Safety Work Gloves protect a worker’s hand from a range of workplace hazards. Whether in construction, warehouse setting, working in cold conditions, highway maintenance, railway work or other manual handling setting, work gloves are an essential part of workplace PPE.
Any working environment that includes working with extremes in hot or cold temperatures, sharp objects, abrasive surfaces, chemicals may require specially designed gloves suitable for the tasks.
Gloves are designed to add an extra layer of protection to the wearer in the event of workplace dangers. In this guide to work gloves, we look at the selection process, the different gloves available and factors that need to be considered.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there were 143,000 reported workplace injuries involving hands in 2015 and 120,000 reported in 2017, it is still an area that requires employers to look carefully at their working practices.
Safety Work Gloves- Why Protect Workers Hands?
Our hands are one of our most used parts of the body. From the moment we wake up to shut the alarm clock off until we reset the alarm at night, we use them continuously throughout the day and night. With hand-related injuries reported to cost 8% of all non-fatal workplace injuries requiring a day from work, it is essential to protect this part of the body.
The average cost of a hand injury claim is $6000 and compensation claims for a hand puncture average out at close to $30,000. This is obviously a large cost when you compare that to the outlay costs and providing the correct work gloves.
OSHA Requirements for Hand Protection
OSHA requires employers to adhere to the following guidelines:
“General requirements. Employers shall select and require employees to use appropriate hand protection when employees’ hands are exposed to hazards such as those from skin absorption of harmful substances; severe cuts or lacerations; severe abrasions; punctures; chemical burns; thermal burns; and harmful temperature extremes.”
“Selection. Employers shall base the selection of the appropriate hand protection on an evaluation of the performance characteristics of the hand protection relative to the task(s) to be performed, conditions present, duration of use, and the hazards and potential hazards identified.”
[59 FR 16362, April 6, 1994]
ANSI Standards for Workplace Gloves
ANSI/ISEA 105-2016 covers cuts, abrasions, chemical resistance and flame resistance.
The ANSI standard for cut resistance features nine different cut levels introduced in 2016. The new standard reduced the difference between each level. Subsequently, the level of protection has been raised by providing clearer levels of resistance for the wearer.
The newer cut score features an A before the level of protection. A1 offers the least protection whereas A9 offers maximum protection. The level of protection is normally shown on the rear of the glove. Check with the manufacturer’s data sheets before use to check the cut resistance offered by the safety gloves. A1 Protective safety gloves withstand 200g to 499g of cutting load whereas A9 protective safety gloves withstand 6000g or more of cutting load.
ANSI/ISEA 138-2019 cover impact protection.
It evaluates compliant gloves for their capability to dissipate impact forces on the knuckle and fingers. The gloves are rated from 1-3.
The standard requires a falling mass to be dropped onto specific areas of the glove to check impact protection in that area. Using specialist equipment, the force that is transferred to that hand area is shown in kilonewtons. The test is repeated over.
Eight times on the knuckles and ten times on the finger area. All test results and the mean result must be within the strict parameters as specified by ANSI. The classification of 3 is the most protection to the wearer, meaning that less force is transmitted to hand.
The knuckles and fingertips were tested as these are the areas most commonly affected by an injury.
Common Hazards to Workers Hands
- Hazardous substances
- Impact from tools
- Cuts and laceration from machinery
- Frostbite in cold conditions
- Exposure to dust and dirt
- UV exposure
- Prolonged Wet work
Potential Injuries to Workers Hands
- Fractures and breaks
- Loss of limbs
- Repetitive Strain Injuries
How Can Your Protect Workers Hands?
As with all PPE, this should be considered as a last resort following the Hierarchy of controls to Eliminate or reduce the risk
Training & Information: Keep employees updated of their obligations with regard to occupational health. Training and ongoing refreshing training should be offered.
Communication: Verbal and visual information can help remind employees of the importance of safety wear.
Choosing the Right Safety Work Gloves
Assess the risks. Get an independent person who is trained in assessing the risks to list all the potential hazards an employee will face. Although a cut resistance of A9 is the highest the glove may not be suitable for a different hazard.
