Do certain metals require different gloves than others? Simply put, the answer is not exactly. Holding a piece of steel, a piece of aluminum, and a piece of lead in your hand all have the same level of danger. The main exception to this is when the metal is rusted, which we will discuss later.
For the most part, the danger in working with metals is not in which metals are being used, but in how they are being used. Here are some scenarios:
- Heavy loads of metals? You will see sprains and strains from improper lifting techniques. Plus, you can easily get cut if the metal is jagged or sharp.
- Bulky, awkward loads of metals? You are more likely to drop something on your feet or bang your hands.
- Cutting, stamping, or welding metals? There are all kinds of opportunities for cuts and burns.
So while no metal is inherently more dangerous than any other, it is important to use metal types in a broader context.
Below are some guidelines for choosing the right gloves for working with different types of metals in different ways.
General Descriptions of Different Metals
Here is an overview of some of the most common types of metals:
- Aluminum – It is known for being corrosion-resistant, flexible, and lightweight. This metal is also very easy to machine, meaning you can shape many things with it. Check out our page devoted to working with aluminum.
- Carbon Steel – This is steel in which carbon is the main alloying element. Carbon steel is affordable, durable and versatile.
- Copper - Copper is a metal known for being soft, malleable, and ductile. You will find this used in bathtubs and sink fixtures.
- Iron – It is strong and inexpensive, as well as the most used metal on the planet. Be sure to check out our primary metals industry page on iron.
- Stainless Steel – This is an alloy made of iron and carbon that does not rust, so industries needing non-corrosive metals are likely purchasers of this metal. Fabricated structural metal is where you will find a lot of this, along with many welders needing welding gear.
Now that we have covered the main types of metals, let us dive into the different categories and corresponding recommended gloves.
Highly Conductive Metals
Copper and aluminum conduct energy very well, which means they heat up very quickly. If you are working with metals near heat sources, you will want a glove that offers thermal protection to avoid burns. DuPont™ Kevlar® is an excellent material for thermal protection and we offer a number of gloves made with it.
Click on the above image to check out MCR Safety’s DuPont™ Kevlar® gloves.
Many metals can be processed into sheets, including steel, aluminum, brass, and others. What makes sheet metal challenging is its sharp edges, which require wearing excellent cut protection gloves. The ANSI (American National Standards Institute) score is used to determine the level of cut protection a glove provides. For a more in-depth look at how to choose gloves with cut protection, see our handy guide on cut resistant materials.
For an in-depth look at gear for working with sheet metal, click on the above image.
Metals That Melt
Any metal will melt at some point. Gallium will melt from the warmth of your hands, while tungsten melts at 6192°F. A worker will not be concerned with either extreme, only that they are wearing proper safety gear.
You will definitely need safety gear when deliberately melting metal. This is especially true when working around molten metal, which has been heated into a liquid.
Face shields and heavy leather are must haves when working around molten metal. Click on the above image to check out our face shield with 6X greater anti-fog properties.
For soldering, there are dozens of solder alloys and it is not worth covering all of them here, but any drop of solder can leave a burn on your hand. Since soldering often requires very fine manipulation and the temperatures are relatively low, many people choose not to wear gloves for this kind of work. No matter your choice, we always recommend having a lightweight DuPont™ Kevlar® glove nearby, like our 9394 or 9693. For those who want a thin leather glove, goat skin gloves like our 3620 offer excellent tactile sensitivity.
Welding, on the other hand, can be extremely hazardous, no matter what metals are being used. The heat levels involved in welding can not only damage the skin, but they can burn away deeper tissue and leave your hands with permanent damage. Fortunately, there are gloves designed specifically with welding protection in mind.
One more thing to consider is that over 10 percent of all eye injuries are the result of welding. Our UD2150G has been a popular welding style over the past couple years.
Rust is an iron oxide formed when iron and oxygen react in the presence of water or moisture in the air.
Workers that handle rusted metal need highly abrasive and cut resistant gloves. Our N9676DT gloves made with Breathable Nitrile Foam (BNF) offer high levels of abrasion and cut resistance.
Here is a look at some abrasion testing we conducted on our Ninja BNF coating:
Competitor at 2,000 cycles
BNF at 2,000 cycles
BNF at 5,700 cycles
BNF overall visual aid
Metals covered in lubricants
When you cannot grasp metal or materials, accidents and injuries occur. Wearing gloves with a good grip is important when you need excellent control over slippery metals. There are also a number of additional safety factors to consider when working with and around industrial lubricants.
There are many cutting fluids used in the metalworking process. Our 6016B Grippaz disposable glove is an excellent choice in these environments. Click on the above image to learn more.
Want more information about how to make your business a safer place to work?
Our 360° Protection Program will not only help you analyze the specific risks in your workplace, but it will also help you find the ideal safety solutions that fit your needs and budget.
Lack of safety knowledge is often one of the most dangerous hazards. Click the image and request our trained 360 specialists to visit your machine shop.
For over 40 years, MCR Safety has proven to be a leader in gloves, glasses, and garments. Whether it’s on a shop floor, an oil rig, or a construction site, we are there providing solutions to workplace hazards. We Protect People!
Learn more about MCR Safety. For more information, browse our website, request a catalog, find a distributor, or give us a call at 800-955-6887.