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Gloves, Hand Safety, and Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)

Before you read this article take a quick moment to consider your hands. They're the only two hands you'll ever have. Look at your palms, your fingers, and your miraculous thumb, the evolutionary digit that makes so much of what we do possible. Without a thumb you can't tie your shoes, you can't open a door and you can't play the violin. The point is, take good care of your fingers and hands and they'll take good care of you.

What is PPE? And What Does It Mean for Hand Safety?

Personal Protective Equipment is the "gear" that allows you to safely do your job. Personal Protective Equipment, when used correctly, protects your fingers and hands from all sorts of things: absorption of harmful substances, chemical or thermal burns, electrical dangers, bruises, abrasions, cuts, punctures, fractures and amputations.

Hand safety is much more evolved and thought out than simply grabbing a pair of leather gloves. Personal Protective Equipment requires specificity. What job will you be doing? What hazards will you face? What chemicals will you be working with? How long will your hands be exposed to the chemicals? What kind of gloves will you need for the task you're trying to perform?

Personal Protective Equipment is not the first line of protection: Personal Protective Equipment IS YOUR LAST LINE OF PROTECTION! There are three legs to the Personal Protective Equipment risk management process: training, engineering and work practice controls, and Personal Protective Equipment.. What's important with all Personal Protective Equipment for hand safety is that the pair of gloves you use must be compatible with the task at hand. Leather gloves, a go-to staple for industrial workers, are surprisingly not very cut resistant. A cotton knit glove can sometimes be a better choice for hand safety.

And while hand safety is a small piece of the Personal Protective Equipment pie, practicing hand safety can still have a significant impact on costs. Every year there are 110,000 days of missed work because of hand and finger lacerations. This injury figure is second only to back strain and sprain injury, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). The average hand injury claim has now exceeded $6,000, with each lost-time workers' compensation claim reaching almost $7,500, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics and the National Safety Council.

Specialized Gloves for Hand Hazard Protection

There are more kinds of Personal Protective Equipment gloves than you can possibly imagine: reflective gloves, neoprene gloves, Kevlar gloves, rubber gloves, dust-free gloves, heat resistant gloves, fabrication gloves, lead lined cotton gloves, PVC gloves. One industrial glove maker claims to make 1,800 different kinds of gloves!

What Job? What Gloves?

There are many kinds of gloves that fall into the category of Personal Protective Equipment. The nature of the hazard and the operation involved will affect your glove choice. The range of potential occupational hand injuries makes selecting the right pair of gloves challenging. The gloves you use need to be appropriate to the job you'll be doing. A Liberty Mutual Research Institute for Safety study found that wearing gloves reduces hand injury risk by 60 percent.

Consider, for example, the range of exposure your hands could possibly have. Are chemicals involved? What kind of contact will the job require? Will there be immersion? Splashes? How long will the chemical contact be? How much of your hands and arms will be exposed? What are the grip requirements for your task?

Gloves should be specifically designed for the hazards and tasks found in their workplace because gloves designed for one function may not protect against a different function even though they may appear to be an appropriate protective device. These are the types of questions you have to ask. Here's a quick overview of what's available.

Leather, Canvas or Metal Mesh Gloves provide protection against cuts and burns. Leather or canvass gloves also protect against sustained heat.

  • Leather gloves protect against sparks, moderate heat, blows, chips and rough objects
  • Aluminized gloves provide reflective and insulating protection against heat and require an insert made of synthetic materials to protect against heat and cold
  • Aramid fiber gloves protect against heat and cold, are cut- and abrasive-resistant and wear well
  • Synthetic gloves of various materials offer protection against heat and cold, are cut- and abrasive-resistant and may withstand some diluted acids. These materials do not stand up against alkalis and solvents.

Fabric and Coated Fabric Gloves

Fabric and coated fabric gloves are made of cotton or other fabric to provide varying degrees of protection.

  • Fabric gloves protect against dirt, slivers, chafing and abrasions. They do not provide sufficient protection for use with rough, sharp or heavy materials. Adding a plastic coating will strengthen some fabric gloves.
  • Coated fabric gloves are normally made from cotton flannel with napping on one side. By coating the unnapped side with plastic, fabric gloves are transformed into general-purpose hand protection offering slip-resistant qualities. These gloves are used for tasks ranging from handling bricks and wire to chemical laboratory containers. When selecting gloves to protect against chemical exposure hazards, always check with the manufacturer or review the manufacturer's product literature to determine the gloves' effectiveness against specific workplace chemicals and conditions.

Chemical- and Liquid-Resistant Gloves

Chemical-resistant gloves are made with different kinds of rubber: natural, butyl, neoprene, nitrile and fluorocarbon (viton); or various kinds of plastic: polyvinyl chloride (PVC), polyvinyl alcohol and polyethylene. These materials can be blended or laminated for better performance. As a general rule, the thicker the glove material, the greater the chemical resistance but thick gloves may impair grip and dexterity, having a negative impact on safety.

Care of Protective Gloves

If you need to wear Personal Protective Equipment such as gloves, make sure they're in good condition each time you wear them. You can test rubber gloves for pinhole leaks by filling them with water and rolling the cuff towards the fingers. Stiff, discolored gloves may mean the gloves are damaged by chemicals. Damaged gloves should be discarded and replaced. Reuse of chemical-resistant gloves should be evaluated carefully, taking into consideration the absorptive qualities of the gloves.

What Are Common Hand Dangers?

  • Hands can be crushed from manually shifting heavy products whilst on rollers or slings.
  • Fingers can be crushed between moving products and stationery objects.
  • Lacerations from sharp edges on moving and stationary plant and products.
  • Burns to hands and forearms from exposure to hazardous substances and materials
  • Fractures to fingers and wrist: from the incorrect use of tools

Be mindful of doing the task required, safely, by:

  • Following all safety instructions at work sites and ensuring you're focused on the task before you
  • Being aware of moving parts of machinery where you can get your hands or fingers caught or crushed. These should have a protective barrier or guarding.
  • Being aware that moving heavy materials manually by hand requires extreme caution.
  • Using gloves if you have been provided with them.
  • Always using two hands when operating power tools and ensure that they are the right power tools for the task. If not, obtain the right power tool from the client before commencing the task.
  • Avoid washing your hands with solvents, harsh soaps or abrasives
  • Avoid wearing loose clothing or jewelry which can get caught in moving parts

All injuries are preventable! At Graphic Products we make the signs and labels that support and promote workplace safety. To learn more about Personal Protective Equipment and keeping your fingers and hands safe give us a call at 1-888-326-9244. Our safety labeling materials can helps keep workers safe, and our trained representatives would be pleased to guide you.

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