From Medical to Automotive: The Expanding Role of Nitrile Gloves in Workplace Safety

From Medical to Automotive: The Expanding Role of Nitrile Gloves in Workplace Safety

Intensifying focus on worker safety across medical, chemical, automotive, and oil & gas sectors is a major reason for the burgeoning nitrile gloves industry, with robust need for critical PPE solutions. Hands are the second-most susceptible to injuries in the workplace, closely following back injuries. According to U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, over 1 million workers experience severe hand injuries each year, from lacerations, cuts, and punctures, which are the three most common types of hand-related injuries that can impact a worker’s ability to function.

However, hand injuries are also easily preventable, with studies showing that nearly 70% of them are occurring due to the absence of safety gear, such as gloves. Growing recognition of the importance of safety gear in the workplace, particularly for hand injuries, is a major driving force behind the rise of safety gloves in recent years. The nitrile gloves market size is expected to exceed $11.2 billion by 2027.

What are nitrile gloves?

Nitrile gloves, which rose to prominence in the 90s, were hailed as a suitable alternative to widely used latex products. Highly chemical resistant and durable, these gloves are ideal for any workers handling corrosive and potentially hazardous materials. They are also well suited for use in the medical domain, given their strong puncture resistance and hypoallergenic properties, augmenting nitrile gloves industry trends.

This is especially evident in the current fraught situation created by the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic worldwide, which is driving the healthcare sector to turn its focus towards essential products in order to curb the risk of further transmission. This, in turn, led to a massive surge in nitrile gloves demand, which subsequently created supply challenges during the early months of the pandemic.

However, in recent months, manufacturers have taken heed of this and are seeking persistent measures to accommodate the ever-growing demand for nitrile safety gloves in the medical sector. For instance, in January 2021, Japanese manufacturing company Showa Group announced plans to triple its nitrile gloves production capacity by the year 2022, at its facility in Fayette, Alabama. This expansion was aimed at driving up production capacity to over 1.2 billion units annually.

Nitrile gloves are available in various types, including powdered and powder-free variants. Of these, powder-free nitrile gloves are gaining rapid momentum in recent times, given the relatively higher risk of allergy associated with their powdered counterparts. According to reports, the powder-free nitrile gloves industry is likely to register a higher valuation by 2027.

In January 2020, the U.S. Medical Glove Company also expanded its manufacturing capacity for powder-free nitrile gloves for use across industrial, medical, food & beverage, and federal applications. With the addition of 24 production lines and a $15 million "U.S. Medical Glove Houston Hub", the company tripled its medical gloves manufacturing capabilities by 2021 spring.

While designed primarily to be useful protection products during medical examinations, the utility scope of the nitrile gloves market has gradually broadened into many industries, including manufacturing, automotive and chemical, among others. Recent years have also marked the replacement of conventional latex-based gloves in food service, food processing, sanitation, and janitorial applications by nitrile gloves, given their extensive structural advantages.

In addition to the benefits and differences discussed, it is worth noting that nitrile gloves also come in different thicknesses, textures, and colors to suit various applications. Thicker gloves provide more protection, while thinner gloves offer more dexterity. Textured gloves provide better grip in wet or oily conditions, while smooth gloves are easier to put on and take off. Colored gloves can be used to differentiate between different departments or to indicate if a glove has been previously used.

Overall, the rise of the nitrile gloves industry can be attributed to a growing awareness of the importance of worker safety in various industries, including medical, chemical, automotive, and oil & gas sectors. The hands are the second-most susceptible to injuries in the workplace, following closely behind back injuries. While hand injuries are easily preventable, studies show that nearly 70% of them occur due to the absence of safety gear, such as gloves.

Nitrile gloves offer several advantages over other types of gloves, including their high puncture resistance, hypoallergenic properties, and chemical resistance. They are ideal for any worker handling corrosive and potentially hazardous materials, making them well-suited for use in the medical domain and various industrial applications.

The nitrile gloves market size is expected to exceed $11.2 billion by 2027, with powder-free nitrile gloves industry likely to register a higher valuation by then. While the application potential of the nitrile gloves market spans myriad areas, it is worth noting that nitrile gloves cannot offer protection against severely hazardous substances such as ketones, acetates, highly corrosive chemicals, aromatic solvents, and concentrated acids.

In conclusion, nitrile gloves have become an integral part of worker safety gear in various industries, and their popularity is expected to continue growing in the coming years. As demand for these gloves continues to surge, manufacturers are seeking persistent measures to accommodate the ever-growing demand for nitrile safety gloves in the medical sector and other industries.

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