Safety Gloves: How to Avoid OSDs

Safety Gloves: How to Avoid OSDs

Here the experts at Swarfega explain why hidden dangers can lay beneath your safety gloves.

Many tradespeople now wear disposable gloves to protect their hands from contaminants and harmful chemicals present on-site. While these can be very effective at stopping contaminants from coming into contact with the skin, they don’t prevent occupational skin disorders (OSDs) from developing whilst being worn. Workers can often remove the protective gloves at the end of the day, only to find their hands in less than perfect condition.

How common are OSDs?

According to the European Agency for Safety and Health at Work dermatitis is thought to affect 1 in 10 workers, which can make routine manual tasks a challenge. Red, irritated and dry hands are often considered just “part of the job”, but OSDs can cause severe, visible consequences for business and individuals.

Sore, cracked fingers and hands, along with other symptoms of painful OSDs, can restrict hand mobility and the ability to carry out everyday workplace activities, such as gripping tools or operating machinery. Simple tasks around the home, such as making a cup of tea, opening jars, and even turning taps can become a stressful challenge, putting strain on social and family relationships.

How do gloves cause problems?

Gloves are a great barrier and often seen as the way to prevent skin damage. When worn for long periods of time, however, this barrier can also be the cause of some serious skin complaints. When not wearing gloves, moisture passes through the skin and into the environment and, in doing so, it helps to regulate the temperature of the body.

When wearing disposable gloves, this moisture is trapped against the skin and can cause it to soften and become wrinkled. This can weaken the skin and, if it happens regularly, can cause disorders such as those mentioned earlier.

Gloves can also trap bacteria against the skin in a warm, moist environment that is often ideal for their growth. If there are any small cuts on present on the skin under the gloves, these can quickly become painfully infected and can impact on the individual’s ability to work safely.

How can you avoid the issues?

By taking a proactive approach to skin health and integrating this with the use of disposable gloves it’s possible to mitigate against and prevent OSDs before they become a problem. We’d recommended the following steps when using disposable gloves:

  • Apply protection cream to the skin before putting the gloves on, as this will help keep the skin strong under gloves.
  • Remove the gloves regularly and allow the skin to dry out.
  • Use a suitable hand washing product – if the skin isn’t heavily soiled, don’t use a harsh hand wash as this can cause damage to the skin.
  • Reapply protection cream before putting a fresh pair of gloves on.
  • When finishing work and after washing the hands, use an after-work moisturising gel to nourish and condition the skin and prevent it becoming dry or damaged.
  • Avoid re-using disposable gloves.


An independent study commissioned by Deb Group, owner of Swarfega, found that people that regularly wear gloves in the workplace reported the following issues:

74% found perspiration inside the glove

51% found gloves uncomfortable

47% reported damage to skin/cracked hands

44% reported a foul odour

40% reported an allergic reaction to gloves


To find out more about Swarfega’s range of skin protection products visit:


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