Hand cuts are one of the most common work injuries in the trades, but luckily, they’re also one of the most preventable. “Hand injuries are the number-one preventable accident in the workplace,” says Shane Nider, hand safety specialist with Superior Glove. “Most hand injuries really take place when the glove is not on the hand. So just by having the glove on the hand reduces the probability of a hand injury, and then from there its about choosing the right PPE for the application.” Gloves should be part of a company hand safety program aiming to reduce hand cut injuries. There’s a wide range of gloves available on the market today in a variety of materials and palm coatings that are designed specifically for certain tasks, and that offer the right amount of protection while remaining dexterous enough for finer work.
“Hand protection has really made leaps and bounds over the last few years, the innovation into some of the yarns, the technology products are more dexterous, they’re lighter, they’re more breathable, they’re less cumbersome, but the performance levels are going up through innovation and technology,” says Nider
The right performance rating
Most manufacturers assign a performance rating to PPE, and gloves are no exception. The ANSI Standard for glove ratings uses a scale from one to nine, which refers to the protection level from different hazards, including cuts, punctures, impact, abrasion, heat and cold, with higher numbers generally indicating higher performance.
“But we don’t want to over protect, because there’s some drawbacks with that,” says Nider. “The products can be a little bit cumbersome, and they just may not be practical for that work. So, it’s really about finding the right glove for the application.” Nider adds that no glove is 100-per cent cut or puncture proof, but are instead rated for resistance level. The gauge of gloves indicates stitches per inch – the higher the gauge the thinner the glove.
Perform a hazard assessment
An assessment of on-the-job hand cut hazards will help determine the amount of hand protection workers need. “Level four, I would say is the sweet spot in construction,” says Nider, “but nothing is going to supersede doing a proper hazard assessment, because every work environment is different.” He says level four gloves usually offer flexibility and dexterity, and are good for multiple tasks in construction and maintenance, site cleanup and material handling, while level five is good for box cutting and general HVAC work. “At the top level of the spectrum, a seven to a nine, that’s going to be your high risk, the highest extreme cut that you can see,” he says. “So, HVAC applications where you might be doing ductwork or handling sheet metal. If you have a very dynamic environment, and you’ve got a lot of different applications from low moderate to high risk, you might need two or three different options and you may need to change those gloves based on that application.”
Get employees on board
Ultimately, Nider says the right glove is the glove that employees will actually wear, because if they don’t allow workers to do their job, they’ll take them off. “And that’s where we usually see hand injuries take place,” says Nider, adding that today’s gloves are made with technology in mind, so workers aren’t required to remove gloves to operate a touchscreen or scroll through instructions on their tablets.
“If you’re looking at building a hand safety program, we always recommend engaging your employees. You’ve got to have them as part of the process or you might get pushback,” says Nider. “So one of the biggest things when it comes to buy in with employees is their consideration. They’re the ones doing the tasks day in and day out, so have a consultation making them part of the process. Most employees can tell you within an hour if the glove is going to work for their applications.”