Hand protection update

September 14, 2006
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In today’s age of computer chips and nanotechnology, gloves seem to be “old school.” Well, guess what! Gloves are going through an evolution, mirroring our economy. The United States is no longer a country of steel mills, foundries and other old line manufacturing. What we do today is, in essence, assembly. Developing countries produce the core items, and we put them together here.

Flexibility

So the old heavy-duty leather and cotton gloves find themselves less needed. It’s not to say they don’t have their place. But more manufacturing (assembly) applications need greater flexibility, dexterity, and tactility. Fine gauge nylon/lycra-spandex shells with flat-dipped coated palms have great stretch, form fit and are tactile enough to pick up a dime off a counter, while offering the worker great protection without hand fatigue caused by a more bulky product.

These gloves can stand up to some fairly rugged tasks. With coatings such as nitrile, the ability to outwear and offer some limited cut resistance versus leather and cotton is a value-added offering. With today’s seamless product there is much more dexterity. The product can be dipped palm only, up the back of the fingers, or palm and full back coated. The coatings can be regular or foam nitrile, latex, or polyurethane. It all depends on what users want and what the application requires.

Cut resistance

Cut-resistant shells are also evolving. Cut-resistant fibers such as Spun Kevlar (aramid), a by-product of continuous filament high-end cut-resistant Kevlar 29, have found many applications. And specialized cut-resistant fibers such as Dyneema and Spectra — both high-strength polyethelene — are 15 times stronger than steel by weight. These kinds of products are not newcomers to the cut-resistant glove market; they have been in use since the 1980s. However, the ability and flexibility to coat these products were limited because of material adhesion. Today, the ability to co-mingle and engineer yarns has opened the door for thinner shells with high cut resistance and better coat-ability.

Savvy shoppers

Glove users are becoming better educated as well. They are more adept at the overall value equation. Good employees are hard to come by, and having them out of work for a lost-time injury due to ineffective hand protection is not worth it. Take the time to assess all the risk factors that come into play:
  • Wearability – Does the higher price new style glove outwear the old leather or cotton glove three, four or five to one?
  • Protection factor – Does the current glove offer enough protection against slice, puncture and tear to keep the workers’ hands safe?
  • Control – Are gloves systematically given out to workers so glove usage does not get out of control? Do workers need to return gloves to get new ones? Without control, any glove program will become a financial nightmare.
  • Reusability – Is it worth having gloves cleaned to reuse?
Any professional glove salesperson can assist you in assessing these factors to help find what’s best for your operations. Take time with your distributor or your manufacturer sales glove professional to learn the benefits of today’s gloves.

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