Hand Protection 101

By Joshua Lipsky, Senior Editor

On the production line, time equals money. Selecting the proper protective glove can reduce the amount of time lost on the line from hand-related injuries.

In 1994, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) began mandating better hand protection for workers to curb the rise in the number of injuries in U.S. businesses. In a recent Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) Work Injury Report study, 9,566 hand, wrist, and finger injuries were reported, out of a total of 40,153 disabling work injuries within the agriculture sector. These hand and finger injuries cost businesses an average of $6,427 per injury in medial and insurance expenses — and those are just the injuries that are reported, the BLS study says. Every time a worker leaves a station to receive minor medical attention, that costs anywhere from $100 to $500 in lost production time, administrative costs, and first aid expenses.
When OSHA examined the data collected by the BLS report, they found two main causes for hand injuries: personal protective equipment was not being worn, or, when some type of hand protection was worn, it did not fully protect the workers. OSHA found that 70 percent of the workers who reported hand injuries were not wearing gloves, and the hand injuries to the remaining 30 percent of the workers who were wearing gloves were caused by the gloves being either inadequate, damaged, or the wrong type for the hazard present.
OSHA also found that 10 percent of all injuries in the poultry processing industry are a result of cuts and lacerations. One of the main contributors to these injuries is a lack of quality personal protective equipment. OSHA relays that personal protective equipment issues include: equipment, such as cut-resistant gloves, are not provided by the employer, or used by the employee; cut-resistant gloves are not cut-proof, while the gloves offer protection from some cuts, they do not completely eliminate the potential for cuts; and gloves provided are cut-resistant, but the characteristics of the gloves are not appropriate for the job (i.e., a regular size glove where a gauntlet type glove should be used).
As a result of these findings, OHSA published a new rule, 1910.138, which requires that employers select, and workers use, appropriate hand protection. “OSHA believes that the revised standards will result in improvements in worker acceptance of wearing personal protective equipment by allowing better and more comfortable designs not presently permitted by the current standards,” OSHA stated upon the publication of 1910.138.
The rule also identifies some of the types of hazards for which hand protection must be worn. These include hand hazards and potential hazards from skin absorption of harmful substances, severe cuts or abrasions, punctures, chemical burns, thermal burns, and temperature extremes. OSHA estimates that full compliance with its rule on hand protection will prevent about 712,000 lost workdays and four fatalities per year.
Choosing the Right Material
When determining what type of glove to outfit your line employees with, it is vital to match the material used with the job responsibilities. In addition to the typical Jersey or cut and sewn nitrile gloves, the primary “heavy-duty” materials used to make gloves are wire mesh or chain mail.
“Our saw cutters have used wire mesh gloves for as long as we’ve been in business,” explains Peter Bozzo, director of operations for Chicago-based Chicago Meat Authority. “They are a heavier and more laborious glove to use, but they provide excellent protection. The bulk of our hand-related injuries occur to our saw cutters, but on their off-hand. It’s near impossible to hold a saw with a mesh glove on, so many of our saw cutters weren’t wearing gloves on their off hand, and occasionally their hands would slide down the knife resulting in injury. Now they wear a kevlar glove on their off hand, and that really has minimized the incidences of injury.”
One thing operators should be made aware of is the porous nature of wire mesh gloves. Don Graham, president of Chesterfield, MO-based Graham Sanitary Design Co., says wire-mesh gloves do not do a very good job at protecting the products from the bacteria on the cutters’ hands. Graham advises wearing a vinyl glove underneath the wire-mesh glove to help prevent the spread of bacteria.
Joe Rucco, vice president of operations for Collingswood, NJ-based Catelli Brothers, equips his cutters with either a metal-mesh or cloth-mesh glove depending on the work required. Regardless of the type of glove worn, all cutters wear a nylon glove outerlayer.
“Worker safety is important, but so is food safety,” Rucco explains. “You cannot afford to sacrifice one for the other.”
At Fredericksburg, PA-based College Hill Poultry, Chief Operating Officer Billy Robinson equips different line workers with different gloves. The majority of the workers on the line wear nylon gloves; however, those working on the evisceration line wear a chain-mesh glove.
