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Issues with bulky work gloves

October 1, 2012

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Workers at our facility sometimes remove their heavy-duty cut-protective gloves and work barehanded because the hand protection “hinders their touch.” Do work gloves have to be bulky to effectively protect against cuts?

Responding is Laura Proctor, director, customer marketing, industrial, Ansell Protective Products Inc., Iselin, NJ.

No, work gloves do not have to be thick and bulky to protect against cuts. The glove industry is employing the use of high-performance lightweight materials that provide significantly greater cut protection than materials used in the past.

Work gloves are available that incorporate engineered yarns such as DuPont Kevlar, Dyneema and new 220 denier Dyneema Diamond Technology that have a lightweight feel and tremendous strength. Gloves made with these materials are comfortable and breathable, while providing varying levels of cut protection.

Engineered yarns

Kevlar yarns date back to 1965, when Stephanie Kwolek developed this synthetic aramid fiber for the DuPont Co. The fiber is extremely lightweight and offers 5 times the strength of steel pound for pound, which is why it is often used in bullet-resistant vests.

Dyneema fiber is a tough polyethylene that brought cut protection to the next level. The fiber is 15 times stronger than steel and up to 40 percent lighter than materials such as aramids. Dyneema fiber is considered a vital component for manufacturing soft and hard ballistic armor for the military.

Dyneema Diamond Technology fiber represents the next generation of cut resistance, boosting the cut performance of Dyneema yarns by as much as 200 percent. Gloves that incorporate this technology offer advanced cut protection and a breathable, bare hand-like feel. They are soft and comfortable and, like Dyneema, they last longer and may be laundered multiple times.

Lightweight Kevlar, Dyneema and Dyneema Diamond Technology yarns also provide increased dexterity and tactility, which encourages workers to wear gloves throughout their shift and makes them an asset to safety compliance initiatives. Manufacturers may provide hand protection with the highest level of cut protection possible, but if the gloves are uncomfortable and do not enhance workers’ ability to perform their jobs, individuals may remove or alter them.

I have visited many plants where workers cut off the fabric from their glove fingertips so they could “feel” the tools they were handling or the textures of various surfaces. Altering gloves, or removing them entirely, exposes workers to cuts and other hazards and results in non-compliance.

Worker acceptance

Although new glove technologies can enhance worker safety and comfort, the products are effective only when workers commit to wearing them. Leather and heavy cotton gloves have dominated the market for many years, making some workers hesitant to try gloves incorporating engineered yarns and innovative designs.

This reluctance makes training especially important. Safety personnel must educate workers about the gloves’ use, applications and performance benefits. They also should teach them to recognize signs of wear and when gloves should be laundered or replaced.

New glove technologies and higher levels of cut protection often bring questions about price, such as “Do gloves incorporating high performance fibers such as Kevlar, Dyneema and Dyneema Diamond Technology cost more?” While the initial price may be higher, the total cost of gloves can actually be much less in the long term when factoring in injury reduction, productivity improvements, extended wear life and increased worker confidence with improvements in dexterity and comfort. Gloves incorporating engineered yarns offered greater cut resistant, increased durability and improved overall value thus increasing the return on investment.

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