Combining Innovations for the Perfect PPE

Combining Innovations for the Perfect PPE

Manufacturers have begun combining the newest innovations and technologies to suit specific applications and industries. 

Whether you’re talking about gloves, sleeves or clothing, comfort depends a lot on what goes against the skin. Older materials for hazardous conditions were often thick and uncomfortable, with little dexterity or movement. They also tended to trap heat and moisture, making compliance a daily headache for safety managers. Advancements in yarn and material technology now provide lighter, more breathable fabrics with extremely high cut resistance.

Manufacturers accomplish this in two ways. First, by utilizing lighter, stronger materials within the strands of yarn that make up cut-resistant fabrics. These improved yarns produce materials with a higher gauge (the number of stitches included in each inch of material) for gloves and sleeves that are up to 50 percent lighter than comparable PPE and feel more like a super-tough second skin than the thick uncomfortable gear that workers were itching to take off. That snug, but comfortable fit has the added benefit of allowing workers to pick up and assemble very small parts without removing their gloves. New yarns infused with strength-enhancing micro-particles also create coreless materials for fabrics that are cool to the touch that spare workers with more sensitive skin from painful contact dermatitis.

Palm Coatings for Any Application

Palm coatings have been around for years, providing solid grip on top of a variety of different glove shells. For much of that time, you had six different work glove coatings to choose from, with various pluses and minuses.

Polyurethane is light and flexible, with good dexterity and tactile sensitivity. It’s ideal for dry grip and handling small parts, and it does well in light oil conditions but is less than ideal for maintaining grip in heavy oil.

Flat Nitrile is a tougher coating with excellent puncture and abrasion resistance, but it’s not ideal for small part assembly since it has a bit less dexterity.

Sandy Nitrile has a gritty texture to prevent slippage in heavy oils and liquids. It has good abrasion, cut, puncture and snag resistance, but the coating detracts a bit from dexterity and tactile sensitivity.

Foam Nitrile channels liquids and oils away from the glove surface to provide a better grip. It also offers excellent snag, puncture, and abrasion resistance, but the foamy texture tends to become saturated in heavy liquids and oils.

Latex provides the best overall dry grip and gives you options like a foam or crinkle finish to help channel away liquid. But some workers are allergic to it and the coating tends to degrade in oils or other hydrocarbon-based fluids.

Silicone delivers a superior dry grip and increases heat resistance, but it can prevent paint adhesion in certain circumstances.

A brand-new palm coating technology was introduced just a few years ago that actually absorbs oil on the outside and keeps hands dry on the inside, all while providing a rock-solid oil grip and superior abrasion resistance. This new technology is unlike other double-dipped gloves in that it’s not just a second coating of the same material that makes the glove stiffer and less comfortable. Instead, its special dual-layering system offers all the benefits above with the comfort and dexterity of a single-dipped polyurethane coated glove.

Impact Protection

Just like cut resistant gloves, impact gloves of the past did a reasonable job of protecting workers but did a poor job of keeping them comfortable and compliant. But those stiff, bulky gloves that made it hard to flex the fingers were consigned to the history books just a few years ago. These new innovations in impact protection, like integrated flex points and special vented TPR that allowed hands to move and breathe, meant you could protect workers in rough jobs like pipe fitting and heavy material handling while keeping them cooler and more comfortable. These were followed by lean, lower-profile impact gloves that protected workers from lesser impact hazards like those in I&E (instrumentation and electrical), maintenance, assembly or light construction and tool work.

These innovations were exciting and groundbreaking on their own, but manufacturers took it a step further and asked how we might combine them to make PPE that addressed ever more specific needs and applications.

Innovation Combinations for the Perfect PPE

The best gloves begin with an excellent shell. So those incredibly light, cut-resistant materials were enhanced with innovations in palm coatings and impact protection. That means it’s now possible to get a featherlight, highly cut-resistant shell that keeps hands cool and allows working with small parts with a solid grip–all in one glove! It’s the perfect combination for anyone working in oily environments, handling large or small parts, in an environment with sharp edges like appliance manufacturing, aviation, HVAC and many other applications.

Likewise, you can take that same featherlight cut-resistant shell or, if you have workers prone to contact dermatitis, a coreless shell that’s cool to the touch, along with an amazing oil barrier, grip and long-lasting abrasion protection with flexible TPR for superior impact protection. It’s the dream team of innovations for pipe fitting, oil and gas work, and many other rough applications that involve liquids and oils.

It doesn’t stop at gloves! Manufacturers also applied these innovations to protective sleeves with lighter, high cut-resistant materials and light and cool sleeves with impact protection. Add in hi-vis material, flame or heat resistance, winter insulation, or touchscreen compatibility—and the sky’s the limit! We can create gloves with any shell, coated with any palm coating, old or new, add impact protection and even strategic reinforcements in areas of wear like thumb saddles to make gloves last longer.

More Choices, Better Protection

Therefore, if it seems like buying PPE has become more complicated in recent years, it has! But only because you have more and better options than ever before. If we’ve innovated it, we can combine it to keep your workers safer while making them more comfortable and compliant and making it easier to do their jobs without wanting to take off their PPE.

This article originally appeared in the July/August 2021 issue of Occupational Health & Safety.

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