ANSI/ISEA 138: The New Standard for Back-of-Hand Protection
Here's how better back-of-hand protection could be boosting your bottom line.
- By Rodney Taylor
- Jan 01, 2019
The hands are a worker's most important tool. However, the realities of hand injuries in the workplace suggest a disconnect between company ambitions to improve safety and the number of end users requiring medical treatment and/or time off to recover.
Impact-related injuries can vary widely—from a bruise to the knuckles to a severe bone fracture.
The bones and tissues in the back of the hand are especially vulnerable to impact injuries, which are common in a variety of vertical markets and end-use applications, from offshore oil and gas, construction, mining, manufacturing, and warehousing to transport industries.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports around 300,000 cases annually of injuries or illnesses affecting the upper extremities, of which 42 percent were injuries to the hand. In 2015, more than 40 percent of all recordable incidents in the oil and gas industry affected the hands, according to the International Association of Drilling Contractors (IADC).
IADC figures for 2016 also show the fingers to be the most vulnerable part of the body in terms of lost time. Injuries to fingers accounted for a third of all total recordable injuries and almost 20 percent of lost-time injuries. Meanwhile, the hands and wrists accounted for around 11 percent and 10 percent, respectively.
The cost of lost time and productivity is significant, estimated by the National Safety Council to be $142 billion in the United States alone in total in 2017.
Reducing the Risk from Impact
Until recently there was nothing to help assess the performance of industrial gloves designed to reduce the risk of back-of-hand impact injuries.
The European hand protection standard EN 388 was updated in 2016 to include impact assessment. However, the North America market remained without a performance-based standard to assess glove impact protection.
In an industry first, the International Safety Equipment Association (ISEA) has developed a new voluntary standard to address this: ANSI/ISEA 138, American national standard for performance and classification for impact resistant hand protection.
The standards committee responsible for developing ISEA 138 is made up of leading glove manufacturers, materials experts D3O, and expert insight from Dr. Lloyd Champagne, a surgeon based in Phoenix, Ariz., who focuses on plastic and reconstructive hand surgery.
"As far as what anatomy in the hand is most vulnerable," said Champagne, "the two main problem areas are the fingertips, which are very commonly injured because they are the part that is universally in contact with everything, and the big knuckles, which are frequently impacted by things such as wrenches slipping or people catching their hands under the hood of a car."
ANSI/ISEA 138 promises to be a game changer for workplace PPE. Specifically designed for industrial gloves, the new standard will establish a minimum performance, classification, and labeling requirement for hand protection products designed to protect the knuckles and fingers from impact forces.
There has been an explosion of industrial dorsal impact protection products in the past decade. For specifiers, this huge influx of products poses a huge challenge when it comes to selecting the right gloves. Currently, you often see either no performance claims made on these products or completely different measures for performance, leaving no reliable, objective means of making comparisons between impact-protective gloves.
Without a reliable guide, buyers and safety departments may under- or over-specify gloves, incurring unnecessary expense or leaving workers open to injury.
"What's the most appropriate glove for back-of-hand impact protection? Until now, I have not been able to definitively answer the question," said Dan Markiewicz, an independent environmental health and safety consultant. "It normally boils down to trial and error: Obtain a variety of gloves that are advertised as offering impact protection, have employees try them out, get feedback, and go with the gloves most preferred by the end users. And what often happens after this? It's called trial and error for a reason. Eventually, an employee will inadvertently drop a tool on their hand and sustain an impact injury. That is not prevention, and it is a poor way to allocate resources."
The standard includes three performance levels, with the corresponding performance level displayed directly on industrial gloves to give specifiers and procurement professionals a simple, visual indication of the performance standard. In addition to the pictogram, the new standard also raises the bar for testing requirements within a standard. Unlike most standards from ANSI, where manufacturers are on an "honor system" with regard to publishing test results, 138 requires testing in a laboratory that meets the requirements of laboratory conformity assessment standard IEC 17025. This requirement for testing will increase the credibility of glove performance claims. An additional distinguishing feature of this new standard is the inclusion of knuckles and fingers in the testing, where the EN 388 standard covers just the knuckles. The inclusion of the fingers is critical for industrial glove users, where the fingers are frequently at risk.
One of the key principles driving the creation of the standard has been simplicity. This is always a challenge in standards development, and there are existing standards that are so complicated that the people actually conducting the testing cannot say how it is done. "If you make it simple, easy to understand and to implement, and clear that it protects workers' hands—based on the performance of materials and coverage," said Vincent Kruiniger, general manager at PPE manufacturer Majestic Glove, "then the value will continue to increase."
The new ANSI/ISEA 138 standard will help health and safety professionals evaluate the performance of industrial gloves by providing a consistent approach for testing and performance appraisal.
Christine Fargo, ISEA's director of Member and Technical Services, was critical to pulling together the standard and believes it will make a difference in workplace injuries. "We want to be able to write and design something that people are going to use," she said. "End users ultimately need to understand why a particular standard exists—why there is a number or mark on the product label and what that means for the selection process.
"With a classification scheme—if you've got levels one, two, or three—you want to make sure you're helping someone select a product by looking at the hazards and at the current workplace structure," she added. "They don't want to be overprotecting, because there might be a trade-off, whether that it is in dexterity or user comfort. You are going to be able to tell if it's meaningful when you see it specified in say commercial bids for companies buying products. When end users are asking manufacturers, 'Show me the label; show me this glove meets the 138.'"
For occupational health and safety professionals in all sectors where safety is a number one priority, the new standard will provide a more complete framework by which they can confidently select the glove or portfolio of gloves best suited to their people, reducing workplace injuries and providing cost savings.
1. Preparing your business for the new glove dorsal impact protection standard, Lucie Ponting. Downloadable from www.d3o.com/isea138.
This article originally appeared in the January/February 2019 issue of Occupational Health & Safety.