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Trends in ... hand protection

April 1, 2011

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A shift toward a better fit

By Tracy Haas, editorial assistant

It seems pretty obvious: If something does not fit well or is uncomfortable, chances are it will not be worn. This same logic holds true in the workplace with personal protective equipment, but the consequences of not wearing PPE can be extremely hazardous. In 2008 in the manufacturing and construction industries, 37,080 injuries to fingers and 13,940 to hands occurred, according to the National Safety Council’s 2011 edition of “Injury Facts.” Luckily, hand protection manufacturers are aware of these problems and making strides in improving comfort and fit to better ensure employee compliance.

Dr. Michael S. Zedalis, senior vice president of science and technology at Red Bank, NJ-based Ansell Protective Products, touts this progress. “New glove technologies focus on anatomical correctness. Today, the shape and size of the hand are getting more attention than ever. Glove manufacturers are striving to improve the shape, sizing dip formers and knitting design/stitch density,” he said.

When asked how people commonly misuse hand protection products, Zedalis’ first response was that it is not something employees are doing wrong, but instead what some suppliers are doing wrong. “I am more concerned with suppliers overstating their products’ performance or protection. In many marketing brochures, companies promise improved chemical or cut protection, breathability, dexterity, etc., but fail to provide data that support these claims,” he said.

To protect one’s self from false claims, Zedalis recommends buyers challenge glove suppliers to “show me the data.” But how does one go about doing so? Whoever is purchasing hand protection equipment needs to have a good sense of what workers need, Zedalis said.

“If a worker, for example, needs cut protection, the individual selecting gloves should also attempt to define other performance needs such as tactile sensitivity, dexterity and breathability. The best PPE will meet the required protective specifications and as many of the secondary requirements as possible,” he said.

Even with new technology available, cost remains a hurdle for many. Zedalis points to more durable material for gloves as a good thing, but recognizes the price is higher. Therefore, its value needs to first be determined before making a purchase.

Ultimately, Zedalis knows compliance often comes down to comfort. “If the glove does not fit well, workers may be less likely to wear it, which makes other critical elements like product specs, design and safety moot points,” he said.

Coming next month…
Instruments and monitors

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