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Five ways hand protection can pay dividends

Investing in a well-designed hand protection program pays dividends. Not only is worker safety enhanced but employers realize a significant reduction in costs and an increase in productivity that gives a boost to the company’s bottom line. By applying the tips and best practices gathered from those who have implemented successful programs, most companies can achieve similar results.

Tip #1: Increase worker compliance

According to OSHA, finger and hand injuries rank number one in workplace accidents1, and just one cut or laceration can result in up to $36,0002 in direct and indirect costs. With studies showing that over 72 percent of injured workers reported not wearing gloves at the time of their injury3, something as simple as getting workers to wear the hand protection provided can lead to a significant reduction in injuries and their associated costs.

Training and supervision can certainly help increase worker compliance, but the old safety adage also bears consideration — the best hand protection is the hand protection that employees will want to wear. As important as matching the glove to the task and level of protection needed, criteria such as dexterity, comfort and worker acceptance should be part of the selection process. Luckily, today’s advanced materials and spinning techniques make possible gloves that offer increased protection in a thinner, less bulky construction.

The two fibers most commonly used in cut and abrasion-resistant gloves are para-aramids and high performance polyethylene (HPPE/UHMWPE). Para-aramids, of which Kevlar® brand fiber is an example, provide strength in a lightweight composition and are an excellent solution where heat and flame resistance is required. HPPE, such as Dyneema® brand and ChromaTek™ brand fiber are 40 percent stronger than para-aramid and feel 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.

Advances in yarn spinning techniques have allowed the blending of engineered fibers such as para-aramid or HPPE with steel, fiberglass and/or other materials. Composite blends are designed to deliver higher cut and abrasion resistance while allowing excellent dexterity and comfort in a thinner glove construction. By incorporating moisture-wicking materials, some composite yarns can also draw sweat away from the skin, keeping the worker cool and comfortable.

The glove’s coating can also encourage compliance by providing the right gripping properties given the task and environment at hand. Polyurethane delivers excellent grip and abrasion resistance while providing protection against oils and fats. It is soft and 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.

Oftentimes selecting gloves with advanced features does not mean paying a higher price tag. Even when it does, one should consider the total costs factoring in a glove’s lifespan and its impact on the reduction of injuries. For all of these reasons, gloves made with advanced fibers, composite blends and innovative coatings make them an increasingly popular solution for companies wishing to advance both protection and worker compliance while positively impacting their bottom line.

Tip #2: Extend glove service life

Once workers are wearing gloves, employers can increase the wear time of a glove to lower hand protection program costs even further. With few exceptions, most gloves can be laundered effectively multiple times to remove dirt and odors. However, it is important to recognize that laundering can affect the performance properties of the glove. Always launder based on the manufacturer’s specific instructions to minimize shrinkage, dexterity and comfort and loss of protective and performance properties.

Laundering can be done either in-house or through a commercial facility. Factors to consider in making this decision include space, cost and time limitations, which may restrict the set-up of an on-site facility. The cost of laundering ranges from 50 cents to $1 per pair, costing significantly less than replacing the pair. Otherwise stated, employers can realize a cost savings of up to 1900 percent to launder a $10 pair of gloves five times at $2.50 total, as opposed to purchasing five new pairs of gloves for $50.00.

Other methods, such as selecting darker colored gloves, can also extend service life. Darker colors hide dirt, which means workers generally wear the gloves longer. This, combined with laundering, can extend the life of the glove even more. Fortunately, many of today’s advanced materials have more color options available, allowing for greater visibility while also hiding dirt and grime more effectively.

Another simple method to extend service life is training workers to know when to dispose of their gloves. Workers often dispose of gloves when they become lightly soiled. Appearance is not always the best indicator that a pair of gloves can no longer be used. By educating workers to look instead for tears, holes, a worn-out shell or coating, or excessive dirt or oil, a glove’s true end of service life can better be realized.

Tip #3: Employ standardization programs

The primary objective of any standardization program is reducing costs, decreasing SKU count and increasing compliance. The first step in this process is to perform an assessment of the facility in an effort to evaluate the hand protection currently being used. If workers are wearing different types of gloves for similar tasks, consolidating the options down to one style almost always results in a reduction in both direct and indirect costs. This is particularly true if the consolidation occurs across different brands of gloves. Through consolidation, the increased usage of a particular style can translate into volume discount from the supplier and/or manufacturer. This discount can be even greater if standardization can be achieved across multiple locations or plants.

Tip #4: Seek value-added services

Most leading safety suppliers provide extra services at little or no additional cost. Such services can include safety assessments, fit testing, sample evaluations, product recommendations, an easy-to-use website, personalized reporting, and same-day and discounted shipping, among others.

A trained sales force with specific safety experience can be essential to providing these services and, in-turn, reducing overall hand protection costs. Their knowledge working with thousands of companies across a broad range of industries can be extremely beneficial in terms of providing a facility assessment or evaluation, along with recommendations for the proper glove(s) needed for a given application. In addition, they can provide training on website ordering, personalized reporting and guidance in setting up specialized programs that will make business run more efficiently.

With resources often stretched to the limit, utilize your glove supplier as an extension to the company’s team of safety professionals.

Tip #5: Utilize partnership programs

To dovetail the value-added services, many suppliers also offer partnership programs. Many of these programs are designed not only to increase customer satisfaction, but to streamline processes, increase efficiencies and reduce costs.

Vending programs are becoming more and more popular, and have shown to be effective in reducing overall PPE costs. Traditionally, facilities dispense supplies through a crib or safety store. Vending machines can in effect replace or supplement these traditional methods while providing a more cost-effective, convenient and reliable alternative.

Vending machines can be placed in close proximity to the production line, fostering increased productivity because workers no longer need to walk to and from the crib. The reduction of PPE located in the crib also reduces staffing requirements, and supplies are available 24 hours a day. The dispensing method used in vending machines is controlled and traceable back to the employee, so reductions in consumption and waste often occur. Automatically generated reports also provide detailed documentation for internal and external audits. Finally, vending machines control the PPE employees can access, further improving compliance.

Consignment programs are a worthwhile option to consider. These programs reduce inventory risk, up-front investments and on-going inventory carrying costs. By consigning product to the facility, companies are charged only when the product is used. Because the supplier’s personnel are responsible for maintaining agreed-upon inventory levels, the likelihood of stock-outs is reduced and companies are able to focus on their core business objectives. Suppliers also provide customized, detailed monthly reporting, allowing usage to be easily monitored. Additional benefits include reduced administrative costs through monthly reconciliations and billing requiring only one purchase order, receiver, invoice and payment. 

If multiple locations are at play, companies may also want to consider whether they qualify for a national accounts program, which may lead to additional savings and efficiencies. Although the programs mentioned above are among the most often utilized by companies, many safety suppliers offer a full menu of programs aimed at improving safety and streamlining the supply chain.

Successful strategies

By and large, hand protection stands as one of the most important aspects of a facility’s operations. Without sacrificing safety, there are a variety of ways to keep costs down and enhance productivity. Methods such as increasing worker compliance, extending glove service life, employing standardization programs, seeking value-added services and utilizing partnership programs have proven successful. By utilizing the precise combination of these practices, companies can impact the bottom line and still keep workers safe.

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