When we consider discussions on personal protective equipment (PPE), we typically focus heavily on safety glasses and hard hats. Steel-toed boots find their place at the conversation table as well; however, gloves seem to refrain from carrying an equal level of importance.
The irony is that this should not be the case. Hand injuries are quite prevalent in the workplace. This is not just exclusive to cuts and scrapes. Additionally, employees can experience puncture wounds, chemical burns, skin irritation, exposure to biological agents, and even hot and cold weather can provide ill effects. While the potential range of injuries might seem rather large, simply gloving up can be a proactive preventative.
Making the Correct Selection
The only possible way that a pair of gloves can provide adequate protection is by wearing them. They provide no use sitting in the toolbox or even in an employee’s pocket. They must be donned, but before that occurs, the proper gloves must be selected. Much like the saying, “the right tool for the job,” gloves are designed for specific job purposes and must be selected in accordance with that notion.
Gloves come in different materials and styles to provide the most protection possible. Leather gloves should be used to protect against cuts and abrasions, such as when handling a grinder. Cut-resistant gloves are fabricated from both natural and synthetic fibers and can protect the hands from lacerations.
Chemical-resistant gloves should be used when handling chemicals. Depending on the makeup, employees can select the correct glove type made from latex, nitrile, rubber, and even synthetic material. For those uncertain of how to make the correct selection, referring to the chemical’s SDS can provide the needed information.
Great progress has been made in glove design and fabrication. Repeated exposure to vibrating machinery can cause nerve damage in the hands. Employees can avoid this by utilizing anti-vibration gloves. Employees working in freezing climates or handling material exposed to extreme heat can glove up with insulated gloves to prevent incidents and injuries.
The commitment to safety does not cease with just wearing gloves. It must continue with taking responsibility in exercising proper care to ensure they function correctly. If they become defective, they cannot provide the function for which they are intended, and they can actually lead to potential injury.
A big component of correctly maintaining gloves is simply exercising the proper care. They should be cleaned properly. Additionally, employees should refrain from exposing gloves to elements they are not designed to handle. For instance, exposing leather gloves to acid does the hands and the gloves more harm than any potential good.
Gloves should be stored properly. Employees should refrain from crumpling them up and throwing them into the bottom of the toolbox. They should be laid out and allowed to air dry. They should also be kept out of direct sunlight. UV rays can break down glove material and stitching.
Managing the Program
Glove safety should actually be one of the more simple safety programs to manage and follow. Gloves do not typically permit the same level of irritation as found with individuals wearing hardhats and safety glasses. They are more likely to be worn as long as they are provided.
According to OSHA 1910.138, employers must provide hand protection to their employees for tasks that could produce hazards. Additionally, the type will be determined by the job being performed. This definitely proves beneficial to the employee. The right glove for the job at hand should always be available. Employees avoid the responsibility of cost and procurement. They just need to wear them.
From a differing vantage point, the employer can find reassurance in avoiding hand injuries by enabling the use of hand protection. An employee can find peace in knowing that its employees who handle mineral spirits will be adequately protected when donning the correct gloves made available at all times.
The issue develops when one side does not live up to its end of the bargain. For employees falling short of taking advantage of the hand protection being offered, a course of action can mirror that enacted when compliance becomes lacking with other safety programs. Through coaching, mentoring, and interactive training, both the employer and the employee can find common ground and compliance. At the end of the day, both lead to a safe working experience, with each person returning home safely to their families.
Nick Vaccaro is a freelance writer and photographer. Besides providing technical writing services, he is an HSE consultant in the oil and gas industry with nine years of experience. He also contributes to Louisiana Sportsman Magazine and Masonry Magazine. Nick has a BA in Photojournalism from Loyola University and resides in the New Orleans area. 210-240-7188 Nick@shalemag.com