Magazine article Occupational Hazards

Reducing Hand Injuries Goes beyond 'Putting on Gloves'

Magazine article Occupational Hazards

Reducing Hand Injuries Goes beyond 'Putting on Gloves'

Article excerpt

Recent reports indicate that more than 25 percent of all workplace accidents involve hand and finger injuries--with each disabling hand injury costing as much as $26,000. The objective of any personal protective equipment (PPE) program is to provide solutions that significantly reduce recordable and non-recordable hand injuries and their associated costs.

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As a first step in reducing hand injuries, manufacturers should thoroughly assess their operations and examine glove usage throughout the plant to determine potential opportunities for improvement. The assessment process also may help the manufacturer identify best practices that can be implemented throughout the facility and across multiple sites. The manufacturer may choose to conduct this type of assessment with a glove provider partner that has the necessary resources, quantifiable documentation and follow-up to help assure the safety program's success.

Worker safety goes beyond employees "just putting on gloves." It involves identifying critical application factors, training employees about proper glove use, providing workers with adequate access to glove products, and considering how any changes will impact worker productivity.

Comfort and Task Appropriateness

In a study conducted by the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), statistics revealed that 70 percent of the workers who suffered hand injuries in manufacturing operations were not wearing gloves. Hand injuries among the remaining 30 percent occurred because hand protection was inadequate, damaged or misapplied.

The results of this study would seem to indicate that workers either have not been sufficiently trained on the proper use of hand protection, or the product that was supplied to them did not meet the job requirements, resulting in potential decrease in productivity. The most common problem, however, often related to the real and perceived comfort of the gloves. Studies show that workers may change out gloves that are uncomfortable up to five times each day. Donning or removing gloves will require workers to leave the line, which will increase downtime.

Several factors contribute to glove comfort, including fit, flexibility, dexterity and tactile sensitivity. Each of these factors will directly impact a worker's acceptance and how well the individual can perform his or her job tasks.

Conversely, gloves that are bulky or too loose impair the worker's dexterity, slow productivity and can be hazardous when worn near certain equipment. Gloves that are too large are also more likely to fall off the worker's hands.

The "right" glove for the task will be designed specifically for the application. Gloves are available, for example, with special patterns or embossed designs to improve worker grip on wet, smooth or slippery objects. Gloves are also offered that provide high levels of cut resistance and protection from extreme heat and cold, chemicals and electrical shock.

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Advancements within the industrial sector such as increased automation and improved equipment have changed the environments that workers are exposed to and altered the risks that they face. These changes have led to alternative glove materials that offer greater comfort and a higher level of protection. Gloves were recently introduced, for example, that incorporate KEVLAR[R] stretch armor technology, combining light-weight construction with superior cut resistance and dexterity to protect workers in glass, metal and plastic applications. …

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