Hand injuries can be serious and costly for both employees and employers. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, there are 250,000 serious injuries to fingers, hands and wrists each year. Hand injuries are the second most injured body part that leads to days away from work (back injuries are number one) with an average of 6 lost work days per year.
Work-related hand and wrist injuries amount to $740 million per year in emergency room costs and the average hand injury claim has exceeded $6,000, with individual workers’ compensation claims reaching nearly $7,500, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics and National Safety Council.
Hands are two of the most valuable and widely used tools in the workplace and proper protection is essential to ensure they remain safe from on-the-job hazards. When developing your glove safety program there are five important steps you must take:
- Perform a Proper PPE Hazard Analysis
- Know the Different Types of Gloves for Each Specific Job
- Ensure Gloves Fit Properly and That Employees Are Wearing Them Correctly
- Inspect Gloves and Perform Proper Maintenance
- Stay up to Date on Changing Standards and Regulations
1) PPE Hazard Analysis – Aligning the Type of Glove to the Hazard at Hand
An important step in proper glove selection is to perform a proper PPE hazard analysis. This analysis determines which hazards exist in your facility and helps determine which gloves are necessary for the specific risks your employees face. When selecting the proper glove be sure to consider grip requirements, size and comfort and abrasion/resistance requirements.
2) Different Types of Gloves and Their Applications
When it comes to choosing a safety glove, there is much to consider and it is important to remember that no single glove can protect against all hazards or substances. Gloves are designed to protect hands from specific hazards and it is essential that employers and employees know which gloves are suitable for their tasks. Proper glove selection is important to remain compliant with OSHA and to protect workers from injury.
Innovations in glove materials and technology have resulted in the creation of a wide variety of gloves that can be used in many different ways. There are gloves designed to resist chemicals, protect from cuts, guard against electric shock and other hazards. Gloves made to protect from the cold and heat and gloves and reinforced coated gloves for added protection and other applications.
3) Importance of Ensuring the Proper Fit and Use
After the gloves have been selected and hazards have been identified it is important to get employees involved in the process and let them test out the gloves for themselves. If workers believe that the gloves slow them down or are uncomfortable they will be less likely to wear them. In fact, 70 percent of workers who experienced hand injuries were not wearing gloves and those injured who did wear gloves were either not wearing the proper glove or wearing it incorrectly. Wearing the proper glove is one of the most effective hand protection safety programs a company can have. In fact, wearing any glove reduces the risk of hand injury by 27 percent, according to OSHA.
This stat illustrates the importance of ensuring the proper fit. To do this you should take the time to measure new employee’s hands for gloves and measure again whenever safety gloves are replaced. To find the correct size use a tape measure (in inches) and measure the width of your dominant hand from the base of your fist finger and across your knuckles. Use a sizing table if needed to translate between letter (S, M, L, XL) and numbers as manufacturers use both to indicate size.
In addition to identifying the proper size, it is important for employees to try on the gloves and see how they feel. If the glove feels cumbersome or decreases dexterity or is too constrictive and causes perspiration it is not the correct fit. Properly fitted work gloves should feel comfortable while allowing for maximum dexterity without compromising protection. When gloves fit properly employees become comfortable wearing them and are less likely to find excuses not to wear them.
4) Regularly Inspect and Perform Proper Glove Maintenance
Once the proper fit has been determined and the correct glove has been selected it is important to perform regular inspections to avoid glove failure. In some cases, gloves will only last for a few days (varies depending on the type of glove and material) and cleaning certain types of gloves is not always practical or cost effective.
If gloves can be cleaned it is important that the laundering process removes all contaminants while maintaining the integrity of the gloves. Another way to prevent glove failure is to use a change out schedule which minimizes overuse of a single pair of gloves. Inspections should take place prior to gloves being used and they should be immediately replaced if any damage or degradation is found.
5) Stay up to Date on Changing Standards
Another area employers and employees must stay up to date on are changing standards and regulations from OSHA and other regulatory bodies. It is important to understand what is required in order to remain compliant while also protecting employees.
One recent example is the updated changes to the ANSI Cut Level scale. The new method for establishing cut levels in the United States is called ASTM F2992-15. This method provides expanded classification levels and has established a 9-level scale. This new scale is expressed as A1-A9 and covers 0-6,000 grams and higher of cut resistance.
These new levels are more specific than the former guide which was represented as only a 5-level scale. An example of this additional detail is that the old cut level 4 (which ranged from 1500 grams – 3500 grams) is now covered under three separate levels rather than one. These changes are designed to help PPE buyers identify the correct level of cut resistance for their specific needs.
A Perfect Fit: Putting Together a Proper Glove Safety Program
As you can see there are many factors to consider when putting together an effective glove safety program. First, you should perform a PPE hazard analysis to identify what hazards exist in your workplace and which gloves will best protect your employees. Secondly, you have to understand the types of gloves that are available and what they are meant to be used for. Third, you need to ensure that the gloves you have selected properly fit your employee’s hands and that they are wearing them correctly. Once gloves are in use you should regularly inspect them to protect against glove failure. Lastly, you need to stay up to date on changing standards and regulations to ensure you remain compliant.
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Have a Safe Day!