When we think of personal protection equipment, most people immediately think of goggles, glasses, earmuffs, hard hats, etc. While gloves have been around for a long time and assist us in many daily tasks, we tend to not put enough emphasis on actually protecting hands and fingers in the workplace.
The Right Glove for the Right Job
In the majority of hand and finger injuries reported in a study conducted by OSHA, gloves played a role, just not the right one. One problem that comes up quite often is that hand protection being worn is not appropriate for the job being performed. For example, when working with sharp edges, thinner fabric type gloves might not offer the necessary protection such a job would warrant. For these tasks, you might need leather materials or something even tougher(see these gloves for example). Likewise, certain gloves may actually increase the risk of injury if they fit improperly or limit dexterity. In some cases, such as when operating certain types of machinery, it may be preferable to not even wear gloves at all. This is usually true when a machine has pinch points that may. catch on loose glove material and draw the hand in. These situations create the most gruesome, debilitating, and costly of hand injuries.
Coverage is Key
When purchasing hand protection for yourself or members of the workforce, it’s important to make sure that the gloves are practical for the job. Don’t limit movement with gloves that go all the up the arm if they don’t need too. In the same way, gloves that protect well but don’t cover enough skin can be dangerous when working with chemicals or hot substances. In most cases, OSHA will have recommendations for hand protection based on your specific industry or job position. Following these guidelines is not only a good way to make sure that all of your employees are safe, but it will also show, in the case that there is an incident, that you did your due diligence to seek out and provide proper equipment.
In many cases, gloves protect indirectly against injury by allowing for a better grip on materials, guard rails, and more. This helps protect against situations like dropping objects. In addition to the thickness of the glove, think about how grip will play a role in what the worker will be doing while wearing the gloves. Sometimes a hybrid approach is best. In lumber yards, many workers wear gloves that are thick enough to protect against cuts and splinters, but have a rubberized palm and fingers to maintain a level of flexibility and grip while carrying boards and other materials.
Compliance is Important
One of the biggest problems with any safety equipment is compliance. When it comes to gloves, a lot of this comes down to comfort. Make sure that you have multiple sizes and maybe even styles available for your workers. The glove should act as a natural extension of the arm/hand and if it feels too bulky or uncomfortable nobody is going to want to wear them. Ask your employees to help you pick out the gloves themselves, involving them in the process not only gives them a say but also will help employees be happy with the choice of protective gear later on.
In summary, just make sure that hand protection doesn’t fall by the wayside by holding it up to the same standards as eye protection, etc. Make sure that employees are involved in the selection/buying process, triple check that the gloves you get are up to par for the job they’ll be used in, and always replace worn out equipment to ensure proper safety!
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