a tour boat on the San Antonio riverwalk, photo by Al Rendon/San Antonio Convention & Visitors Bureau

Postcard from San Antonio

The sidewalks of San Antonio's Riverwalk and its famed tour boats were packed with vacationing families, the dyed-green river that winds through downtown San Antonio marking St. Patrick's Day 2009 as members of the International Glove Association met March 16-17. The event was IGA's International Glove Symposium & Expo at the Westin Riverwalk, with technical experts, manufacturers, and distributors gathering to discuss existing and potential standards, economic conditions in China, rising imports of protective gloves to the U.S. market, and market conditions here at home.

Martin Shamis, Kimberly-Clark Professional senior research scientist for product & technology development in Roswell, Ga., gave a report on the IGA technical committee's evaluation of existing standards around the world for gloves' resistance to abrasion, cut, tear, and puncture. The committee has examined the standards to determine which tests are valid and trustworthy; now, it wants IGA's membership to decide how the information can be communicated to end users in a useful way. This may result in an IGA protective glove standard or an IGA certification for gloves (similar to the UL mark), if the organization decides IGA is known sufficiently among end users to make it useful, Shamis said. He said the committee will present a proposal at IGA's 2010 meeting.

Sarah Bridge, deputy managing director of British glove manufacturer BM Polyco Ltd, said the goal should be harmonized world standards, not a new glove standard, and Shamis agreed. Several companies might be supplying gloves to workers in Ford assembly plants around the world, Bridge said, adding that a single benchmark is what those manufacturers and end users need. For example, BM Polyco has invested to create a Dubai branch because the construction companies working there are demonstrating that they want their construction workers equipped just as well as Britain's construction crews, she said.

Technical experts from IGA member companies, including Shamis, Libby Parrish of Honeywell International (Colonial Heights, Va.), and Stephanie Gao of Wells Lamont Industry Group (Niles, Ill.), have been writing glove handbooks for end users. "Cut Resistant Facts" and a "Leather Facts Handbook" are finished, and a third volume on textile and cotton gloves is being written, Gao said. She said end users can order them from IGA (814-328-5208, fax 814-328-2308, [email protected], P.O. Box 146, Brookville, PA 15825).

International Developments
Gao introduced speaker Zhu (Julie) Lee, whose presentation was titled "Doing Business in China in the Current Economic Climate." Lee (414-297-5504, [email protected]), a partner in Foley & Lardner's Milwaukee office, detailed China's $586 billion stimulus plan and efforts to promote exports and stave off deflation. The stimulus aims to 1) invest in fixed assets including agriculture, water, conservation, transportation, and infrastructure and 2) encourage consumption through reduced taxes on labor-intensive sectors such as apparel, textiles, rubber products, and appliances, Lee said.

She discussed recent legal changes in China that doubled the cap on potential damages, to $146,000, in patent infringement cases and strengthened employment contracts and non-compete clauses.

Market overviews presented by Gao and Donald F. Groce, Showa-Best Glove (Menlo, Ga.) technical product specialist and research chemist, indicated imported gloves have been increasing rapidly. Groce displayed these figures:

  • Natural rubber gloves: 51 percent are imported from Malaysia, 26 percent from Thailand
  • Neoprene-coated gloves: 45 percent from Sri Lanka, 29 percent from Malaysia
  • Nitrile unsupported gloves: 56 percent from Malaysia, 18 percent from China
  • PVC gloves: 92 percent from China, 6 percent from Pakistan

Manufacturers are working to develop more flexible gloves with less coating applied, which would raise wearers' comfort but shorten the durability of the gloves, Groce said. As it is, he said, end users typically wear gloves longer than they should.

He explained that new nitrile gloves are unlikely to pass the EN 374 standard's permeation threshold, a Class 3 according to the standard's Protection Index, because concentrated sulfuric acid is a required test. Nitrile gloves cannot pass that test, which means they'll receive a lesser mark, Groce said:

''Low Chemical resistant' mark designates gloves that do not achieve breakthrough time of at least 30 minutes for three chemicalsLow Chemical resistant' mark
This mark is used on gloves that do not achieve a breakthrough time of at least 30 minutes against at least three chemicals from the standard's defined list of 12 but comply with the penetration test.

'Chemical resistant glove' mark designates three chemicals for which the glove passed the EN 374 standard's permeation threshold'Chemical resistant' glove
This mark is accompanied by a three-digit code referring to the three chemicals for which the glove achieved a breakthrough time of at least 30 minutes.

More and more technical information will be demanded for all types of protective gloves, Groce predicted. He said while manufacturers have not yet produced a glove that protects well against every chemical, they're still trying to achieve that.

An Answer for MRSA?
Matt Kolmes of the Tuff-N-Lite® division of Supreme Corp (Conover, N.C.) said his company offers a liquid that kills MRSA – methicillin-resistant staph -- that is a significant public health concern in the United States. Kolmes said the anti-microbial product, Micro-texpur, can treat hard surfaces and textiles and does not wash out from a fabric that has been treated with it. Several IGA members seemed interested when Kolmes mentioned it after Groce gave a 15-minute presentation on MRSA.

Bennett Added to Hall of Fame
The symposium's final event was the Annual IGA "Hall of Fame" presentation during The President's Reception & Diamond Awards Dinner, sponsored by DSM Dyneema. Chairman Rob Wekell of North Star Glove Co. presented the 2009 IGA "Helping Hand Award" to Gao and 2001 "Hall of Fame" award honoree George Hayward of United Sales Associates introduced this year's "Hall of Fame" winner, Alan H. Bennett, a former president of both IGA and the Safety Equipment Distributors Association. Bennett, who now lives in Oregon, was involved in the industrial glove industry from both the manufacturing and distributor sides during a 36-year career that began with his founding of Allied Industrial Distributors in 1969.

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