Workplace Solutions Hand/arm protection Personal protective equipment

Selecting hand and arm protection

What are some of the most important factors to consider when choosing hand and arm protection?

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Responding is Matt Block, director of health and safety services, Magid, Romeoville, IL.

Of course, the first thing to consider is your application. Any cut, puncture, abrasion, heat, impact or other hazards involved in the job will change what you choose.

Knowing the type and level of protection you need is an important first step, but it can be more complicated than that. For example, if your team is experiencing cut injuries, it’s best to think about more than just cut level. What may look like a cut could actually be the result of a puncture because it’s human nature to jerk your hand away when injured, causing a laceration. Factor in variables such as metal burrs that may puncture even a high cut-resistant glove, and investigate all options such as special reinforcements that might make gloves last longer or even special palm coatings to improve grip and abrasion performance.

Remember, too, that gloves with the same ANSI ratings can still vary slightly in their protection, so it can be helpful to test gloves and sleeves in your working environment. Edge testing by a safety professional can be the best way to try a product without putting anyone at risk. This involves filling a glove or sleeve with something such as closed-cell foam to simulate a hand or arm and then running the item over the work hazard, ideally with more force than is expected under normal working conditions.

Perhaps just as important as protection is comfort. Studies have shown that up to 70% of workers who suffer a hand injury weren’t wearing gloves during the incident. The culprit in many of these cases isn’t that the company didn’t provide the right personal protective equipment, but that it didn’t provide PPE that was comfortable enough for workers to keep it on. Ironically, it’s possible to end up with a higher injury rate when you overprotect your workers with gloves that are too thick, hot or bulky for the job.

This problem is now much easier to solve with the advent of technologies that offer extremely high cut protection in lighter, cooler fabrics. Instead of the bulky, cumbersome gloves of the past, you can get gloves that provide protection as high as ANSI Cut Level A9 and that fit with the comfort of a second skin in fabrics that are as much as 30% lighter than comparable gloves. Other materials provide coreless cut protection to keep workers with sensitive skin from developing contact dermatitis, and are actually cool to the touch to keep hands and arms comfortable.

Finding the best gloves and sleeves for your workers can be a daunting task for busy safety managers. Remember, you always have the option to call in a safety expert who can evaluate your facility, recommend changes to how you do various jobs to make them safer and guide you through choosing the best PPE for the job.

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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