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shopgloves Real men don't wear shop gloves!


Bryan Bosch

For the record, I'm no safety nazi. In fact, I don't think that powersports junkies in general fit that bill. However, most will agree that it's simply smart to dress for the crash, not the ride. But, do most apply the same logic when dressing for bike repair and maintenance? More specifically, do you take precautions to protect your skin from absorbing the chemicals that you work with?

While we may not feel the affects of chemical absorption immediately like we would the affects from a crash, over time (sometimes sooner), you may be setting yourself up for health issues. The purpose of this article is more to serve as a point of awareness and discussion than anything. At the end of the day, your body, your health, your choice. I contend that simple, inexpensive precautions can spare unnecessary heartache, time, and medical costs.

Skin absorption can quickly transport chemicals both into the skin and ultimately into the body without you even knowing it. For the types of maintenance & repair tasks that riders do, this is likely the most significant avenue of exposure. Some of the chemicals that riders use can potentially result in systemic toxicity if they penetrate through the skin, not only causing skin problems (most common), but other potentially more serious health issues away from the site of entry.

Per the CDC, 90-95% of occupational skin diseases are Contact dermatitis that has symptoms that includes:

  • Itching
  • Pain
  • Redness
  • Swelling
  • The formation of small blisters or wheals (itchy, red circles with a white center) on the skin
  • Dry, flaking, scaly skin that may develop cracks

 

hand_dermatitis.jpg

 

Much less frequent, but more serious potential problems can include skin cancers and neuropathies (nerve damage), but since there are so many chemical agents out there, their affects on the body are not fully understood by any means. What we do know is that there is absolutely no upside to exposing your skin to the chemicals that riders typically work with.

Here's a free service that allows you to search for Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS) on millions of products: http://www.msds.com/ A MSDS sheet is a detailed information bulletin prepared by the manufacturer or importer of a chemical that describes the physical and chemical properties, physical and health hazards, routes of exposure, precautions for safe handling and use, emergency and first-aid procedures, and control.

So, what's the solution? Stop working on your bike? Hell no! :lame: Buy the right gloves and the biggest secret... wear them!
 

Chemical Resistant Glove Material Guide (

courtesy of Granger.com)
glove_materials.PNG

 


I've read people say, "Gloves are too expensive!" I say with record high medical insurance deductibles, are you sure it's cheaper should you end up needing medical care? I'll admit, when I was in my teens and 20s, I was bulletproof and didn't wear chemical resistant gloves. But, a few summers ago, I ended up with a dermatitis from unprotected exposure to a silicone sealant and learned my lesson. It took months for the skin on my hands to finally calm down. I'd have gladly paid the cost of a decades worth of gloves to have avoided!

However, I will concede that there is a legitimate concern at some level of loss of tactile feel that only you can decide how much you're willing to deal with. In some situations, you simply may not be able to complete a specific task with gloves on. However, I don't see this as and all or nothing proposition. You might even consider the thinnest gloves available for more delicate tasks where glove strength isn't a big issue anyway.

We're all going to die of something, but dying is easy! I just don't want to suffer needlessly while I'm here and wearing chemical resistant gloves while wrenching just stacks the deck every so slightly in my favor. ;)

Ok, post your arguments, er, uh, debate points in the comments section below. I'm ok if you call my hands "girly-man hands". :p

 

View attachment: glove_materials.PNG
View attachment: hand_dermatitis.jpg

Edited by Bryan Bosch

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Wow, thanks for the awareness. This has been on my mind. I spent a bit of time working on my bike and cut and bruised myself countless times. I wasn't aware of the chemical risks. 

 

I'll be interested to see what type of gloves work best for folks. 

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I used Nitrile gloves for oils & lubes and a thinner leather gloves when doing things where knuckle damage is likely if I slip, but where chemicals are not used.

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When I was younger we washed the grease off our hands with gasoline and didn't wear gloves when using the parts washer that back then was filled with very caustic chemicals.  I now have very messed up skin on the back of my hands that I'm sure was in great part due to the casual way we handled chemicals years ago.

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When I was younger we washed the grease off our hands with gasoline and didn't wear gloves when using the parts washer that back then was filled with very caustic chemicals.  I now have very messed up skin on the back of my hands that I'm sure was in great part due to the casual way we handled chemicals years ago.

 

Thanks for sharing! Sorry for the messed up skin, but at least the younger ones can learn from it (hopefully). :thumbsup:

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Even a basic box of 5mm gloves from Home Depot will save your hands from alot of exposure. I hate the 9mm ones, feels like the "dura-thick" jimmies. hahaha

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I have multiple boxes of the 5mm nitrile gloves laying around. I always regret whenever I start working on something that I should have put the gloves on but didn't.

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I swear by Nitrile gloves, but remember not to leave them on for too long in hot conditions, your hands will sweat up and do your skin damage. If your working with dirty parts just clean them, then ditch the gloves to let your hands breath.

