Image credit: Safety Saves; Caiman Gloves
Welding gloves are safety apparel items designed to protect the hands of welders from the hazardous processes that occur during welding. These gloves allow digit articulation while protecting the operator from electrical shock, extreme heat, and ultraviolet and infrared radiation, as well as providing abrasion resistance and enhanced grip.
Welding Glove Operation
Video credit: Miller Electric Mfg. Co. via YouTube
Welding gloves are typically part of a welding ensemble (helmet, coveralls, etc.), but have particular care taken for their design considering the proximity of the gloves to the welding process. Gloves are worn over the hand with individual sheaths for each finger and thumb. It should be presently noted that welding mittens do exist, but are generally less useful. No matter, the functional principle remains the same: these garbs are composed of materials that are durable, electrically nonconductive, and dissipate heat well. Additional materials will be incorporated to enhance the glove's protection. Many gloves feature oversized cuffs to provide vambrace-like protection against splatter on the forearm.
Image credit: The Fabricator; Superior Glove Works Ltd.
Welding Glove Production
The foremost material of welding gloves is split or top leather, derived from the hide of various livestock. Hides of cow, deer, elk, goat, and swine offer different degrees of comfort, usually instark contrast with glove durability. The application largely determines the preferred material, and welding gloves are commonly categorized into three levels of comfort/durability. While labelled by individual welding styles, these gloves are applicable across a wide range of welding procedures.
TIG welding gloves are typically made of goat, cow, or pig hides. They are designed to provide finger sensitivity with adequate protection.
MIG welding gloves are meant to provide maximum protection with some dexterity. Materials are usually of pig, cow, or deer hides.
Stick welding gloves are typically the most robust type of welding glove and are therefore composed of cow or elk hides.
A good test of the glove's articulation is by picking up coins. Over time, gloves may dry out from the exposure to high heat. The most common point of glove failure is the along the hand's trapezium bone, where welders grasp and apply pressure to the weld gun. To combat such a high rate of failure, well-designed welding gloves incorporate additional leather on the index finger, thumb, and across the metacarpus area of the hand. Additionally, double-stitched Kevlar® seams will also increase the lifespan of the welding glove. These stitches usually follow the natural profile of the hand to increase flexibility. Aftermarket anti-splatter spray will help prevent the leather from burning down to the insulation. Insulation is commonly made of fleece, foam, or an aluminized liner to better protect the hands, but this liner is also very flammable. This liner may have properties to enhance perspiration wicking, and to prevent the build-up of bacteria inside the glove.
Image credit: Miller Electric Mfg. Co.
In this instance of personal protective equipment, comfort and safety are not antonymous. While some welding gloves may be universally-sized or one-size-fits-all, these are rarely the best option when selecting welding apparel. Comfortable, well-sized gloves provide the wearer with the best control of the tool; many welding gloves come in sizes ranging from extra-small to extra-large.
Finally, some glove manufacturers produce models that are moisture resistant, dust resistant, or are brightly colored for high visibility. These gloves are specifically manufactured for hostile or atypical workplace environments. Underwater welders wear standard diving equipment as well as linesman gloves for underwater welding, though this is mainly to prevent electric shock.
Welding Glove Standards
Unequivocally, BS EN 12477 provides the most detailed recommendations regarding the electrical resistance, abrasion and cut resistance, burn behavior, heat resistance, and dexterity of welding gloves, and was approved by the European Committee for Standardization.