Our hand is arguably our most complex tool, helping us perform all sorts of tasks, from intricate painting to operating heavy machinery on a construction site. However, it’s also exposed to a myriad of safety hazards.
Viewed collectively, hand injuries take a toll on people and businesses, in the form of lost wages and lost productivity. Thus, proper glove selection plays a key role when it comes to creating a safer workplace, to invigorate employee morale and productivity.
If you’re a safety professional in charge of specifying hand protection, you most likely feel overwhelmed by the myriad of products available. The risk of over-specifying is as real as the risk of underspecifying. What’s more, workers won’t wear uncomfortable PPE, right? Plus, there’s always the need to stay cost-effective. This puts even more pressure on the glove selection process.
How do I find the perfect safety hand gloves for me?
In this hand glove selection guide, we’ll discuss how to select the right gloves for the job by looking at these key aspects:
- Hand hazards and safety risks
- The cost of workplace hand injuries
- Hand protection standards
- Size and comfort
Step 1 Know the application and assess the hazard
Each working environment has its own set of hazards.
Oil and gas workers are especially exposed to cuts, pinch and impact injuries when handling oily, wet and sharp objects. Hand and finger injuries top the list of injuries in this industry sector.
The innovative microfoam coating of Honeywell CoreShield Double gloves assures enhanced grip in most greasy environments
Construction work is considered one of the most dangerous professions, as worker fatigue, manoeuvring heavy machinery and hand-operated power tools pose serious hand risks. For some workers, chemical substances that irritate or even burn skin are the main problem.
It may seem obvious, but start your assessment by looking closer to:
- Activities, processes and equipment that can cause hand-related injuries. Are you inspecting hand tools before using them? Are tools completely de-energized before cleaning or repairing them?
- Feedback from workers, as they might identify hazards that pass a first at-a-glance inspection.
- Official accident records
- The manufacturer instructions/ data sheets of tools and machinery handled by workers
- Non-routine operations (e.g. maintenance cleaning) that might pose hazards. For instance, work-related skin problems caused by unknown exposure to chemicals such as soaps and detergents.
Step 2 Know your people
Not all workers face the same level of risk.
Where do your people work and what do they do? Are they exposed to a hand hazard? Are they working with unguarded machinery? Are they well-trained and experienced enough to handle equipment? Are they new or contractors?
On this note, it’s important to identify ways to help contractors understand and reinforce your safety expectations for the staff while working on your site.
Placing safety signs in your areas of operations is a great way to remind workers about hand safety.
Step 3 Identify risk levels
Think about each hazard and ask yourself how likely is it that will cause harm and how severe consequences can be. For instance, cut-related injuries fall into three main categories, based on their severity.
- Incisions – resulting from contact with a sharp edge that results in a mild wound. E.g. a paper cut.
- Lacerations – torn, open wounds from contact with a jagged, rough edge.
- Abrasions – skin being scrapped by a rough surface.
Why is this important?
As much as managers select PPE with the best intention in mind, some choices may lead to overprotection. A glove with an EN388 cut rated F may be too bulky for an application that requires a good level of dexterity, and the worker finds it difficult to complete the task at hand. This could make him give up the gloves entirely.
The Honeywell CoreShield range includes models with excellent dexterity
Step 4 Know hand safety standards and regulations
In Europe, EN 420 is the baseline for hand protection. All gloves must adhere to its testing requirements. EN 420 does not cover the protective properties of gloves, so it must be applied in combination with other relevant standards such as EN 388:2016 for cut resistance and impact resistance.
Step 5 Match gloves with the application
While completely cut-proof gloves are a myth, significant advancements in technology and materials mean that, if selected correctly, gloves can now offer a high level of protection.
Ultimately, correct selection comes down to the application. For instance, automotive plant workers feeding the stamping presses are exposed to rough edges and need gloves with resistance to cuts and punctures.
Step 6 Find the right fit
70% of workers who have injured their hands, weren’t wearing gloves at the time of the incident. Most of the time it’s a matter of comfort. Sizing and fit make a big difference in how comfortable gloves are. Here are some things to consider:
- Outside seams are typically more comfortable to wear
- Inside seams are durable but can cause skin irritations unless carefully selected.
- Old worn-out gloves can lose their protective ability
Step 7 Educate on how to wear hand protection
Using gloves might seem intuitive, but workers also need to be informed on hand-related hazards present at the job site and potential health effects related to glove materials. Other topics to discuss include the importance of wearing gloves that fit. A glove that is too big will slide off, while a small one will rip or tear easily.
Inspecting gloves to make sure they’re still protective, glove replacement and safe hand practices are also key in your hand safety program.
There isn’t one glove to offer protection from all types of hand injuries, yet staying informed on the latest innovations, listening to workers’ needs and continuous training and education significantly diminish the risk of hand injuries.