Busting hand protection myths
What are some of the biggest challenges and misconceptions in industrial workplaces when it comes to hand protection?
Responding is M.B. Sutherland, senior safety writer, Magid, Romeoville, IL.
As challenges in industrial hand protection are met and conquered, misconceptions can become a bigger hurdle. Technological breakthroughs that provide the highest levels of protection while keeping people comfortable enough to keep their gloves on have taken off in the past several years. Some of these gloves are so comfortable, workers are initially reluctant to trust them. So as we solve workers’ issues, we also face the challenge of convincing them we’ve solved their problems!
The challenge: High cut protection without thickness and heat
The misconception: Workers who are used to thick leather drivers or thicker knit gloves made with a heavy metal core understandably think weighty materials are necessary to protect them.
The reality: New yarns, along with new wrapping techniques, provide protection up to ANSI Cut Level A9 in featherlight materials that feel almost like a second skin. These materials allow the wearer to manipulate small objects such as nuts and bolts without removing their gloves and are often touch-screen compatible.
The challenge: Impact gloves that let your hands move and don’t trap heat
The misconception: Thermoplastic rubber on an impact glove is essentially a shield for the back of your hand. And although it’s absolutely true that a thicker, more solid shield conveys more protection, for years that meant that impact gloves were hot, stiff and uncomfortable, and most people accepted that as a necessary evil.
The reality: Manufacturers found a way around this issue with new TPR formulations and new designs that broke up that solid slab of TPR in favor of integrated flex points and TPR vents that let hands breathe. The newest specially formulated honeycomb TPR designs provide up to ANSI/ISEA Level 3 impact protection, along with nine times more airflow and the flexibility to move hands naturally.
The challenge: Glove grip that works in multiple environments
The misconception: For workers whose jobs involve different environments throughout the day – such as oily, dry, wet, abrasive, etc. – it’s long been necessary to change gloves to fit each environment. That meant safety managers felt the need to be extra vigilant to ensure people weren’t using the wrong glove for a task or leaving their gloves off entirely.
The reality: The newest technology in glove coatings frees safety managers from those worries with an intelligent grip that’s infused with special stabilizers that actually read the work environment and adapt to it. That means workers can move among different environments with the same gloves and the same solid grip in a comfortable glove that they won’t mind leaving on throughout the day.
Of course, these breakthroughs are just a few examples. More new products and new technologies are either here now or on the horizon.
And although initial misconceptions will certainly be part of the process, once workers and safety managers begin to experience the benefit of these advances, they’ll become a normal part of a safer and more comfortable workday.
Editor's note: This article represents the independent views of the author and should not be considered a National Safety Council endorsement.