Gloves for handling pyrophoric reagents

Author: Jyllian Kemsley

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  1. If you absolutely need zero skin exposure to the agent or the solution, then you’ll have to “double-glove” with a suitable material under pilot’s gloves. Pilot’s gloves provide a good level of dexterity while protecting against the largest risk – fire.

    Also, by way of some experience, pilot’s glove will provide “some” barrier protection from the solution: You’ll know if you have the pyrophor on the glove (it’s on fire) which will allow you some time to get the glove off and reduce skin exposure.

    Personally, if it were me to make the recommendation, and the individual required zero (chemical) exposure to the pyrophore or solution, I’d recommend a inerted glove-box transfer of the material. Every layer of glove is going to reduce dexterity. Chemical resistant gloves need to be evaluated against solution, and if your chosen glove has not been evaluated (via a glove chart or other literature), you’re simply guessing at that point regarding how much, if any, exposure protection you’re getting.

  2. Posting to include a few tweets on the topic from @bdbosley:

    @cenblogs @Chemjobber We find that fitted kid-skin gloves provide the best combination of protection and dexterity.— Beth Bosley (@bdbosley) December 10, 2014

    @jkemsley yes, sorry, should have clarified – thin leather that fits really well. For chem resistance, we have second layer of nitrile.— Beth Bosley (@bdbosley) December 10, 2014

    @jkemsley for flame resistance – we found that these provide at least 30sec protection for our most acutely pyro materials.— Beth Bosley (@bdbosley) December 10, 2014

    @jkemsley I should also say that we are wearing leather forearm protection and ALWAYS have two people present in PPE during pyro transfers— Beth Bosley (@bdbosley) December 10, 2014

  3. I know this might sound a little irresponsible, but a guy in the lab who I had some respect for used to argue that for *small amounts* of pyrophorics, you would be better off with no gloves at all than with nitrile or other polymer-based gloves. The simple reasoning was that slightly burned bare skin is better than having nitrile melted into burned skin.

    I totally agree that if you can use something that will prevent the burn in the first place (without significant loss of dexterity) then that would be the ideal – leather sounds like a good choice if you can afford to have properly fitting gloves, but not everyone has that luxury, or uses these materials often enough or in significant enough quantity to justify it.That said, having checked out the price of the axviators in Jyllian’s link, there really should be no excuse not to use them at that price – having a few pairs of different sizes available in the lab won’t break the bank.

  4. @Phillip–What’s your (or your colleague’s) definition of a small amount?

  5. RE: “Significant loss of dexterity”

    That will vary by person. However training (with inert material) is the key to success when performing operations involving constricting (or perceived constricting) PPE. Any PPE will be more constricting than no PPE – it just works that way. You practice and get used to it.

    Pilot’s gloves are mil-spec gloves for warfare pilots. These folks need a lot of dexterity to fly and shoot simultaneously.

    Personally, I’m not a real fan of being on fire having experienced a MAPP gas deflagration in a not-so-properly operating hood when I was an undergraduate (a bit of a story there). Likewise, I recognize that the skin barrier is a pretty good barrier for toxic substances generally speaking. I also recognize that if my glove is on fire and it should not be, there’s probably some material on it and I want to get the glove off, and in doing so, I further limit my skin exposure to the compound and its solvent.