like to add a liner glove beneath a rubber insulating glove. This makes a rubber insulating glove more comfortable to wear, while also adding an extra layer of warmth in cold weather.
Kunz Glove Company is a leading provider of glove liners made of either cotton, wool or fleece material. Power line workers are also given a choice of cuffs: hemmed or knit wrist. It's all about preserving the required level of safety while achieving a certain level of on-the-job comfort. Please note that the addition of a liner glove will likely require a rubber insulating glove that is slightly larger than if worn directly over the hand.
OSHA Standards for Maintaining Rubber Insulating Safety Gloves
As pointed out earlier, it's important for rubber insulating gloves to remain in excellent condition. OSHA has issued standard 1910.137, which outlines best practices for glove inspections, testing, maintenance and storage.
Inspections. Rubber insulating gloves should be closely inspected each day before use. Users should look for signs of ozone cracking, texture changes, swelling, hardening or softening. If any small tears are discovered, they can be patched with compatible patches or liquid compounds. Gloves should also be inspected immediately after any incident that may have caused damage during the workday.
Testing. OSHA outlines proper protocols for the testing of rubber insulating gloves. Gloves must be tested every six months. Air tests per ASTM F496-14a help users check for leaks. A proper air test can be completed by manually inflating a rubber glove. There is also specialized equipment available to help efficiently and accurately test for air leaks.
Utility companies can outsource their glove testing to a third party. For example, a company called Saf-T-Gard operates its Voltgard test lab for rubber-insulating products, including electrical lineman work gloves. The company also manages its Original Rubber Goods Change-Out Program. The program is designed to help utility companies minimize the out-of-service time of their rubber insulating gloves. Utility companies can ship their gloves to the lab for cleaning, inspection and testing, and then have the gloves shipped back to their warehouse or jobsite.
Storage. To help minimize the opportunity for product degradation, rubber insulating gloves must be stored properly. The OSHA standard recommends that gloves be stored in a controlled environment that is neither too hot or too cold. Damp or humid conditions can also result in damage to a glove. Likewise, gloves should not be stored in direct sunlight or near abrasive chemicals that could cause damage.
There are products that have been specifically designed to reliably store rubber insulating gloves. For instance, Saf-T-Gard's Voltgard Glove Bag is made of a durable cotton canvas duck material. The bag is designed to be easy to open and close, and can be clipped to virtually anything for convenient accessibility.
Leather Protectors that Balance Safety and Productivity
While properly rated rubber insulating gloves provide the electrical protection power line workers need, leather protectors provide the cut and flame protection workers need. Leather protectors are worn over the top of a rubber insulating gloves.
Kunz Glove Company also manufactures leather protectors. They are made of either cowhide, goatskin or buckskin. The company says each type of leather material presents advantages:
- Cowhide – handles heat well and is ideal for heavy wear
- Goatskin – lightweight, supple and flexible
- Buckskin – supple and long-lasting, ideal for cold and wet environments
Beyond their ability to provide cut protection, the best leather protectors also have design features to enhance power line worker productivity.
"In utility line work, leather protectors are being used with big, thick rubber gloves," says Max Hackett, vice president of sales and marketing for Youngstown Glove Company. Those rubber gloves can be pretty difficult to work in. So in addition to providing an extra layer of protection, leather protectors provide an extra degree of comfort and grip.
"There are inherent challenges in designing any glove for professional use, especially an electric line worker's glove," Hackett says. "Every worker wants dexterity and comfort, but durability and protection can fight against that. You have to somewhat pick and choose in the design. For instance, you can add some reinforcement in a glove where it will make the glove more durable, but not make the glove less dexterous or comfortable."
Hackett says design pattern is another thing that sets the best leather protectors apart from the rest.
"Many gloves utilize a traditional two-dimensional pattern called a gun cut," Hackett explains. "This relatively flat pattern can result in an awkward fit over rubber gloves, which are three-dimensional and designed to match the curvature of the hand. That is why we (Youngstown Glove) use a three-dimensional pattern for our leather protector gloves. This pattern is specifically designed to fit perfectly over a rubber glove with less bulk. That results in improved dexterity and reduced hand fatigue."
There are other subtle design elements to think about with a leather protector. Finger length can have a big impact on not only fit, but dexterity. Fingers that are too long with too much excess leather can make it difficult to handle items like tools, screws, nuts and bolts. Additionally, some leather protector gloves are made of premium-quality leathers for longer life, as well as other high-quality materials that will not melt, drip or ignite in an arc flash. Features such as the suede cuff and flame-resistant strap found on Youngstown gloves are good examples.
Other Work Gloves Designed for Electrical Lineworkers
In addition to leather protectors, there are other specially designed lineman work gloves that can come in handy throughout the day. While these gloves do not protect against shock or voltage, they do give power line workers a rugged, comfortable and protective glove when performing everyday tasks such as carrying, setting and climbing poles. Well-designed work gloves help provide cut and impact protection while enhancing grip.
Klein Tools offers a lineup of Lineman Work Gloves. They feature 4-inch leather and neoprene cuffs with side vents for breathability. The gloves are reinforced with leather patches where it matters most: the palms and fingers. The gloves also feature padded knuckles.
Youngstown Glove offers a line of durable work gloves that are arc-rated, which means they are designed to protect against arcs, sparks and flames. Thick, premium-quality goatskin leather makes all the difference.
Of course, the best linemen work gloves might cost a bit more than the average glove. But like with any other product, you get what you pay for. In the utility industry, it is no longer about searching for the cheapest glove you can find that is still compliant. Now it's about finding a compliant glove that delivers everything a hardworking lineman wants and deserves: the perfect balance of safety, durability, comfort and dexterity.
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Photos courtesy of Youngstown Glove Company.