Striking a Balance

Striking a Balance

Reducing hand fatigue with light-weight gloves that pack a heavy-weight cut-protection punch.

Workers increasingly need to perform their tasks in more complex environments than ever before. To ensure their safety, they require PPE that offers them protection, whilst at the same time enabling them to interact with increasingly technical situations. Fortunately, this need is being met through new innovations in materials and manufacture for hand protection.

A recent study conducted by the Department of Labor found that 23 percent of all work-related injuries involved the hands or fingers, and 70 percent of hand injuries are caused by workers not wearing the correct safety gloves, which results in an average reported downtime of six days of lost work and over $100 Million annually in costs. Moreover, nearly 110,000 hand injuries requiring time away from work are reported annually, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Reasons for workers temporarily removing their hand protection during the working day vary. Workers might need to remove their gloves to handle delicate equipment or perform tasks that require fine dexterity or to ensure proper handling or manipulation. Or, they might need to use a touch screen or other technology.

Additionally, the glove might cause hand fatigue to the wearer when used for prolonged periods. This can be due to a number of reasons, such as inadequate fit, prolonged use, insufficient breathability, grip resistance or restricted hand and arm movement. For example, gloves with limited flexibility or those that are too bulky can make fine motor movements more challenging, requiring additional effort from the hand muscles. This increased effort can lead to fatigue over time.

A Unique Solution

There are multiple settings where users need gloves to satisfy multiple safety requirements yet also minimize weight and hand fatigue. In industry, tasks such as metal fabrication, glass handling, and the manufacture of electronic appliances require striking the right balance between cut protection, comfort, dexterity, and grip, so the selection of industrial safety gloves is critical to providing the necessary levels of protection required for a task, without impacting performance.

For many it is counter-intuitive to don a super thin glove, with superior dexterity, and to simultaneously feel assured of high levels of cut protection; however technological advances in R&D, manufacturing and continuous innovation can provide that level of reassurance.

An innovative approach has allowed the integration of tungsten into a lightweight fabric. Utilizing 21-gauge knitting machines to produce a high stitch intensity, which when combined with the tungsten spun yarn, produces a fine fabric that is an extremely strong and highly cut-resistant material.

This break-through technology in fabric design when combined with other innovations, such as touchscreen capability and technical coatings, creates a glove that is not only half the weight of a cut protection glove with similar levels of protection, but also enables issues around safety compliance, the worker refusing to wear a bulky glove due to hand fatigue, or not being able to complete a task due to the gloved being a barrier, to be met.

This article originally appeared in the August 1, 2023 issue of Occupational Health & Safety.

About the Author

Kashif Ali is the Director of Product Management for Midas Safety Inc., which has been involved in research and innovation for industrial hand protection for longer than 40 years.

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