"I've got a good grip on that" is a statement which today is mostly used figuratively. But it clearly shows how important it is not to let things get out of hand. Unfortunately, people still lose their grip while performing dangerous work and accidents happen. With 30%, hand injuries are the most frequent of all the injuries reported to the German social accident insurance DGUV. The situation is the same across Europe. In order to prevent such accidents it is important to wear the right gloves for work. Plant managers or safety managers together with the employees should determine which type of glove is best for which tasks. With approximately 1,500 exhibitors from 60 countries and more than 55,000 professionals visiting the leading international trade fair for safety, security and health at work, A+A 2011 in Düsseldorf, Germany (October 18 – 21, 2011) will provide a complete market overview of current product trends and hand protection solutions for various purposes.

Regulation BGR 195 of the German Institution for Statutory Accident Insurance and Prevention relates to the selection and use of protective gloves. According to the regulation, employers must complete an analysis of hazards in the workplace before the use of protective gloves. It must include the type and scope of risks, as well as the working conditions and health risks for employees. On one hand, the gloves to be used must provide optimal protection but, on the other hand, not limit the wearer's comfort, feeling of touch or ability to grip. Employers must draw up company directives which, among other things, define the type of gloves, duration of use, types of use, storage conditions and method of cleaning as well as any restrictions in use. In addition, based on the directives, employees must be instructed on the characteristics and handling of the gloves at least once a year.

Mechanical hand protection

A visit of A+A 2011 in October in Düsseldorf will once again impressively show that the range of protective gloves is huge, from category I disposable gloves for laboratories all the way to category III heat- and cut-resistant gloves for uses that could permanently impair employees' health. There are companies such as Ansell Health Care Europe, headquartered in Brussels, that manufacture protective handwear for virtually any area of use. Others, such as Mapa in Zeven and COMASEC in Neuenkirchen, have a broad range but originally started with chemical protection. August Penkert in Mühlheim/Ruhr is best-known for leather gloves.

In the metal and glass processing industries, transportation, mechanical and systems engineering as well as the automotive industry the special aim is to provide effective protection against cuts, abrasions and puncture wounds together with good grip for work with dry as well as wet objects. Protection against mechanical hazards is explained in EN 388. It regulates abrasion resistance, cut resistance, tear propagation and puncture resistance, categorizing them from level 1 to level 4 (and level 5 for cut resistance). The higher the protective level, the lower the risk of injury.

W+R Seiz Gloves in Metzingen produces the new industrial installation glove RED MAMBA, with a black inside-hand coating. The distinctive characteristics of this five-finger glove are its high degree of abrasion resistance (level 4) and its good fit. The coating ensures very good grip when handling wet or oily objects.

To enhance secure grip, the uvex safety group's centre of expertise PROFAS developed a new coating technology which is currently used in the PROFI ERGO XG 20 A against mechanical hazards and in the RUBIFLEX S XG 35 B and XG 27 B against chemical hazards. The enhanced grip stability is achieved through multiple layering on the basis of a comfortable cotton liner. The nitrile coating is combined with a dense special coating filled with microchannels. These microchannels absorb liquid, thus ensuring a secure, dry grip. "The aim of the technology is to improve workplace safety through outstanding grip characteristics when oil or moisture is present while maintaining the existing advantages of the product", explained CEO Franz Keller.

Chemical resistant gloves

These gloves protect the hands from splashes or when immersed in chemicals and liquids in such sectors as the chemical, pharmaceutical, maintenance, automotive and construction industries. EN 374 describes protection against chemical and bacteriological hazards. There are two categories of chemical resistant gloves: chemical-resistant and low chemical-resistant gloves. Chemical resistant gloves must have a permeation level of 2 with at least three test chemicals (permeation means molecular penetration, penetration means macroscopic penetration, i.e. a tear or a hole). Low chemical-resistant protection means that the gloves are waterproof but provide poor protection against chemical hazards. EN 374 also sets out the standards for swelling.

The DGUV's German institute for occupational safety and health IFA provides support for companies in selecting chemical resistant gloves, but many manufacturers also offer assistance. The A+A 2011 exhibitor Mapa's colour code table describes which material is used as well as its strengths and scope of application. As an aid in decision-making, Ansell provides a table of chemicals as well as a table with the breakthrough times for each product pursuant to EN 374 for specific as well as a high degree of chemical protection. The search and selection criteria are based on the protection and performance requirements of the areas of application.

