Magazine article Corrections Forum

A Comparative Evaluation of Protective Gloves for Law Enforcement and Corrections Applications

Magazine article Corrections Forum

A Comparative Evaluation of Protective Gloves for Law Enforcement and Corrections Applications

Article excerpt

Protective gloves are an important part of the standard personal protective equipment (PPE) law enforcement and corrections officers should wear to avoid risks. These risks may involve bloodborne pathogens, including hepatitis or human immunodeficiency virus (HIV); sharp-edged weapons such as knives or razor blades; and from pointed weapons such as hypodermic needles.

A number of gloves on the market claim to offer various levels of protection against some or all of these threats, but until now there has been no objective evaluation of their protective quality and no way to compare the performance of one manufacturer's glove against another's. Hampering the procurement process in public safety agencies, research on protective gloves has centered primarily on medical or industrial applications, with little focus on the particular needs of law enforcement and corrections professionals.

In response to a request from the Law Enforcement and Corrections Technology Advisory Council (LECTAC,) the Office of Science and Technology of the National Institute of Justice (NIJ) assembled a team from the National Law Enforcement and Corrections Technology Center (NLECTC), to develop a comparative evaluation protocol and a testing program for protective gloves.

NLECTC, a program of NIJ, supervises national comparative evaluation and standards-based testing programs that are conducted by independent laboratories. An important part of NLECTC's mission is to provide objective, independent testing of products to assist law enforcement and corrections agencies to procure safe, reliable equipment.

In the spring of 2000, protective glove manufacturers were invited to submit models of protective gloves for testing in accordance with the requirements of NIJ Test Protocol 99-114. Nine manufactursubmitted a total of 28 glove els to be tested. Two laboratories, Touchstone Research Laboratory, Philadelphia, West Virginia, and TRI/Austin, Inc., Austin, Texas performed the testing. Results provided an overview issues that a law enforcement or corrections agency should consider when selecting a particular type of protective glove.

Agencies can use the ratings to evaluate and compare the performance of particular glove models, focusing on the tests that are applicable to individual department needs. It is important to note, however, that the rating scales of the specific test protocols were designed to test a wide range of protective materials and clothing, including cotton and nylon, for a wide range of industrial applications. Many of the fibers used in protective gloves are similar to the fibers used to make ballistic- and stab-resistant protective vests. Because these fibers have tensile strengths many times higher than steel, the test results are skewed to the high end of the rating scales, sometimes extending beyond the parameters of the High rating.

Because performance requirements and needs may vary greatly between agencies, an agency should place the appropriate weights on those portions of the test data most representative of the protection most essential to your agency's needs. A sample distribution of category weights is shown in Table 2.

The test results may be used in two ways. First, they must be used to determine the model of protective gloves that best meet the needs of your agency. Second, they may be used to adjust the manufacturer's bid price. In each test category, the absolute difference between a glove model and the best scoring glove model is divided by the best glove model's score, resulting in a deviation factor. This factor is then multiplied by a category weight, such as those listed in Table 2, to produce a weighted category score. The total of these weighted scores for a particular glove model is then used to adjust the glove's bid price.

Protection Classes of Gloves

NIJ Test Protocol 99-114 establishes three major rating types for protective gloves:

* Type A, pathogenic resistant (against biohazards)

* Type B, cut resistant (against blades); and

* Type C, puncture resistant (against hypodermic needles). …

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