Know your hand protection products

What types of cut-resistant fibers are available, and what works best for different situations?

Answered by Mike Carducci, product manager, Showa Best Glove, Menlo, GA.

Here are the most common cut-resistant fibers used in today's industrial glove market:*

Dyneema: This ultra-high molecular weight, polyethylene fiber from DSM has very high abrasion resistance. It is used in lightweight gloves that are palm-coated with polyurethane and sponge nitrile for tasks requiring high dexterity. It also is used in gloves with higher cut-resistant engineered yarns for food processing and food service applications. It should not be used around open flame or sparks.

Kevlar: The "original" cut-resistant synthetic fiber from DuPont, spun Kevlar yarns are used within gloves for jobs ranging from oily sheet metal handling (lightweight 13 gauge knits) to automotive manufacturing (heavier knitted and terry-cloth configurations). Kevlar will not support combustion.

High performance polyethylene: High performance polyethylene, a generic term for fibers not trademarked in ultra-high molecular weight classes, are cool filament fibers with very high abrasion resistance. Used in lightweight gloves coated with polyurethane or sponge nitrile for oil grip or dry grip, HPPE also is used in engineered-yarn gloves to product higher cut resistance for food processing and food service applications. It should not be exposed to high heat, sparks or open flames.

Aramids: This is the generic term for fibers with physical properties similar to Kevlar. Aramids can range from lightweight 13 gauge knits to heavier knitted and terry-cloth configurations to handle oily sheet metal in automotive manufacturing. Aramids will not support combustion.

Stainless steel: Stainless steel wire is used to produce metal-mesh gloves providing the highest cut resistance available. Their use is almost entirely exclusive to food processing. 

Fiberglass: Continuous filament fiberglass is used in glove manufacturing, but gloves are not made solely from fiberglass. Fiberglass filaments used as a key component in cut-resistant engineered yarns are 7 microns in diameter (larger than human pores, which are 6 microns or smaller in diameter) to prevent the fiberglass from irritating the skin or being inhaled.

Engineered yarns: Any of the above cut-resistant fibers can be combined with stainless steel, glass, polyester, Lycra or anti-microbial fibers to achieve specific desired results. These yarns play a critical part in cut-resistant gloves in two key areas:

  1. Performance: Some cut-resistant fibers are not practical or comfortable as standalone fibers. A glove made from pure Dyneema or fiberglass, for example, would be very slick. Combining Dyneema with continuous fiberglass and wrapping those fibers with polyester produces a comfortable glove that can be dipped or coated and used in many applications.
  2. Desired results: Manufacturers can combine Kevlar or Dyneema with steel to achieve maximum cut resistance. For maximum flexibility, they combine cut-resistant fiber with fiberglass. Other fibers are introduced to achieve a variety of objectives: color to hide dirt or to stand out, or anti-microbial polyesters for food applications.
*Please note, leather is not present. To have any degree of protection, the leather has to be so thick that it becomes a very uncomfortable glove that leaves you with very little dexterity. Also, no cut-resistant glove works for moving or serrated blades. Serrated blades can get caught in the knit material used in cut-resistant gloves and slice through them.

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

This article originally was published in the January 2011 issue of Safety+Health magazine.

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