Risk is always present in a work environment. The challenge becomes understanding the risks and potential injuries, and ensuring proper protection is worn. With gloves, General Purpose or General Handling Gloves are often considered the solution because there is a need to be generally protected. But when you think about it, what is “General Protection?”
If the glove actually provides “General Protection,” the acceptable and quantifiable standard covers abrasion, cut, tear and puncture. As it stands, if the levels for these four characteristics are comparatively low, then the glove is relegated to the “General Purpose” or “General Handling” category. But when do you need a work glove with generally low protection?
Even when handling boxes, one is exposed to a risk of injury by a cut or abrasion. That said, we have to be careful about how we are defining risk, including not defining it only by the severity of the injury.
For example, when handling boxes (to stay with our example), the selection of General Purpose over Cut Resistant gloves can be the result of underestimating the risk of injury and the associated costs.
Let’s say the most reasonably severe injury one would incur handling boxes is an incision. Seemingly, a simple bandage solves this and the person can be back to work. But the fact is the real costs related to even a simple incision or abrasion wound are quite heavy. Take the cost of administrating first aid correctly: a visit to the company nurse, cleaning, sterilizing and bandaging the wound – you’re looking at about $50 to $60 in direct and indirect costs combined.
Indirect costs, such as lost time and production as a result of the worker addressing their wound, should not be overlooked -- it often has a greater impact on the company’s bottom line. The earnings to make up that cost are even more significant: $300 at five times earnings. Three or four of these per month, and the costs can mount quickly. But this is an example of a lower level hand injury. Per the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the average hand injury claim now exceeds $6,000. Unfortunately, when injuries happen, we can’t dictate how severe they will be, and the impacts go beyond economics.
The goal is prevention. Only gloves with cut protection can help avoid these potential injuries.
A common selection
Leather gloves have traditionally been thought of as a solution and are still widely used today. Other than the known fact that they are bulky and lack tactile sensitivity, they also offer a false sense of protection. That’s not to say they don’t protect at all – they do well to protect against abrasions, but they are comparatively susceptible to cuts. Leather is treated animal skin and sharp objects can slice it easily, depending on the thickness. In addition to lacking dexterity, leather gloves do not offer the grip of coated gloves. This lack of grip can lead to an increased risk for cut injuries.
Remember: cut injuries generally don’t occur from hands pressing against something. It’s usually an object moving across the hand that leads to a cut or laceration.
So what is the solution?
An obvious component
Gloves that are dexterous, coated for an enhanced grip, and made with materials that are inherently cut resistant are crucial. While cut resistance is an obvious component of elevated protection, the other two aspects should not be overlooked. A glove that lacks dexterity may be removed to perform certain tasks, which removes the worker’s protection. An enhanced grip makes it less likely something will slip out of or through the worker’s hands, which could cause a laceration. There are multiple variables to take into account for each job or task to ensure the overall protection meets the needs of the workers, as well as the demands of the work to be performed.
Lowering the price point
But aren’t these Cut Resistant gloves much more expensive than General Purpose gloves? Until most recently that was the case. However, advancements in engineered yarn technology are shifting this paradigm. Engineered yarns allow glove manufacturers to blend various fibers and materials of strength so cut resistance is elevated to higher cut protection levels. Affordable cut protection now can be provided for everyone, in every market.
Construction workers are most typically seen wearing those fabric/leather split palm gloves. Switching to coated seamless knits with engineered yarns enhance protection and allow them to more securely hold power tools as they handle sharp fasteners and sheet metal. Warehouse workers often wearing the economical General Purpose gloves can now feel more secure, even while handling those dangerous box cutters or razor sharp tape dispenser blades.
What’s important is that we change our perception of “General Protection” and how it’s achieved. Advances in technology will continue to provide enhanced performance and cost efficiency solutions to this persistent issue.