Gauging Hand Safety

Gauging Hand Safety

What is glove gauge, and how does it affect hand safety and performance?

Glove gauge is a commonly used term to classify knit safety gloves. From cotton to nylon to aramids, string knit gloves typically range from 7-gauge to 21-gauge and offer varying degrees of hazard protection. But does gauge have any effect on glove performance? To answer this, we first need to understand what glove gauge means.

What is a Glove Gauge?

Put simply, glove gauge refers to the thickness of gloves. Gauge defines the number of stitches in each inch of knit material. As the number of stitches increases, so does the gauge. This means the yarn is thinner, allowing for a thinner glove. When there are fewer stiches per inch of yarn, the yarn is thicker and thus the glove is thicker. Some often assume that lower-gauge equals lighter, while higher-gauge equals heavier—but in fact, the opposite is true. Lower-gauge gloves are thicker and heavier, so they are more durable but less dexterous. In comparison, higher-gauge gloves are lighter, so they are less durable but offer more flexibility and dexterity. Now let’s get back to our original question, does gauge affect performance? 

How Gauge Affects Glove Performance 

No one gauge is better than the other. It all depends on the tasks and hazards for which they’re needed. However, it is important to know how glove gauge affects protection, dexterity, and durability to help choose the right protection for your team. Refer to the chart below for a quick reference of glove gauge versus glove performance: 

A screenshot of a computer Description automatically generated

Chart courtesy of Superior Glove

Glove Gauge and Protection

Traditionally, workers relied on lower-gauge gloves for high-risk tasks involving cut and puncture hazard as they provided a thicker barrier. However, thicker gloves lack the dexterity and tactile feel to do precision work, often leading workers to remove their gloves and increase the risk of injuries. However, thanks to technological advancements in manufacturing yarn, we can now integrate high levels of mechanical protection like extreme cut resistance into thinner higher-gauge gloves. 

Glove Gauge and Dexterity

Dexterity, also referred to as range of motion, is the ease at which a task can be performed. Workers will often choose to remove safety gloves because they lack the required dexterity to work efficiently and comfortably, especially when it comes to precision work. 

• 18-gauge to 21-gauge (Higher-gauge gloves): More dexterous because they are thinner and lighter, so they offer more flexibility and a higher tactile feel. This makes them ideal for tasks that require fine motor skill and precision work.

• 13-gauge to 15-gauge (Medium-gauge gloves): Sit in between in terms of their thickness. They offer some more cushioning than higher-gauge gloves but more dexterity than lower-gauge gloves. This allows a happy balance between the benefits and tradeoffs of higher- and lower- gauge gloves. 

• 7-gauge to 10-gauge (Lower-gauge gloves): Less dexterous because they’re thicker, so they offer less flexibility and have a lower tactile feel. This makes them a better option for heavy material handling that requires more cushioning but less dexterity.

Glove Gauge and Durability

Glove durability is commonly referred to the glove’s longevity or wear-life. Generally, lower-gauge gloves are more durable because they are thicker and there is more material to wear out. This is why, lower-gauge gloves are often the preferred option for tasks that are rough or abrasive. Glove gauge is not the only factor that impacts durability. Palm coatings can also significantly increase longevity of higher-gauge gloves that may be the deciding factor when working with tasks that also require more dexterity and precision work.

This article originally appeared in the June 2024 issue of Occupational Health & Safety.

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