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Are you wearing the right glove?

23 January 2013

James Arrowsmith discusses the importance of hand protection assessment surveys and how they can help you to select the best glove for the job Apuncture wound from an infected needle, a cut from a sharp piece of metal

James Arrowsmith discusses the importance of hand protection assessment surveys and how they can help you to select the best glove for the job

Apuncture wound from an infected needle, a cut from a sharp piece of metal or a skin disease contracted from handling toxic substances are just some of the hazards that workers, in a number of industries, face on a day-to-day basis. Hand protection may not be top of the list of priorities when considering PPE because hand injuries are not life threatening, however they can still seriously affect a worker's way of life and ability to work, ultimately costing the employer in down time or worse, a costly insurance claim.

To ensure that workers are properly protected, it is important that employers make sure that they are purchasing appropriate, good quality hand protection. Although purchasing cheap, inferior hand protection will initially seem like a cost effective option, sub standard products will ultimately leave workers exposed and at risk from serious injuries that could stop them from working.

Injuries can also occur when businesses oversimplify the hand protection selection process and choose an 'all in one' solution, when in most instances different tasks require different levels and types of hand protection. Potential savings can also be overlooked when selecting hand protection as managers and employers may choose hand protection products that have been over-specified for straightforward tasks where simpler, more cost effective options may be available.

The working environment is constantly evolving, introducing new hazards and potential risks that require the use of PPE.

These changes in applications force manufacturers to continually invent new forms of PPE, using new materials and innovative designs. This constant innovation means that the PPE market is flooded with products that all claim to protect the worker against a range of hazards and can make the selection process confusing. But with so many different types of hand protection on the market that protect against a range of hazards, how do you go about choosing the correct product for the job?

Assessment survey To help simplify the selection process, a hand protection assessment survey provides a comprehensive report on the most appropriate specifications of hand and arm protection for each task being undertaken. There are a number of reasons why companies carry out a hand protection assessment survey, including a change in a process or procedure, an unacceptable level of injuries to workers or as part of an annual safety assessment.

A hand protection assessment survey indentifies a number of factors including: the working environment, the task or application, the hazard and how it might be the cause of injury or harm and how likely is it that the worker will sustain an injury. It also looks specifically at hand protection requirements such as: the level of flexibility; dexterity and dry grip required; does it need to provide grip in wet or oily conditions; does the hand protection need to be water resistant; does the worker need protection against cuts, abrasions, punctures and/or needles? It is also vital that the survey studies the more specialist requirements such as protection against heat, flames, chemical immersion, vibration and cold. The results are then compiled and a suitable specification of hand protection is identified in a comprehensive report.

Product trial Once the survey has been carried out and the correct specification of hand protection identified, a product trial is recommended. This can be an effective way of including employees in the selection of hand protection. Not only do trials involve workers directly in an initiative that will directly affect them, it can also help overcome any pre-formed objections they might have to wearing the gloves.

It is important to make sure that employees are satisfied with the hand protection that has been provided, otherwise many will abandon their gloves, either because they are uncomfortable, inhibit movement or they experience hand fatigue. This problem usually occurs when workers have not been consulted following a product trial or if the gloves have not been fitted correctly. It is also important that employees understand the importance of wearing and maintaining protective gloves and the problems that could occur if they are not worn.

James Arrowsmith is business development manager at Polyco.