Grip strength is important to safety – and your health
Don’t let your grip slip
Optimal grip has been called the pinnacle of selecting work gloves. It’s critical in almost any industry you can think of: construction, assembly work, repair and overhaul, light engineering and service, recycling and waste management, plastics and textile manufacturing, warehousing, small component assembly, packing and inspection, and landscaping. Poor grip can lead to a host of problems:
- Hand fatigue from overexertion (a major factor in limiting work performance)
- Musculoskeletal injuries from repeated hand overexertion (there are 35 muscles that control movement in your forearm and hand)
- Objects being dropped or slipping through the hands, potentially injuring other parts of your body or co-workers
- Transferring muscle exertion from the hand to other parts of the body to compensate
- Increased risk of cuts
- Lack of hand hygiene
- Dermatological risks to the skin
- Loss of control over work
- Productivity loss due to slowing down to compensate for a poor grip
Of course there’s more to hand protection than glove grip. You need to think about dexterity, mobility, sensitivity, tactility, durability, comfort, flexibility, and performance (such as chemical-resistance, impact protection, and cut and abrasion protection). You also need to consider work conditions: oily, greasy, wet, soapy, and dry work environments, as well as working with chemicals or precision manufacturing. Different work requires different types of gripping gloves.
Glove liners dipped in sponge or foam nitrile (palm-dipped, three-quarter dipped, fully dipped or double dipped) that are applied in various thicknesses have generally replaced PVC and leather gloves in a number of applications. Foam and sponge absorb some of the liquids gloves come in contact with, and compressing or embossing the material further enhances liquid absorption or provides a better grip. Embossed patterns on the palm or fingertips create run-offs for excessive liquid. Given the range of coatings and covering available, you need to choose the right gloves for your work environments.
But know this: there are one-quarter of a million (250,000) serious injuries to fingers, hands and wrists each year, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, and OSHA says wearing any glove reduces the risk of hand injury by 27 percent.
You should also know this: handgrip or grip strength can indicate your overall muscle tone – and even perhaps how long you will live, according to research.
Grip strength reflects your overall muscle status and a general sense of how much muscle mass you have. If you have more muscle in your upper body, you probably have more muscle mass in your lower body. If your muscle are wasting (which is part of the aging process), you’re slowly becoming more frail; more prone to loss of balance and falls. Muscle mass starts declining at the rate of about one percent per year after middle age (it peaks in your 30s and 40s), a process called sarcopenia. But sarcopenia can be countered by exercise and building up your strength – with light to moderate workouts that don’t require you to be a weightlifter.
Grip strength can be measured with a simple hand-held device. According to research conducted as part of the Reassessing Aging from a Population Perspective project, handgrip strength can be a screen for health vulnerability, corresponding with other markers of age such as future mortality, disability, cognitive decline, and the ability to recover from hospital stays.