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Workplace Solutions | Hand/arm protection

Choosing the right glove

Many gloves on the market today are considered multi-purpose. For what applications should I wear these gloves, and what protection will they provide?

September 23, 2013

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Responding is Jason Kokoszka, senior product/brand marketing manager, industrial – North America, Ansell, Iselin, NJ.

Many multi-purpose gloves are available in the marketplace due to the various tasks that a worker may perform during his or her shift and the hazards and performance requirements inherent to those tasks. A construction worker, for example, may pull electrical wire through wood or metal, which presents abrasion hazards. This worker also will require sufficient tactility and dexterity to manipulate the wire.

A worker in a metal fabricating facility requires cut protection to shield his or her hands from cutting tools and sharp edges. Yet, this worker also may need sufficient grip to handle oily metal parts without the metal slipping or falling.

Multi-purpose gloves are available that can meet a range of protection requirements without the worker constantly removing and donning his or her work gloves when moving from one task to the next. Once a worker removes a hand protection product, the risk exists that he or she will not remember or take the time to don the product again. Working barehanded not only exposes workers to job-related hazards and possible injury, but results in non-compliance.

Multi-purpose work gloves vary widely to meet specific needs. Some gloves provide a high level of tactility and dexterity for handling tools and sensitive instruments in precision assembly operations. Other styles may repel oil while providing significant abrasion resistance or protection against cuts or punctures in an equipment assembly application.

Many multi-purpose gloves offer other performance advantages, such as a high level of comfort and support for all-day wear, breathability, and features to reduce hand fatigue and musculoskeletal disorders. These products are applicable for a range of tasks, from light assembly and small-parts handling to maintenance, construction and demolition, shipping and receiving, finishing and inspection, and metal fabrication.

Identifying the ideal glove style for the application may best be accomplished by conducting a personal protective equipment assessment, which provides the opportunity to thoroughly examine plant operations and determine when and where work gloves are being used. A PPE assessment will help identify opportunities to improve worker safety and productivity, and can help identify best practices that may be implemented across the plant.

Once hazards are identified through the assessment, work gloves should be selected according to the greatest hazard the worker faces while performing his or her job. A worker in a roofing application, for example, will likely handle cutting tools and materials with abrasive surfaces and edges. Although abrasion is certainly a concern, the worker must be protected first and foremost against the hazard represented by the cutting tools. He or she also will likely require tactility and dexterity to productively perform the job.

Training is essential to educate workers about gloves’ protective features and the applications in which a specific product should be used. Training also will be required to introduce new fabrics and technologies that boost protection, comfort and productivity.

Editor's note: This article represents the independent views of the author and should not be construed as a National Safety Council endorsement.

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