Last year, PROFAS introduced the Glove Expert System, an online chemical database with information on protective gloves when handling hazardous materials. This service allows users to create their own permeation lists and reference hazardous materials to protective gloves.

In its two newest products, A+A 2011 exhibitor COMASEC combines maximum comfort with effective protection from chemicals. The robust nitrile-based Comfort Z51G is suitable for applications in the chemical, automotive, printing and petroleum industries. Due to its elbow-length cuff, this CE category III glove for irreversible hazards provides even more protection. Its sister-product Comfort G26G provides the wearer with special flexibility and finger mobility and is suitable for the food processing, agrochemical and chemical industries as well as the automotive sector.

Another example of chemical resistant gloves is the Sol-Vex nitrile range from Ansell. It achieves optimal results in dry as well as moist environments in which a high degree of chemical protection is paramount and abrasion-resistance is required. The inside liner made of cotton velour together with the flexibility of the nitrile rubber provides outstanding comfort.

Gloves for product protection

Gloves for product protection are designed for work environments such as laboratories and clean rooms in the pharmaceutical and electronics sectors, the food processing industry and service markets. There are thin, light-weight versions as well as models that simultaneously provide protection against other hazards, such as the Aerostar from Comasec. This glove with a knitted cuff is available in sizes 5.5 to 9/10, the knitting is seamless and very abrasion resistant. It is suitable for work that requires a high degree of sensitivity, for quality control and in the electronics industry.

A further example are Ansell's neoprene Neo Touch gloves for industrial work. They provide excellent protection from acids, bases and alcohol. The MAPA ROLLPRUF product series made of neoprene, nitrile and natural rubber also have a good performance profile. The series is characterized by outstanding dexterity, a high degree of comfort and an elastic, anatomical shape. The main areas of use are in chip installation, pharmaceutical production and the manufacturing of medical devices.

Glove materials that are a health hazard

That gloves contain materials that are hazardous to health and cause allergies is a statement that is heard over and over again. The European Chemical Agency (ECHA), whose task is to promote quality of life by ensuring the safe use of chemical materials and innovations, has issued a REACH list (Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation und Restriction of Chemicals) to make sure that industry in Europe acts more responsibly in regard to the potential health and environmental hazards of chemicals. The new test criteria for Oeko-Tex certification include all the candidate substances relevant to textile production on the ECHA list of materials of particular concern, including the chemicals added in December 2010 within the framework of the REACH legislation. In addition, every Oeko-Tex certificate confirms that the certified items are in compliance with the applicable requirements of Annex XVII of the REACH regulations regarding restricted substances such as azo dyes and nickel.

In order to prevent allergies and illnesses caused by chemicals and allergenic materials, gloves are available which provide the best possible protection, are comfortable to wear and contain none of those types of materials. For instance, all Ansell's products are completely compliant with the statutory requirements of 1907/2006/EC concerning the registration, evaluation, authorization and restriction of chemicals (REACH regulation).

PROFAS had all its knitted safety gloves of the PROFI, CONTACT, RUBIPOR, HELIX, PROTECTOR, RUBIFLEX, RUBIFLEX S, PROFATROL and PROFAGRIP series certified according to the Class II test criteria of Oeko-Tex Standard 100.

Or the Puretough P product range from COMASEC: "It has a water-based instead of a solvent-based PU coating", explained Dr. Michael Bungert of Comasec. The gloves in this product series do not contain any DMF, formaldehyde, silicone, phthalates (softeners) or azo dyes. They are manufactured in the European Union and, depending on the model, are even available with cut protection level 5, abrasion and tear resistance level 4 (Puretough P5000) while still providing maximum finger mobility for work in the automobile sector and in mechanical engineering.

Seiz in Metzingen has eliminated the REACH-listed hazardous DEHP softeners in the PVC nubs on its knitted gloves for industrial, commercial and logistics companies. These protective gloves also have the Oeko-Tex 100 Standard certification.

Greatest possible comfort with a high degree of protection

Normally, a high degree of protection means less comfort. This applies especially in the case of coated gloves when working with liquids and/or chemicals, but also in the case of protective gloves for mechanical hazards. In practise, it is important to ensure that the gloves offer sufficient sensitivity, are not too thick and do not lack flexibility.

According to regulation BGR 195 of the German Institution for Statutory Accident Insurance and Prevention, glove size and their capacity to absorb and wick away sweat also have an effect on comfort. The more comfortable gloves are, the more people like to wear them. This is the only way to effectively avoid potential accidents and the tragedy of serious or irreversible injury as well as the lost hours or days of work, which can be very expensive.