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Five Things You Should Know About Electrical Insulating Gloves

Many times the only thing standing between you and a high-voltage jolt are your gloves. The importance of this protective equipment can't be understated. That's why we're offering five important things you should know about the gloves you use to help keep you safe around electricity.

1. Date Stamps

OSHA requires that all electrical gloves are tested prior to being placed into service. All glove manufacturers incorporate some form of production code or date coding to indicate the date of initial testing. Testing requirements can sometimes be a little confusing to interpret.

OSHA requires electrical safety equipment be subjected to periodic electrical tests; they don't however, specify a specific time frame for these tests. That's where the American Society for Testing and Materials standard, ASTM F 496 comes into play. This standard recommends that gloves used in the field should be electrically retested every six months. It also states that gloves that have not been put into service after the initial electrical test shall not be placed into service unless they have been electrically tested within the previous 12 months.

Here's an example: You're using your electrical glove for the first time on March 1, 2013 and notice the date stamp from the last time it was tested is February 27, 2012. Would you need to get the glove retested before you use it? Yes, because you haven't put that glove into service within the allowable 12 month window. But, according to ASTM F 496, if the date stamp reads, March 2, 2012 you wouldn't need to retest that glove until six months after you put it into service (on March 1, 2013) because it hasn't been 12 months.

2. Test Labs

Gloves should be sent to an accredited laboratory for retesting. To find a laboratory in your area, you can visit the North American Independent Laboratories for Protective Equipment Testing (NAIL for PET) site:

3. Glove Classification

OSHA outlines electrical protective equipment in 29 CFR 1910.137. Electrical safety gloves are categorized by the level of voltage protection they provide and whether or not they are resistant to ozone. The voltage breakdown is as follows:

  • Class 00- Maximum use voltage of 500 volts AC/proof tested to 2,500 volts AC
  • Class 0- Maximum use voltage of 1,000 volts AC/proof tested to 5,000 volts AC
  • Class 1- Maximum use voltage of 7,500 volts AC/proof tested to 10,000 volts AC
  • Class 2- Maximum use voltage of 17,000 volts AC/proof tested to 20,000 volts AC
  • Class 3- Maximum use voltage of 26,500 volts AC/proof tested to 30,000 volts AC
  • Class 4- Maximum use voltage of 36,000 volts AC/proof tested to 40,000 volts AC

Ozone resistance is broken down into either Type I or Type II: Type 1 is not resistant to ozone; Type 2 is resistant to ozone.

Note: A leather protector should always be worn over a rubber insulating glove to provide protection from cuts, abrasions, and punctures.

4. Glove Inspection

Gloves should be inspected for tears, holes, ozone cuts, and other defects before each use. For more information, refer to the ASTM F 1236, standard guide for the visual inspection of electrical protective rubber products.

Also, gloves should be inspected for any swelling which is generally caused by chemical contamination (specifically petroleum products). Even the slightest swell can be an issue.

If the electrical gloves show any signs of the defects discussed above, they should be turned in for inspection, cleaning, and retesting (even if it hasn't met the six month "in-service" rule or the 12-month shelf life rule discussed in the date stamp section of this article).

5. Glove Air Test

OSHA requires an air test to be performed with inspections. The ASTM F 496 standard also specifies air tests for the in-service care of insulating gloves and sleeves. The specification describes the air-test method for electrical gloves. Basically, the glove is filled with air (either manually or with a power inflator) and then checked for leakage.

As stated in ASTM F 496, Type 1 gloves should be expanded no more than 1.5 times their normal size during the air test; Type 2 gloves no more than 1.25 times. The procedure should repeated turning the glove inside out.

Grainger offers electrical gloves and leather protectors to meet your hand protection needs. For more information on electrical safety gloves, please see Grainger Quick Tips #262, Electrical Safety Gloves: Inspection and Classification.