Choosing the Right Glove for the Task
Today, engineered fibers and blends are the new standard in cut protection.
- By Efi Vrshek
- Jan 01, 2013
Hand and finger injuries are ranked number one in workplace accidents, accounting for 27 percent of all injuries, according to a U.S. Department of Labor study. Just one cut or laceration can cost up to $36,000, based on OSHA estimates.
Remarkably, hand and finger injuries and their associated costs also rank among the most preventable. According to the American Society of Safety Engineers, every dollar invested in workplace safety results in $4 to $6 in savings. It's no surprise, then, that a company's focus and investment in reducing these types of injuries will not only protect its employees, but also can have a real impact on the bottom line.
All of this information is readily available, yet traumatic hand injuries still occur. Why? The first step in understanding the causes and reducing the related injuries and costs is to perform a risk assessment. The key is identifying all of the contributing factors that could lead to a workplace accident and look for ways to eliminate hazards through administrative and engineering controls. If these measures alone will not eliminate the hazard, then the next step is to identify PPE that is appropriate for the application.
When it comes to selecting the right PPE, it's important to remember the old safety adage, the best PPE is the PPE that employees will wear. Nowhere is this truer than in hand protection. Studies have shown that more than 72 percent of injured workers reported not wearing gloves at the time of the injury. Studies also have shown hand injuries can be reduced by 60 percent when the proper hand protection is worn. It is critical that both employee acceptance and adequate protection are addressed when determining a PPE solution.
Matching Performance with Risk
Matching the right glove performance with the level of risk identified through the assessment process begins with finding the combination of cut resistance, materials, and dexterity that protects while enhancing productivity. The guidelines established through the ANSI/ISEA 105-2011 Hand Protection Selection Criteria Standard provide cut resistance performance levels that can be useful in beginning the selection process. Cut resistance is measured by the amount of weight (in grams) required to cut through a fabric. The results of this test are then categorized into five different cut levels from Level 0 (less than 200 grams) to Level 5 (more than 3,500 grams).
There are several test methods and standards utilized by manufacturers. The ANSI/ISEA 105 standard allows manufacturers to choose from two different test methods (ASTM F1790-97 and F1790-05) and two types of test equipment (CPPT and TDM). Some manufacturers also provide test results using the Coup Test, which is specified in the European standard EN388. These different methods often produce a significant variation in results, so it is imperative to compare test results from the same test method and equipment and, when possible, the same test lab to reduce variability in the way the test was performed.
In addition to evaluating the cut resistance, it is important to select a glove made from the materials best suited for your particular application. Common misconceptions are that leather offers the best protection and the heavier the glove, the better the protection. However, the reality is that leather gloves are one of the least cut-resistant gloves available. Even cotton canvas offers more cut resistance than the heaviest leathers. Today, engineered fibers and blends are the new standard in cut protection.
The two most common fibers used in cut-resistant gloves are para-aramids, such as Kevlar® and Twaron®, and high performance polyethylene (HPPE/UHMWPE), which includes brands such as Spectra®, Dyneema®, and ChromaTek™. Para-aramids are five times stronger than steel, providing strength in a lightweight composition, and are an excellent solution where heat and flame resistance is required. HPPE is 15 times stronger than steel, 40 percent stronger than para-aramid, and feels cool and comfortable. While providing protection from cuts and abrasions, HPPE offers excellent dexterity; resistance to chemicals, water, and UV light; and possesses low-lint properties. Both para-aramids and HPPE yarns can be laundered to extend wear and lower overall cost of ownership.
Advanced spinning techniques and the blending of engineered synthetic fibers such as para-aramid or HPPE with steel, fiberglass, and/or other materials are the wave of the future. New composite yarn blends, such as XKS® and Aramax™, are manufactured to deliver higher cut and abrasion resistance while maintaining the excellent dexterity and comfort of a thinner glove. Moisture wicking materials further enhance comfort. Composite blends can also be made in dark colors to effectively hide dirt and grime, extending the life of the gloves.
Glove coatings also can play an important role in reducing injuries because many occur from loss of grip. Each coating possesses unique performance characteristics. Polyurethane delivers excellent grip and abrasion resistance while providing protection against oils and fats. It is soft, flexible, and can be applied in thin coats, allowing for excellent dexterity and tactile sensitivity. Heavier than polyurethane, nitrile coatings can provide a better barrier from oils and coolants, enhanced puncture resistance, and improved grip. Latex rubber coatings are flexible, provide excellent dry grip, and are resistant to tears.
With all of the choices of cut-resistant gloves available, the key to selecting the right glove is matching the performance requirements with the task. Cost, comfort, and employee acceptance are also important determining factors. All in all, companies must look to increase safety measures and eliminate unnecessary cut and laceration injury costs affecting the bottom line. This is more than attainable by evaluating the risks, understanding the challenges, eliminating the hazards through engineering and administrative controls, and by selecting a PPE solution offering performance characteristics that match the requirements of the task while addressing employee acceptance and providing adequate protection.
This article originally appeared in the January 2013 issue of Occupational Health & Safety.
Efi Vrshek is a Product Manager for hand protection at Magid Glove & Safety, a leading manufacturer, importer, distributor, and direct supplier of hand protection, personal protective equipment, first aid products, and protective and disposable clothing. For more information about Magid Glove & Safety or its full line of gloves and personal protective safety equipment, visit www.magidglove.com or call 1-800-444-8030.