Even with robotics and automation handling more and more of the industrial jobs that once required workers to manually submerge parts in hazardous chemicals, the risk of hand injury from chemicals remains a major threat. Chemicals retain their potentially hazardous characteristics, whether exposure comes from outright submersion or an incidental splash.

Unfortunately, the more machines take over the dirty work, the more safe from risk workers feel. This can lead to a more casual attitude toward glove wearing or wearing a glove past its protective life span. However, any skin contact – whether from a splash or from residual chemicals – can result in chemical burns and that potential for injury remains in almost every work environment where chemicals are used. In addition, many jobs require that workers pour chemicals into containers, apply chemicals manually, mix chemicals or transport chemicals and deal with accidental leakage on a daily basis.

It's likely that most safety managers wish there was a single glove that could cover all the chemical contingencies. Unfortunately, there is not. The situation is compounded by the fact that one worker may face risk from several different chemicals, each of which requires a different glove material for maximum protection.

General guidelines, such as the following, outline the suitability of the most common chemical-resistant glove materials for protection in various situations:

Butyl: High permeation resistance to gases and water vapors as well as highly corrosive acids, Ketones and esters.

Natural rubber latex: Resistant against animal fats, caustics, acids, salts, alcohols and detergents.

Neoprene: Durable resistance against a wide range of chemicals as well as solvents and oils, especially acids, caustics and greases.

Nitrile: Durable resistance against a wide range of chemicals including oils, especially petrochemicals, fuels and most acids.

PVC: Durable resistance and barrier protection against some chemicals, especially petrochemicals, oils and grease.

Viton: Highest chemical resistance to aromatic hydrocarbons such as benzene, toluene and xylene.