PPE

No job is too difficult wearing gloves

February 3, 2014
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The anatomy of the human hand is complex, exact and intricate — a structure able to allow an unequalled array of movement. Its integrity is absolutely essential for our everyday functional living. With this said, our hands may be affected by many disorders, most commonly traumatic, on-the-job injury. Often these instruments are overlooked, undervalued and improperly protected, leading to eventual hand injury.

In terms of hand protection, manufacturers are able to provide direct protection of the hands against cut/laceration, hot/cold temperature resistance, chemical resistance, protection of fine clean room equipment and indirect protection against hand injury and fatigue generating from inadequate grip in slick and oily conditions. All of these products are aimed at solving a particular issue in the workplace. However, let’s take a closer look at the metrics related to why these products have been introduced.

By the numbers

Glove wearing is one
of the most effective
hand protection safety
programs a company
can have.

Let’s review some simple statistics. According to the CDC, the hand is the leading body part injured at work and treated in hospital emergency departments, with acute hand and finger injuries sending over 1 million workers to the emergency room annually in the United States. When cuts and lacerations of the fingers and hands are combined, the number of days-away-from work cases (approximately 110,000 annually) are second only to back strain and sprain frequency1. In 2012 alone, approximately 120,000 industrial workers with hand and finger injuries lost days from work. Further, many of these injuries were and are preventable by wearing the proper hand protection. Wearing any glove reduces the risk of hand injury by 27 percent.

A series of 1,000 consecutive hand injuries showed the following distribution: 42% lacerations (cuts), 27% contusions/bruises, 17% fractures (broken bones), and 5% infections. Hand injuries account for about 17% of all workday loss injuries. The most common cause of the hand injuries was blunt trauma (50%) followed by injury from a sharp object (25%).2

Specifically for the construction industry, the National Safety Council’s “Injury Facts 2010” uses 2007 data and lists 12,530 injuries to the fingers, 7,490 to the hand excluding fingers and 3,770 injuries to the wrist. It bears repeating: finger and hand injuries were the most often injured body part among construction workers, accounting for one-third of emergency room visits, based on findings from a seven-year study of nonfatal injuries of construction workers at the George Washington University Emergency Department.

Government regulation

In terms of government regulation, OSHA has developed guidelines, rules and regulations that prescribe the appropriate hand protection for employees whose “hands are exposed to hazards such as those from skin absorption of harmful substances; severe cuts or lacerations; severe abrasions; punctures; chemical burns; thermal burns; and harmful temperature extremes.” Glove wearing is one of the most effective hand protection safety programs a company can have.

Moreover, according to OSHA’s hand protection regulations, “PPE devices alone should not be relied on to provide protection against hazards, but should be used in conjunction with guards, engineering controls and sound manufacturing practices.” With this, the premise is largely the same: with the right combination of hand protection and safety precautions, hand injuries are mostly preventable.

One data source reviewed by OSHA included the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) Work Injury Reports (WIR) on eye, face, foot, head and hand injuries. These reports, which examined only those cases where a worker was injured, identified two major factors: Personal protective equipment was not being worn the vast majority of the time; and, when some type of protective equipment was worn, it did not fully protect the worker. For example, one study showed that 70% of the workers experiencing hand injuries were not wearing gloves. Hand injuries to the remaining 30% of the workers who were wearing gloves were caused by the gloves being either inadequate, damaged or the wrong type for the type of hazard present.

Based on the above-documented incidence of hand injury, OSHA has determined that employers and employees need more guidance regarding the selection of hand protection than is provided to them.3

Metrics drive innovation

Avoiding the impairment and suffering of injury to workers is a primary concern when addressing the issue of hand protection. At the same time, the cost of hand injuries in dollars, according to statistics from the National Safety Council (NSC), is quite staggering:

  • Direct Cost of a Laceration: $10,000
  • Stitches: $2,000 Plus Indirect
  • Butterfly: $300
  • Severed Tendon >$70,000

In terms of cost, according to the NSC, there are 3.4 billion work-related injuries annually with $156.2 billion spent each year on said work-related injuries. Slices, cuts and abrasions account for almost 30% of the lost time and productivity in the U.S. and almost 80% of these incidents involve the hands, which according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, is the leading body part injured in on-the-job accidents.

These types of metrics, in addition to direct end-user feedback, are driving technological innovation within all primary categories of hand protection. As previously mentioned, simply convincing users to wear the gloves on-site and on-task will decrease hand/arm injury tremendously, and this is directly associated with providing today’s worker with gloves that offer improved attributes relating to longevity, dexterity, comfort, grip and overall hand health. Key wants continue to be a need for less hand fatigue, increased hand coverage (3/4 coat, fully coated) protection and no related irritations or allergic reactions associated to polymer choice of latex, nitrile or neoprene.

The good news for manufacturers is that technological innovations introduced over the last several years have greatly improved the performance characteristics of the fabrics and fibers that make up gloves. Today’s workplace gloves are both comfortable and protective. Now gloves feature lighter coatings, greater dexterity, touch sensitivity, and oil absorbency for grip. Additionally, there are new categories of work gloves benefiting the consumer’s every need and making more gloves job specific to function or application across industry segments and market channels. Now we find gloves that have specific functions with features and benefits designed specifically for contractors, carpenters, HVAC workers, etc.

These new gloves essentially eliminate old excuses for taking off the gloves because the job is too difficult with gloves on — an excuse that once widely eliminated will greatly decrease the amount of hand injuries in the workplace.


References

1. U.S. Bureau of Labor

2.eMedicineHealth.com: http://www.emedicinehealth.com/hand_injuries/article_em.htm

3. OSHA: U.S. Department of Labor: https://www.osha.gov/pls/oshaweb/owadisp.show_document?p_table=PREAMBLES&p_id=1021

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