When It Comes to Glove Selection, Mind Your Ps

More and more glove manufacturers are presenting gloves into the market that have been tested and approved for CE certification.

IGNORANCE is never bliss when it comes to the safety clothing you should be wearing. In fact, ignorance is no longer an excuse accepted by employers for workers not wearing the proper gear. Organizations such as OSHA impose a variety of safety requirements, and some insurance companies compel certain shops to publish minimum safety requirements in full view of the workers.

Ignorance is even more difficult to claim with the Internet serving as a vast resource for information pertaining to protective clothing. Whether you're searching for some hard-to-find clothing article, wanting to read the Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDSs) concerning the chemical compounds used in the manufacturing process of the clothing, or seeking a description of the tanning process used for leather, you can usually find the information you need on the Internet.

Because there are several different types of gloves to choose from in today’s safety market, it is critical you have a good strategy for selecting the right pair for the job. The wrong gloves can lead to poor quality in your work, needless fatigue, and even contribute to lost-time injuries. Using the 3 Ps in the shopping process--protection, performance, and price--will help you evaluate your selection for value to your job and workers. Doing so will usually have the added effect of saving you time and money, as well as possibly preventing trips to the emergency room.

The most important question you need to answer is, "What type of protection do I need?" The more your process exposes your hands to heat or cold, the more insulating from those elements your glove needs to be. However, thermal protection comes at a price: loss of control. Bulky, well-insulated gloves can make it very difficult to hold a small-diameter welding rod or use precision machinery.

For example, gloves for gas tungsten arc welding are made of thin, soft, and pliable leathers such as deerskin, pigskin, or goatskin. These materials provide better tactile sensitivity and control than a standard welding glove. Certain types of gloves are made to withstand higher temperatures and are more resistant to abrasion and cuts. At the opposite end of the spectrum, cold-weather gloves are insulated to protect the hand from freezing temperatures. The best of these winter gloves also pull the moisture away from the skin to prevent slipping and improve grip. The benefits of protection are a major component in the decision for your glove purchase.

Second, the glove's performance is a key factor in choosing the right glove. A person trying to choose a pair from the large selection of gloves at the local safety supply store probably will ask, "What features will benefit me and make these gloves last as long as I want them to?" Features such as "Kevlar stitched seams" and "foam-lining" may sound good, but if you don't know what those terms mean, you can't be sure you are buying the right product.

The easiest way to figure out which glove is going to perform the best for you is to ask for reviews and comments from your glove supplier. However, when comparing gloves sewn with Kevlar thread instead of standard cotton thread, it's pretty obvious which would win the longevity battle. Comfort is also a feature of performance. Poorly sewn gloves often just don't fit right and will often cause the owner to discard them faster.

Gloves are everywhere. You can go into nearly any large chain hardware/home store in this country and find an assortment of leather gloves. Most of the time, what you will find are inexpensive, cheaply made gloves that are priced at around $4 or $5 a pair.

This is not by accident; most stores use an old retail trick: They stock these gloves because they don't last and must be replaced often. While price is an element in glove selection, it should not be the first element. Find a pair that is comfortable to wear and will last as long as you want it to, and then do some comparative shopping. Again, the Internet is a good resource for helping you to do this.

Get Certified
More and more glove manufacturers are presenting gloves into the market that have been tested and approved for CE certification. CE, a European set of testing standards, is the certification given to products that have been subjected to a battery of tests and have met or exceeded the minimum standard for that type of glove.

For example, work gloves that carry the CE certification are tested for Mechanical Risk factors, such as abrasion resistance. For this test, the glove is exposed to direct contact with a mechanical abrader, such as a disc sander, and the number of cycles it withstands before failure is measured. If the number of cycles meets or exceeds the CE standards for that test, the glove is given a rating and is certified as CE compliant.

CE certifications are available for a multitude of work environments, from molten splash resistance to puncture resistance to severe cold temperature protection. The United States has not yet decided on a standard for testing, so for now, the CE certification testing is the standard most readily available for safety-conscious supervisors and workers.

So, the next time you think of buying new gloves for welding and other tasks, think of the 3 Ps and pick a good pair. And you might want to look for the CE-certified glove to know just what safety measures have been taken for your protection.

This article features a welding safety checklist. Click here to download it, or visit our checklist page where you'll find the welding safety checklist and many others.

This article originally appeared in the September 2007 issue of Occupational Health & Safety.

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