“The evisceration line is where we wear the heavy-duty gloves,” Robinson explains. “The evisceration line is where all the really aggressive cutting is done. We have ninety-one birds per minute going through the line and we have to be sure that our workers have the best possible protection.”
While it is necessary to properly equip line workers with the best protection available, there is the potential problem of over-protection. Kevin Pentz, vice president and general manager for plant operations for Arkansas City, KS-based Creekstone Farms says that the danger lies in placing such emphasis on protection that you begin to sacrifice comfort.
“We used to equip our heavy cutters with real serious kevlar gloves,” Pentz explains. “They provided really excellent cut and puncture protection, but they would bunch up and create comfort issues. And we’re not talking comfort for the sake of comfort, there were stress, circulation, and carpal tunnel problems.”
Pentz says that they have since switched to chain-mail gloves for those employees; however, there is room for improvement.
“Chain mail provides great protection, but they are too heavy,” he explains. “Titanium is the perfect weight, but it is too expensive. There are some great kevlar/plastic blends, but those blends aren’t commercially available yet.”
What’s out There
Suppliers contributing to this article include:
• Ansell, phone (732) 345-2188, satkinson@ansell.com, www.ansell.com
• Best Manufacturing, phone (706) 862-2302, markwheeler@bestglove.com, www.bestglove.com
• Performance Fabrics, phone (616) 975-7914, dgelpke@sbcglobal.net, www.hexarmor.com
• RefrigiWear, phone (800) 645-3744, jrobertson@trevelinogroup.com, www.regrigiwear.com
Glove manufacturers continue to introduce gloves that feature improved puncture resistance and increased comfort.
Grand Rapids, MI-based Performance Fabrics has just introduced its line of HexArmor FingerArmor. The FingerArmor is designed to be worn on two or three fingers and is worn under any latex, vinyl, nitrile, or poly glove. There are two different types of gloves in the line: FingerArmor Heavy Duty, which features two finger, front, and back coverage and has 3,400 grams cut resistance; and FingerArmor 3 Finger Heavy Duty, which features three finger, front and back coverage and has 3,400 grams cut resistance. Performance Fabrics also recently introduced its HexClaw Butcher’s Gloves. The gloves are dual sided and puncture resistant. The palm is made of flexible gripping material, and it has 5,000 grams cut resistance on back of hand and 3,200 grams cut resistance on the palm.
Red Bank, NJ-based Ansell unveiled its line of ScanSafe detectable gloves earlier this year. The ScanSafe line incorporates materials that can be detected by conventional metal scanners, so if knife cuts or abrasions leave glove particles in food products, the contamination can be detected before it becomes a quality problem.
“ScanSafe will support HACCP pertaining to the physical and biological protection of food products,” explains Scott Atkinson, business development manager of foodservice and food processing markets at Ansell. The materials and process used to manufacture ScanSafe gloves allow glove particles to be detected at normal processing speeds of 90 to 100 feet per minute. The gloves have a differentiated green color that assures employees are using the right glove for quality critical processes.
Menlo, GA-based Best Manufac-turing has added three new gloves to its catalog. Best has combined the superior cut-resistance and comfort of its D-flex with a rugged, yet suede-like leather palm to produce the Sarge. The Sarge’s core gives workers superior cut protection with a special patented wrapping process using synthetic fibers. Best’s T-Flex is the highest rated cut-resistant glove in the lightest weight available. The T-Flex is a 15-guage seamless knit, lightweight glove offering superior touch and tactile sensitivity for handling of sharp tool parts and jagged-edged metal or glass. The RealFeel glove incorporates a unique “stretch” formulation and form-fitting comfort. The RealFeel provides comfortable hand protection, and it is offered in a lightly powdered, powder-free, and a medically approved powder-free style.
While protection from cuts and punctures are important features of gloves, hand protection in sub-zero environments is also vital. Dahlonega, GA-based Refrigi-Wear has expanded its line of gloves designed to offer protection and comfort in these sub-zero environments. The 28WP Water-proof Glove is an insulated, waterproof glove that provides maximum protection when handling cold, wet objects. Comfort rated at 0ºF, the ergonomic fit features foam and fleece insulation and full-sock construction around the fingers. For workers who are looking for added warmth from their existing gloves, RefrigiWear also has a new edition to their glove liner family of products. The Stretch Liner 302 is 85 percent acrylic and 15 percent spandex, and it provides excellent moisture wicking and warmth. The one-size fits all design is made for both men and women.