ESD gloves are an essential part of safety protocol in laboratories, factories, warehouses, and other manufacturing facilities. They have become a standard part of maintaining safety protocol in cleanrooms and ESD protection areas. High-quality ESD gloves should provide a resistive path from the body to the product, tools, or equipment being handled, such as sensitive electronic equipment and materials with the ability to hold and transfer a charge.
Advantages of Nitrile and Vinyl ESD Gloves
According to Solid State Technology, nitrile and vinyl gloves help reduce allergic responses to materials when compared with latex. They also have better dissipative qualities. Latex gloves are basically an extension of the body and do not provide protection from ESD. Their insulative properties prevent proper charge drain which provides an opportunity to build charges with every workspace motion.
ESD Gloves Versus Packaging Materials
It’s important to note that ESD gloves are not the same as other materials found in the ESD workspace, such as packaging and ESD mats. Because they are part of the worker’s ESD protection, their effectiveness is measured not by simple surface resistance, but by their resistance from skin contact to ground. They are very similar to the function of wrist straps. This also means that habits of convenience, such as wearing a double layer of gloves or cutting off fingertips, has the potential to compromise the effectiveness of ESD gloves.
Contamination Changes Characteristics
Contaminated glove surfaces, both internal and external, change the glove’s characteristics. Powder coatings are a common example of surface contamination with gloves. Depending on the intended purpose of a vendor’s gloves (such as hazard protection), surface contamination by some substances can be considered acceptable even if it affects ESD characteristics.
Sterility and worker safety are generally the main ESD safety concerns. Contamination causes higher levels of resistance and can also lead to a faster breakdown of ESD glove materials. This causes ESD protection reliability issues. Gloves with the specific purpose of ESD protection have an advantage over similar products which may not meet unique ESD protection needs.
Testing for Real-World Results
Gloves should be used as part of a total ESD solution in appropriate environmental and operational conditions. These conditions include relative humidity, wrist and heel strap use, ESD-safe containers, ESD equipment, and more. Many organizations create protocols for testing the static generation and charge reduction properties of gloves to enhance worker safety. This can help ESD personnel qualify products, especially when the product has never been tested while being worn.
Company-Wide Awareness is Your Best Protection
Navigating the true properties of ESD gloves includes much more than simply comparing specs. When high-value electronics, tools, equipment, and products, and the reliability of branded equipment is at stake, everyone in the organization needs to be an inspector.
When purchasing ESD gloves, it’s important to match required safety parameters in your organization with product specs. On the production floor or in the lab, workers need to give feedback when they aren’t confident that their ESD consumables, including gloves, are consistently high quality. And above all, keep testing to ensure that the gloves and the way that they are being used are actually providing proper protection at all times.