Tom Kinder, group HSE manager for a food manufacturing company that has several locations employing nearly 300 people in California and Indiana, has a lot of perspective about hand injuries. His current employer is very focused on safety and the reduction of injuries, but his previous employers did not share that focus. One company cared little about hand protection while another invested some resources in protecting workers but not enough.

When Kinder arrived at his current employer, hand injuries were an issue. In 2016, the company had 22 injuries requiring first aid; 12 were hand injuries. The HSE team got corporate buy-in to purchase cut-resistant gloves and to include their wear in the corporate PPE policy.  A hand safety board was created that displayed the four types of gloves – food handling, general work, cut-resistant and chemical handling – to be used by employees and outlined which activity requires each type of glove.

Their efforts have paid off. Hand injuries have been greatly reduced so far in 2017.
Gloves are required for nearly all job tasks (with a few exceptions that are spelled out in the hand protection policy). Hand protection is discussed in tool box talks and safety training, and gloves are available all the time: "Because the one time they can't get them, that creates a lack of trust in our dedication to hand safety," says Kinder. "We don't want to create barriers to compliance."

Trends in Hand Protection

1. Better Dexterity

"Our industry continues to progress with manufacturing of gloves that provide greater dexterity, grip, and cut protection," says Larry Garner, CMO at MCR Safety.

"Yarn suppliers also are creating fibers that help make this possible. Thinner materials with cut-resistant properties are some of our fastest growing product offerings. Enhancements of polymers and impact resistant materials also are being incorporated to provide greater safety and injury reductions."

2. Overprotection

"We've seen a trend in companies leaning towards overprotecting when it comes to hand protection – which can actually be a hindrance to workers," says Steve Genzer, president and general manager, Ansell Industrial Global Business Unit. "For example, many end users choose gloves with high levels of cut resistance when they feel they need more protection and support to get the job done. However, a higher cut level doesn't necessarily translate into better performance and protection – instead you may need more grip to prevent material slippage or improved durability for a longer-lasting PPE product. When selecting hand protection, consider your daily tasks and the specific performance qualities you need from a glove to get the job done right."

3. Comfort "Comfort is critical.

When it comes to cut-resistant safety gloves, high comfort above all defines the qualities that ideally support the free motion, safe grip and natural dexterity of fingers and hand without any restrictions," says Nico Janssen, business manager for high performance textiles at DSM Dyneema. "Many safety gloves still do not provide the levels of comfort expected and needed by workers to perform their jobs efficiently."

4. Awareness of Lack of Global Standards

There is a rising interest in gloves that provide impact protection in industrial applications. Impact injuries account for almost half of all hand-related injuries in the oil and gas space.

But, says Rodney Taylor, sales and marketing manager for industrial PPE at D30, "In North America, there are really no government-mandated performance standards in place like we see in some other regions of the world with large-volume PPE consumption. The result is that safety professionals are faced with the daunting task of wading through thousands of different products – all with different performance claims – to select the appropriate PPE for their workers."

5. Multi-Hazard Protection

"As a manufacturer, we do a lot of customization," says Sarah Anderson, from the Magid Global Product Strategy Team. "Customers come to us looking for a single-glove solution to multiple problems. We recently had a customer who was using a heat-protecting glove to handle high-temperature aluminum, but who still had workers suffering crush and cut injuries. Their first hazard was heat, but they also needed to guard against impacts and cuts. We were able to modify their glove to give them complete protection.

6. Revised Standards and Innovation

"Both the U.S. and EU hand protection standards were revised in the past 12 months: ANSI/ISEA 105-2016 and EN 388: 2016. Both contain significant revisions specific to the classification of cut resistance," says Andy Olson, product director at Ergodyne.

"Advancements in glove materials continue to drive innovation in the hand protection category. Manufacturers continue to develop gloves that provide increased protection from hazards such as cut, puncture and abrasion without compromising dexterity, flexibility and hand function. In addition, materials that allow for the operation of a tablet or smartphone can be integrated into a glove's overall design so gloves can remain on (and hands remain protected)."