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Added this to the article:

 

Here's a free service that allows you to search for Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS) on millions of products: http://www.msds.com/ A MSDS sheet is a detailed information bulletin prepared by the manufacturer or importer of a chemical that describes the physical and chemical properties, physical and health hazards, routes of exposure, precautions for safe handling and use, emergency and first-aid procedures, and control.

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My stepdad-in-law had a friend that was a military mechanic and changed oil back in the days without gloves.  He later suffered because your skin does absorb the stuff.  I would change the sarcastic title of this article to replace "don't" with "are smart and" because the young ones who are not into reading will only glimpse the title and get the opposite and wrong subliminal message.

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People that read the headline as the full article are destined for much trouble in life! The title is designed to be controversial and by the stats so far, it's working.

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I use nitriles for bike work these days. Didn't use to though. BTW, why do I have the option to edit a post that isnt even mine? These things always like that?

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I keep a healthy stock of nitrile gloves in 5/7/9 mil thicknesses in XL for me, and M for the wife. Plenty of years of foolish risks made on my part, no issues yet but really don't need to tempt fate either. 3 years ago I thought it was a great idea to use Purple Power (A base solvent) mixed 50/50 with water to clean parts with no hand protection. Needless to say about 30 minutes into it, my hands started to burn, and I looked down to see that not only was the stuff eating through my skin, but was rendering the fatty tissue at the same time. took weeks to heal and was very unpleasant. 

 

A $9 box of nitrile gloves at HF is cheap compared to unplanned medical attention. 

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Excellent points in your article Bryan. I work maintenance in a steel mill in Memphis, as of Jan 1 this year gloves are mandatory if you touch anything in the mill (tools, parts, steel, etc). It has greatly reduced the number of minor hand scrapes and incidents since it was instituted. Also anybody watch Wheeler Dealers on Velocity? Edd China is a BAD ASS mechanic, I haven't seen that guy do anything without his gloves, it's a good habit to develop.

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I was an early adopter of nitrile gloves for mechanical work after using them extensively for medical procedures not requiring sterile gloves. They fit well and allow good touch sensation when working with small parts. I generally use Kirkland brand nitrile gloves from Costco, about $20 for 400. They are not durable, but they are inexpensive. The skin absorbs solvents and petroleum products easily, as these chemicals are fat soluble. There is a good summary of solvent neurotoxicity HERE

When working on our bikes we should also consider protection against vapor inhalation. If you can smell gasoline or other petrochemicals it would be a good idea to use a respirator rated to filter out the fumes. As the above reference states:

  • Inhalation is the main exposure route for organic solvents
  • Dermal exposure to certain solvents may be an important exposure route in some work settings
  • Heavy, long term, exposure to solvents is associated with subtle neuropsychological effects

Thank you Bryan for bringing self-care to our attention. I would rather ride than be ill due to chemical exposure.

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When I was younger..................caustic chemicals

 

My dad ran a six store rent-all company when I was growing up. They rented everything from vacuum cleaners to construction/destruction equipment, Naturally, I spent the majority of my time in the shop. We cleaned parts w/#2 kerosene, handled all kinds of lubes and chemicals. Gloves were reserved for torch and welder use.

That's been my style since. Lately, though, I've been using vinyl gloves mostly to save time cleaning up. I like the idea of the thick Nitrile gloves mentioned above.

It all makes sense now when I recall the many times I've ruined a pair of readers with chemical spray splatter.

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Excellent points in your article Bryan. I work maintenance in a steel mill in Memphis, as of Jan 1 this year gloves are mandatory if you touch anything in the mill (tools, parts, steel, etc). It has greatly reduced the number of minor hand scrapes and incidents since it was instituted. Also anybody watch Wheeler Dealers on Velocity? Edd China is a BAD ASS mechanic, I haven't seen that guy do anything without his gloves, it's a good habit to develop.

I bought 5 boxes of his gloves (I'm in Australia) and they are very good indeed. My hands are a lot cleaner now.....

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My hands get pretty bad when I don't where them. Finger tips are usually the worst part for me. Skin starts to peel away and feel a bit sensitive.

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I have just started wearing gloves, should have done it years ago, not only my hands are cleaner but everything I used to touch later that day is cleaner too now. (keeps the wife happy, no black oily sink and towels)

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The effects of chemical absorption get worse as you enter geezer-dom, like me.

Also, the body doesn't forget every nasty thing you've done to it, seriously.

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Until last week I have never worn gloves to work on my bikes in over 25 years (since I was a wee little kid). 

Now, after having filter oil seeping under a nail and having a finger swell up to the size of a banana then shrivel into a blackened mess (it's fine now, but it took 1 week and it still looks terrible) I have learned the lesson.

I don't even mind wearing pink marigold....

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I don't see any mention of Latex gloves...like medical examination gloves. What are your thoughts on these for light-duty in the shop? I wear 7m Latex when I'm working on the bikes/trucks/MTB so I don't have too much exposure and so my hands don't get super dirty.

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