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Multiple jobsite requirements must be considered when protecting workers’ hands.

The most recent data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports 439,000 disabling hand and finger injuries each year in the United States resulting in 121,800 hours of lost labor. For those who seek medical treatment, the average cost of a hand injury claim is $17,787. Within these statistics, 70 percent of these injuries occurred when users were not wearing any hand protection at all.

Even with these overwhelming statistics that highlight necessary hand protection and the severity of these injuries, there is still confusion around choosing the right protection for hand hazards. It is imperative to understand that not all hand protection is the same. With standards in hand protection constantly evolving and technology developing, it has become difficult for workers to determine what type of glove they should use for their application. They often question which solution to use. This confusion can lead to frustration resulting in users foregoing the use of hand protection altogether.  According to the OSHA, 30 percent of workers clock in with a pair of gloves that do not match the task. To be able to prevent hand injuries, users must be wearing the right PPE for their specific application.

Understanding the differences between each type of hand protection can be difficult, even for safety professionals. Hand protection starts with senior management recognizing that proper safety is essential and ensures a positive outlook on PPE. Multiple jobsite requirements must be considered when protecting workers’ hands with cut-resistance, impact-resistance or back-of-hand protection at the forefront. While hand injuries are the most common on the jobsite, many are preventable if a worker is appropriately protected.

Cutting Edge Protection

Often the repercussions of a hand laceration are worse than the initial injury itself. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, two out of every five workplace hand injuries are from cuts or punctures, accounting for over 60,000 injuries a year and a median of six days away from work. For many workers, this could result in a loss of income and, even upon return, diminished abilities. Fortunately, PPE is offered in the form of cut-resistant gloves that help keep workers safe while working with sharp materials and tools.

In 2016 the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) released a new edition known as the ANSI/ISEA 105 standard. This standard provided new testing methods, including a new scale to determine cut ratings. The new standard restructured the cut rating scale, which previously covered levels 1-5, to include levels 1-9. This was done to provide more consistency between levels and European (EN 388) ratings. Each of these nine cut rating levels is determined by the amount of force the glove can withstand. For example, ANSI/ISEA Level 1 gloves are classified for protection from lighter weight forces, and ANSI Level 9 gloves are classified for protection from heavier forces. A breakdown of these various ratings follows:

ANSI A1-A2 (Light Cut Hazards): Finish Work and Landscaping

ANSI A3 (Light/Medium Cut Hazards): Demolition, Landscaping and Electrical Work ANSI A4 (Medium Cut Hazards): Demolition, Landscaping, Electrical Work, Tile Cutting and Concrete Work

ANSI A5-A6 (Medium/Heavy Cut Hazards): Demolition, Tile Cutting, Concrete Work and Duct & Sheet Metal Work

ANSI A7 (Heavy Cut Hazards): Demolition, Duct & Sheet Metal Work and Metal Recycling

ANSI A8-A9 (Extreme Cut Hazards): Demolition, Duct & Sheet Metal Work, Metal Recycling, Metal Stamping and Glass Handling

With jobsite safety and productivity in mind, users need hand protection that is both comfortable and durable. Historically, users have also had to choose between their preferred dip material and the required cut level for their application. In order to meet user needs and preferences, as well as comply with Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) requirements, many manufacturers offer a wide range of cut-resistant gloves.

Impactful Safety

Fracture, crush and dislocation are also common injuries on the jobsite. They can come from common hazards such as falling building materials, dropped tools, as well as various tasks that put workers at risk for impact injuries. Like cut and puncture injuries, impact related injuries can lead to loss of time and wages.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, for those who seek medical treatment for these injuries, it can cost an average of $23,870. According to the International Safety Equipment Association (ISEA), back of hand or dorsal impact injuries are some of the biggest risks and can be difficult to treat and recover from, especially if the bone is crushed instead of cleanly broken.

Hand impact injuries affect more than just the hand’s 27 bones. They can also lead to bruising, finger pinching, and damaged muscles, tendons, and ligaments. Fortunately, impact-resistant gloves incorporate protective features that can help shield the hand from unexpected impact.

Until 2019, there were no official standards or requirements regarding the importance of impact-resistance. In March of 2019, ISEA set a new ANSI/ISEA 138 standard. This standard provided new testing methods for impact-resistant gloves and back-of-hand protection, including a new scale testing impact rating for all finger and knuckle impact sites. With the European EN388 standard originally set up as a pass/fail test, this new standard implemented an impact scale from one to three to provide more consistency for impact resistance. For example, ANSI/ISEA 1 gloves are classified for protection from lighter weight forces and ANSI/ISEA 3 gloves are classified for protection from heavier forces.

Level 1 (Low Impact): Allowed an average transmitted force of Impact ≤ 9kN

Level 2 (Medium Impact): Allowed an average transmitted force of Impact ≤ 6.5kN

Level 3 (High Impact): Allowed an average transmitted force of Impact ≤4kN

What Does This Mean Going Forward?

With these standards in place and hand protection requirements on jobsites, contractors and safety directors need to integrate hand protection onto their jobsite and ensure that it is compliant with OSHA requirements. They will need to select the proper ANSI and ISEA rating based on the job at hand. These set standards and commitment to protection will ultimately help keep users safe and on the right track towards the goal of zero hand injuries on the jobsite.

This article originally appeared in the November/December 2021 issue of Occupational Health & Safety.

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