Selecting the right glove for the manufacturing industry

What should employees consider when selecting hand protection for working in a manufacturing facility?

Answered by Allan W. Bishop, CHSP, technical support manager, North Safety Products, Cranston, RI.

There are several areas in the industrial setting in which the use of personal protective equipment is often overlooked. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics data for 2005, 26 percent of all lost-time injuries involving the hand and/or fingers occurred in manufacturing.

Therefore, it is imperative that all employees in the manufacturing sector be provided with and use proper hand protection. It is the responsibility of each facility to identify the areas of work where hand protection is needed. Just as important is the need to provide the correct protection (glove and/or sleeve) for the job. Using the wrong glove can actually increase the risk of a serious injury. Annually, numerous incidents occur where the sleeve gets caught in the point of operation of a machine.

From a financial perspective, a quality glove that is properly maintained can prove to be a sound investment. When selecting the glove to be used, several points need to be considered:

  1. Suitability: Knowing what types of exposures are present is the first consideration. If chemicals are handled, it's apparent that a glove with chemical resistance is needed. When handling objects that have sharp edges, a cut-resistant glove is needed. However, it should be noted that several levels of cut resistance are available.

  2. Proper fit: If the gloves do not fit properly, comfort, dexterity and overall production will be affected. In addition, an oversized glove has a greater chance of getting caught in moving parts on machinery. There have been numerous cases where the severity of an injury has increased from a part of the glove getting caught in machinery.

  3. Proper cuff: The importance of the size and type of cuff on the glove cannot be overlooked when selecting hand protection. When working on or near machinery with moving parts, a glove with a wide or loose-fitting cuff could get caught in the mechanisms and restrict the individual's ability to pull the hand away from the machine. This often occurs when one-size-fits-all types of utility gloves are used.

  4. Comfort: People have to feel that their protective gloves are beneficial to their jobs. It is a known fact that if workers are not comfortable with the gloves they are given, they won't wear them. Most gloves today are designed with comfort in mind; the idea being that if it is comfortable, there is a better chance that the employee will keep it on.

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