Product Focus: Hand Protection

Trends in ... hand protection

‘Safety doesn’t require a productivity tradeoff’

Because hand injuries are so prevalent among U.S. workers – 118,170 private-sector injuries in 2011, according to the 2014 edition of the National Safety Council’s “Injury Facts” – glove manufacturers are working to develop products aimed at reducing those numbers.

Mike Carducci is product manager, high-performance and cut-resistant fibers, for Menlo, GA-based Showa Best Glove Co. Carducci said worker compliance is the most important consideration in the hand protection industry.

“Cut-resistant yarns and filament fibers used to make gloves are being developed and engineered to be thinner and more cut-resistant than previous generations,” he said. “These fibers make gloves that provide cut resistance along with a high degree of dexterity and comfort.”

Beemal Vasani, director, customer marketing, specialty markets for Iselin, NJ-based Ansell, said his company is paying special attention to hand-safety issues in the oil and gas industry. Flash fires and burns are a particular concern for oil and gas workers, Vasani said, so products and technologies are emerging that focus on flame resistance. “In the event of a flash fire, oil and gas workers could be exposed to sudden bursts of flame,” he said. “If they are wearing a glove that doesn’t meet the recognized standards for flame resistance, they could suffer third-degree burns so severe they could lose their ability to use their hands, and could inadvertently transfer flames from the hands to other parts of the body.”

To help combat such injuries, Vasani explained, new FR gloves are designed to reduce the severity of a burn as well as resist melting into the worker’s skin. “In the past – and this remains true in many cases today – flame resistance came from sprayed coatings and, once laundered, the glove lost its [flame-resistant] qualities,” he said. But new materials are intrinsically flame resistant, Vasani said, and keep their protection even after frequent washings.

Problems and progress

A common problem with hand protection is lack of education, Vasani said, adding that many workers are wearing the wrong type of glove. “It’s important that workers are made aware that safety doesn’t require a productivity trade-off,” he said. “A commitment to education and adherence is just as important as providing workers with the right product.”

Max Hackett, vice president of sales and marketing for Culver City, CA-based Youngstown Glove Co., said employers play an important role in protecting workers’ hands.

“We often meet with companies who feel they are only obligated to ‘provide a glove’ and think nothing of the hazards or protection that the issued glove offers,” Hackett said.

However, he went on to say that this type of attitude is beginning to change. “More and more companies who have historically issued ‘low-bid commodity’ gloves for hand protection are now seeking a higher-quality, longer-lasting and ultimately better-protecting work glove for their employees.”

Compiled with the assistance of the International Safety Equipment Association