What tasks does the employee carry out on a regular basis. If manual dexterity is required that is a factor that needs to be looked at. Does the wearer need gloves that give extra grip for carrying various items, again that is a factor that needs to be taken into account at the purchase stage.
Do these tasks have a risk of a hand injury. If the worker is exposed to any risks, then a risk assessment should be carried out on the specific areas that the worker is exposed to. The risk assessment should itemize what the potential hazards are and perceived risk of exposure to the hazards along with any protection that will be required.
Combination of factors. If carrying in the cold, for instance, working in industrial freezers, then a thermal and anti-cut will need to be taken in to account. Always check manufacturers’ websites and data sheets to check the level of protection offered.
What Safety Gloves are Available?
Cut Resistant Safety Gloves
Cut-resistant gloves are made of the following materials:
- Metal Mesh
- Cut & Sewn
- Seamless Knitted
Seamless knitted gloves come in various options such as dipped coated latex, nitrile and polyurethane.
Thermal Safety Gloves
These winter safety gloves are designed to protect users, unsurprisingly, to the extremes of colder weather. Those working in colder climates or in industrial freezers or wet colder areas will require thermal glove protection.
When working with hotter substrates these gloves give extra protection up to certain temperatures. They are designed to protect the wearer’s hands from potential burn injuries whilst working near hotter objects, sparks, and flames.
The different material options normally used in heat resistant gloves are:
- Kevlar- heat resistant and strong synthetic fiber.
- Terry Knit- A traditional sewn and cut terrycloth. Normally used by bakers and cold stores as it gives moderate cold and heat protection.
- Leather- withstands the heat of up to 200 degrees Fahrenheit, maybe in conjunction with other materials. Normally used by Welders and other occupation working with extreme heat.
It really depends on the tasks involved as with any glove as with any material it may offer advantages in one area but less of an advantage in another.
When working in a high-risk environment such as welding where heat and high voltage are present then the best glove protection is vital. Rubber insulation should be used when shock exposure exceeds 50V. The gloves should offer the right amount of protection for the job. The factors to look at when choosing this glove is Arc Thermal Protective Vale and the Hazard Risk Category.
As the evolution of glove materials is progressing Arc Flash gloves are becoming more comfortable, but protection is the most important aspect.
When employees use hand power tools as part of the working day they are at risk of developing a condition called HAVS or hand-arm vibration syndrome. The continuous use of tools or machinery can cause damage caused by vibrations to tendons, blood vessels, muscles, bones and nerves.
Gloves don’t actually prevent the dangers of anti-vibration and other protective methods should be looked at before providing the gloves. Gloves may help in the other tasks that the wearer carries out so may be used in conjunction, but workplace monitors and other interventions should be looked at when employees are exposed to vibrating machinery.
Some gloves come with touchscreen material that allows the user to still operate cellular and tablet devices as part of their work. The work glove would have to be knitted with a conductive yarn for the glove to be fully compatible with touchscreen devices. Cheaper versions are available but these tend to lose their effectiveness when they become dirty.
The right fit will give the best protection to wearer. Too large and they risk falling off and too tight with cause discomfort. All ways get the correct fit.
Maintenance & Inspection
How long are the gloves likely to last will depend on the work being carried out and the aftercare. Gloves should be inspected at regular intervals to check for signs of wear and tear. If gloves are seen to be damaged these should be reported to management and replacement pairs sought. Cleaning should also be undertaken if dirt and grime appear.
Checklist of factors to consider when choosing Safety Gloves
- Hand size of the wearer
- Are hot works a part of the everyday tasks
- Are working in cold temperatures part of the working
- Are sharp edges and cutting hazards in the working area?
- Are chemicals used
- Is high dexterity required
- Are tools used
- Has a risk assessment been carried out on working activities?
- Is the right amount of protection offered?
Gloves can offer important protection against some of the dangerous hazards that occupy certain workplaces. It is essential that all risks are identified, and the correct safety gloves are chosen. In recent years technology and advancement of materials have slim-lined the gloves to offer protection and comfort. It is important to review what the current standards are what safety gloves are available.