Readers of this very occasional blog will remember that I have discussed at some length the reasons why the wearing of gloves in the lab may, counter-intuitively, put us, our students, and our fellow lab workers at greater risk than riding their flasks bearback.Our Safety Officer, Ian Watts drew my attention today to a symbol that appears on the boxes of gloves (as opposed to “gloveboxes” which means something very different). Have a look here at right.
Notice that there is a small icon on the bottom right which shows a shield containing a beaker that has a liquid in it. A closeup is shown at right.
The icon is very important. EN374-3: 2003 refers to the European Norm governing the performance of chemically resistant gloves (UKIP and Conservative Party readers please note that the EU does more than regulate the shape of bananas!)
It is defined here in the EU Guide “The Right Glove”. This is what it means:
The ‘Low Chemical resistant’ or ‘Waterproof ’ glove pictogram is to be used for those gloves that do not achieve a breakthrough time of at least 30 minutes against at least three chemicals from the defined list, but which comply with the Penetration test.
In other words these gloves are not designed to protect you against solvents or other “chemicals” that you are likely to encounter in the lab – yes they protect you from aqueous solutions, but not much more than that.
If you wear them when doing chemistry involving organic solvents then you are lulling yourself into an illusion of safety, while at the same time looking very “professional” and competent.
Wake up! Safety is a much bigger issue than simply slipping on a lab coat, some specs and some gloves while keeping your brain switched off.
You can take the gloves off for most operations, making sure that if you spill stuff you wash your hands very thoroughly with soap and water. Above all, by feeling like you’re doing something a little bit dangerous you will probably behave much more carefully.