Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) gloves play a significant role in industrial plants not only in the fight against COVID-19 but also to protect workers against hand exposure to harmful substances, chemical or thermal burns, electrical dangers, bruises, abrasions, cuts, punctures, fractures and amputations.

Ensuring the health and safety of workers is vital for all industrial plants, no matter the product being manufactured or handled. Hand injuries consistently rank as one of the top types of workplace injuries, resulting in health risks to workers, operational risks to businesses as well as financial risks associated with workers’ compensation claims. In 2018, there were 123,990 hand injuries per the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

There is also an ever-expanding set of factors to consider when it comes to properly equipping workers with PPE gloves. Here are a few tips that all industrial plant managers should keep in mind this winter.

Provide the correct gloves

Because workers should be wearing their gloves at all times to ensure proper safety and hygiene, it’s vital that employers provide ones that properly protect them. The glove’s fit and comfort level should be taken into consideration as well.

 The type of glove (or gloves) needed by industrial plants is determined by the tasks that the workers will be performing. Not all gloves are made equally. The most common types of gloves for industrial usage include:

  • Chemical-resistant gloves: Not wearing the proper type of gloves when handling hazardous and corrosive chemicals can cause severe burns and other injuries. The physical properties of the glove material need to be resistant to chemicals in order to fully protect the user.
  • Cut-resistant gloves: Lacerations account for many of the hand injuries seen in the industrial workplace, so it’s critical that workers have access to gloves that provide significant protection against cuts, snags and tears but offer ample dexterity as well.
  • Impact protection: Impact protection gloves reduce shock energy and cover the most fragile parts of the hand including the knuckles and the metacarpals. This is especially needed for workers dealing with heavy materials to mitigate the brunt of any collision.

Ensure workers wear gloves correctly

Gloves should fit the employee’s hand comfortably – not too loose and not too tight, while also accommodating for sensitive hands, allergies, sweatiness, etc. so as to encourage proper donning of gloves.

 Before each use, gloves should be inspected to make sure that they aren’t ineffective (torn, punctured, etc.). While it’s always good to do a visual once-over, the most effective test is to fill a glove with water to reveal any pinholes that would compromise the effectiveness of the glove.

When it comes to handling chemicals, it is vital to be cautious about reusing gloves, especially if there is uncertainty about their absorptive qualities. There is never a time when gloves should be disinfected and reused.

Additional safety precautions for workers

Eliminating other safety hazards is a core responsibility for employers. This includes installing machine guards and barriers to prevent workers from placing their hands near blades. With an estimated 30,000 table saw injuries annually costing more than $2 billion, putting these safety measures in place is a great way to limit possible negative outcomes.

 Furthermore, given the recent increase in COVID-19 cases around the country, industrial plants need additional safety precautions. This includes keeping six feet of space between workers in lines, providing access to COVID-19 testing and ensuring all workers are wearing masks.

New disposal technologies

As the glove usage escalates, so too does the amount of improperly discarded PPE. To address this concern, a key innovation in nitrile glove manufacturing has been the inclusion of biodegradable materials. Manufacturers have started designing their formulations with technologies that promote biodegradation once the product enters a biologically active landfill. ASTM test standards are used to compare the rate at which the glove breaks down in the environment as compared to the conventional counterpart that stays intact for decades after disposable.

 COVID-19 will continue to be a key operational consideration for industrial safety and hygiene in the months ahead. Using the wrong gloves not only put workers in danger but limit dexterity, cause hand irritations and provide workers with excuses to not wear them properly. Industrial plants’ top priority needs to be protecting their employees. The best way facilitates can do this is to implement a strategy for effectively procuring, using and disposing of PPE gloves.