The importance of ergonomically designed gloves

Why is it important to use gloves with an ergonomic design? What features should workers look for in ergonomically designed hand protection products?

Answered by Tom Votel, president and CEO, Ergodyne, St. Paul, MN.

When workers' hands are tired and sore, more stress is put on other parts of the body. That can quickly lead to reduced productivity, injuries and a whole lot of unhappy campers.

Gloves specifically designed to fit workplace conditions and job demands can fight back, reducing hand fatigue, musculoskeletal disorders, repetitive motion injuries, hand-arm vibration syndrome (HAVS or "white finger") and other jobsite injuries.

We all know you need the right tool to get the job done. Choosing the right glove is no different. Wearing a flimsy cloth glove when operating power tools is as effective as using a wire cutter on a framing job.

Today, companies are designing ergonomically minded, application-specific gloves with materials and design features that protect workers' hands on the job – no matter how tough or merciless the environment. So what features should workers look for?

It starts with fit. Gloves that are too small can restrict movement and blood flow, while gloves that are too large can reduce finger dexterity. Bottom line: workers will take off gloves that don't fit and aren't comfortable, throwing out any chance of protection and safety.

Using a glove with the proper grip reduces the need for extra force or adjustments to body posture, eliminating additional stress to muscles and joints. Workers exposed to wet conditions should choose gloves with PVC grip zones on the palms and fingers textured for abrasion resistance and wet grip enhancement. Tacky silicone-tread grip zones are best for handling dry, smooth surfaces.

Workers who need high levels of dexterity need a glove with customized finger configurations to meet their needs, from full-fingered gloves for work in rough spots, to a three-quarter finger for small-parts work, to gloves with the touch control needed to measure and mark saw cuts. The four-way stretch in spandex provides a full range of movement for optimal dexterity, and reinforced thumbs, forefingers and knuckles protect hands from injury at key stress points.

Workers who regularly operate dangerously vibrating pneumatic, hydraulic, electrical or gasoline-powered hand tools are especially at risk of injury. According to NIOSH, of the 1.5 million to 2 million U.S. workers exposed to hand-arm vibration risks, as many as 50 percent will develop HAVS-related symptoms as early as one to two years after initial exposure.

But workers do not have to get knocked around. Vibration-reducing gloves designed with gel polymer-injected cushions in the palm, fingers and thumb can protect against harmful vibrations to the hand. It is important to always choose anti-vibration gloves certified to the ANSI S3.40/ISO 10819 vibration-reducing standard.

Cold storage and outdoor workers need gloves that are waterproof and windproof. Some gloves use a Hipora waterproof liner that provides breathable protection from wet conditions. The micropores in Hipora are small enough to seal out water but large enough to allow moisture and warmth to escape. For cold protection, gloves with 3M Thinsulate insulation can balance warmth with dexterity.

Post a comment to this article

Safety+Health welcomes comments that promote respectful dialogue. Please stay on topic. Comments that contain personal attacks, profanity or abusive language – or those aggressively promoting products or services – will be removed. We reserve the right to determine which comments violate our comment policy. (Anonymous comments are welcome; merely skip the “name” field in the comment box. An email address is required but will not be included with your comment.)