Once a risk has been identified, the first step should always be elimination of the hazard where possible.

It is important to bear in mind that no glove, irrespective of its cut-protection level, is 100 % cut proof. There are situations where any type of cut protection would be insufficient to protect a worker’s hands and cause more problems than it solves. For example, gloves can get caught in machinery with sharp moving parts. Under such circumstances eliminating the risk is a must.

A case in point was published by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) when an engineering company was fined after an employee had two fingers amputated at the first knuckle. The employee’s gloves came into contact with a rotating spindle on a horizontal tapping machine and became entangled. The company was fined £14,000 and ordered to pay costs of £1,383. Speaking after the hearing, the HSE inspector said: “This injury was easily preventable, and the risk should have been identified. Employers should make sure they properly assess and apply effective control measures to minimize the risk from dangerous parts of machinery.”1

With these thoughts in mind, before choosing a course of action, the hierarchy of control measures must be followed.

● Elimination – physically remove the hazard

● Substitution – replace the hazard

● Engineering controls – isolate people from the hazard

● Administrative controls – change the way people work

● Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) – protect the worker with PPE2

If PPE is required, gloves of course offer the principal form of hand protection against a range of industrial hazards such as piercing by abrasive, sharp or pointed objects. Cut resistant safety gloves usually comprise different types of specially engineered yarns mixed to offer different levels of protection in line with various applications and their associated risks.

Assessing the level of cut protection offered by gloves in line with the latest industry standards is clearly paramount. Comfort – from lightness down to breathability and the use of hypoallergenic, skin-friendly materials – is also fundamental. It will ultimately determine whether a worker will want to wear a pair of gloves and sometimes influence their productivity. Depending on the application, other points to consider include:

– Are the gloves touchscreen capacitive?

– Are they washable multiple times?

– Do they offer thumb reinforcement?

– Do the gloves protect both hand and wrist sufficiently long enough to prevent fatigue?

– Do they offer suitable durability and abrasion resistance?

– Do they provide high grip performance?

Additional business targets may additionally need to be addressed. Selecting cut-resistant gloves that can be washed multiple times with no change in performance and no change in size enables you to save money through less frequent replacements and helps your business reduce waste. This can contribute to the achievement of business sustainability goals and environmental targets.

A further factor is comprehensive training for employees, which is vital for those looking to improve the safety of their workplace. A strategy such as scheduling monthly safety talks will help keep this important issue at the forefront of workers’ minds. It may even pay dividends to ask different staff members to run the training sessions, thus promoting engagement and ownership.

Another effective measure that safety managers can put in place is displaying posters with illustrations or images of the gloves that workers need to wear in a specific area when undertaking certain tasks.

Clearly, cut risk levels vary greatly from one application/task to another, so understanding them is key to selecting the most appropriate safety measures.

A full risk assessment is always the first step, following the hierarchy of controls to ensure the adoption of inherently safer systems and thus minimizing any risk of injury. If it is deemed necessary to adopt cut-resistant gloves, then a number of important factors must be considered to achieve optimum selection in line with the updated EN388:2016 ISO 1399716 and ANSI-105 201617 standards. Only by working in this way can health and safety professionals be sure that workers are protected against physical injury and businesses are protected against any associated costs.

1 https://press.hse.gov.uk/2018/10/15/fine-for-engineering-company-following-lifechanging-hand-injuries-to-worker/

2 http://www.hse.gov.uk/construction/lwit/assets/downloads/hierarchy-risk-controls.pdf

Disclaimer: The information provided through Greenham Pulse is for general guidance only and is not legal advice. Greenham Pulse is not a substitute for Health and Safety consultancy. You should seek independent advice about any legal matter.