Everyone wants a bargain, especially in today’s tough economic times. But if the price of gloves or other PPE seems too good to be true, the product probably will not provide the protection and performance you need. And even though a purchase price might be lower, the PPE may end up costing you more in the long run.

Do the math
An automotive plant evaluated new cut-resistant gloves that cost $3 per pair vs. the $1.50 per pair gloves workers were already wearing. At the time the plant was purchasing 36,000 pairs of the $1.50 gloves each year, with an annual glove spend of $54,000.

When the new $3 glove was tested, management discovered the product would last three times as long as the $1.50 glove while providing workers a higher level of cut protection. Supplying workers the $3 gloves would decrease usage to 12,000 pairs per year, with an annual glove spend of $36,000.

Using the more expensive glove enabled the plant to save $18,000 each year without even factoring in the possibility of laundering, which could further extend the product’s life. Even though the new gloves cost twice as much initially, the plant reduced its glove spend overall.

In another instance, a manufacturing facility was paying $535,000 for hand injuries each year, with its glove spend at $30,000. The facility supplied workers a hand protection product that provided a much higher level of protection. The glove, which was more expensive, increased the facility’s glove spend to $375,000 per year.

Over a period of time, workers had no recordable hand injuries. This saved the company the $535,000 it previously paid for hand injuries and related expenses. Subtracting the company’s glove spend ($375,000) meant the facility saved approximately $160,000 each year.

Analyzing price
If the price of gloves and other PPE seems suspiciously inexpensive, buyers should ask why the product is cheaper than competitive products. Here are some points to consider:
  • Cost performance. How much will the PPE product truly cost in the long term? The above examples show how a seemingly more expensive glove can actually result in significant savings.
  • Safety and protection. Will the product protect employees from specific job-related hazards such as lacerations, chemical exposures, burns, etc.? Workers who wear gloves that do not protect against specific hazards open themselves to the risk of injury — and expose the company to related costs. Injuries and lost productivity resulting from missed time or a worker’s limited capability typically cost significantly more than a higher priced glove.
  • Productivity. Will the PPE provide the necessary level of dexterity and/or tactile sensitivity to help workers perform their jobs more efficiently?
Control unnecessary disposal
Laundering has the potential to extend a product’s service life, and it costs far less than replacing PPE after each use. Most non-disposable gloves may be laundered two or more times as long as they are not damaged from use. An aluminum processing company found it could launder gloves twice while still providing workers with a high level of cut protection, thus significantly reducing glove costs.

Companies should also consider control options that limit employees’ unnecessary use of PPE products. Too often workers wear gloves once or twice and dispose of them even though the product has not reached the end of its service life. Installing vending machines and providing workers with access cards or requiring them to obtain PPE from a locked cabinet will prevent workers from disposing PPE prematurely.

Some further points to consider regarding control of PPE include:
  • Standardization/SKU reduction. Will the product allow you to reduce the number of PPE styles workers are using across your facility? Standardizing can simplify safety training and may eliminate redundant or duplicate products while decreasing the time required to order and stock these products. A smaller inventory also reduces storage requirements, carrying costs and taxes.
  • Supply chain. Will the manufacturer or distributor be able to replenish the PPE product based on your company’s needs? Having a ready supply of product — without back orders — saves time because the product is available and workers know how to use it. The search process begins again if the styles you are using are not available or are discontinued.
  • Controls. Can the product be laundered and can it be dispensed to control worker usage? These two points are critical — perhaps the most important of all.