In 2014,* 137,440 hand injuries resulted in an average of five days of missed work. While that might not sound like much, it means a project was at least one worker short for an entire workweek. Another 10,710 workers suffered bruises and hand contusions in 2014, missing four days of work on average. These absences likely required other workers to step up and work longer hours so the projects finished on time. Fortunately, technical work gloves – and the workplace policies requiring their use – are becoming more popular across the country resulting in better protected and more productive workers.
Skin is no match…
A common, traditional work glove is a one-size-fits-all leather “driver.” But this type is often bulky and doesn’t provide sufficient dexterity for precise tasks that involve using tools, manipulating small parts like screws and nails, or pushing small buttons on a piece of equipment or a touch screen.
Stats show that simply wearing gloves of any type can prevent many hand and finger injuries. Thick as skin can be, it’s no match for certain workplace hazards. At the very least, work gloves can protect against minor site hazards like splinters and other protrusions that cause lacerations, as well as rough surfaces that leave abrasions. At the most, they can prevent crushing blows, deep cuts, and career-ending conditions like HAVs.
But workers in these extreme conditions aren’t typically the ones who need convincing. Workers who find their tasks run-of-the-mill may not see the need to wear gloves. Even in these common scenarios, however, donning a glove makes a distinct difference.
• Handling Materials: Whenever a worker moves materials on a jobsite, they risk their hands being cut on the sharp edges of metals, glass, or plastic shards, and from splinters on broken/damaged materials.
• Tool Use: Using gloves with tools results in a better grip on many tools with wooden or metal handles.
• Adjacent Work: When side-by-side work poses a potential flying object hazard, the dorsal (i.e., top) part of the hand should be covered to protect it from cuts, abrasions, burns, and more.
Everyday work gloves should be flexible and allow workers to feel the materials, tools, and equipment in use. Gloves shouldn’t negatively impact precise tasks that require pinch grip. To enhance hand and finger dexterity, it is important that workers wear a glove that fits securely and utilizes materials that are both lightweight and durable.
Many jobsites are becoming more technologically-advanced with paperless documentation, daily progress photos, and instant communication. A glove that can stay on while a worker taps and swipes on an electronic device saves precious seconds and makes for more efficient work. It also prevents the worker from having to remove the glove to operate the device, which can leave them exposed both then and if he or she neglects to put them back on.
Also something to note: Worksites are becoming increasingly hot in both temperature and the amount of heat generated by worker exertion. Instead of working with bare (and sweaty) hands, workers should wear gloves made of durable yet breathable materials. This will cut down on workers removing their gloves because of sweat and yet again, leaving them exposed to injury.
The good news: Providing workers with well-fitting, technical work gloves, although an investment, should result in more regular compliance and as a result, fewer injuries. When workers don’t like the gloves they are given, they simply won’t wear them. And that’s not good for anyone.
Choosing for cut protection
Work done by glaziers and sheet metal workers, or any other specialty tasks, may require cut protection. In those instances, workers should wear daily work gloves that have met performance standards for cut protection. ANSI/ISEA 105 is the standard primarily used in North America. Another standard is EN 388, which is used in Europe, South America, and Mexico. The EN standard is also widely recognized in the U.S. and Canada.
Cut resistance is a key performance area measured by both the ANSI and EN standards. Though they use different test methods, both are designed to provide a baseline indication of the level of cut and slash protection provided by a glove. Consulting any glove’s manufacturer to understand both the type of testing that has been done and the level of protection it provides is always best practice, as is conducting a hazard assessment to determine the level of cut protection needed for the application where gloves will be worn.
Both the ANSI/ISEA 105 and EN 388 standards include other mechanical risk tests to measure a glove’s resistance to abrasions, punctures, and tears. A certified lab must conduct the tests for a glove to have an EN 388 mark. This mark includes the corresponding numerical Performance Levels for abrasion, blade cut, tear, and puncture to easily identify how the glove fared in the testing process. These EN Performance Levels are not necessarily interchangeable with ANSI/ISEA 105 Performance Levels; however you can always count on the number 1 signifying gloves appropriate for nuisance injuries like abrasions and minor cuts while higher numbers signify a higher level of protection. The ANSI/ISEA 105 standard includes a Performance Level of 0, which means minimal or no protection at all.
Depending on your location or your favorite glove manufacturer, both the ANSI/ISEA 105 and EN 388 Performance Levels may be displayed on a pair of gloves. Since performance identification on gloves is not required in North America, buyers may see only the EN 388 Performance Levels displayed, depending on the glove manufacturer.
More and more manufacturers are stepping up and creating everyday work gloves with the worker in mind. Even the simplest of tasks should have a glove that meets the needs of the hazard and worker. Whether it’s cut protection, breathability, touch screen capabilities, or dexterity, safety professionals and project supervisors now have a wide array of options to not only keep their workers’ hands safe but get the multiple aspects of their job done as well. Because ultimately, providing a more comfortable and job-specific glove will keep gloves where they should be – on the worker.
*Most recent statistics available
1. BLS Nonfatal Occupational Injuries and Illnesses Requiring Days Away From Work, 2014. http://www.bls.gov/news.release/pdf/osh2.pdf
2. OSHA Recordkeeping Fact Sheet, 2014. https://www.osha.gov/recordkeeping2014/OSHA3745.pdf