Reducing the Impact

Barbara Nessinger, Chief Editor

Until this past year, there had been no commonly agreed performance standard or test method in North America for dorsal (back of hand) impact protection. This lack of any objective performance standard created a serious challenge for employers responsible for selecting appropriate PPE for industrial workers. In fact, according to OSHA, of the 145,000 recordable injuries in today’s workplace and government agencies, 63% are made up of cuts; 18% are due to crush and bone breakage. These numbers present a tremendous opportunity for improvement.

Although many PPE manufacturers produce a wide range of protective gloves with new designs and materials constantly entering the market, there had been either little differentiation between the materials used for impact protection, or performance claims couldn’t be readily validated.

Finally, now, in the U.S., leading glove manufacturers and material suppliers have collaborated to develop new, voluntary standards from the International Safety Equipment Association—ISEA, an American National Standards Institute-accredited standards developing organization.

The ANSI/ISEA 138 standard is specifically designed for industrial gloves and the special protections they offer. The defined ISEA 138 levels give greater choice and flexibility to the end-user. Scaled performance levels help employers make a choice that meets the needs of their workforce, giving them the confidence to choose protective gloves that are both appropriate to potential risk and hazard levels.

Since no back-of-hand impact standard previously existed for the U.S., ISEA 138 can also help identify the styles that could put workers at greatest risk of injury—as well  as those that offer the best protection. Once a specifier carries out a risk assessment on a job site, they can determine what level of impact protection the workers require. ISEA 138 allows the specifiers to select a protection level to look for when buying gloves. By being able to specify this level, the worker will consistently get the protection they need.

Raising the Bar

For glove manufacturers, this means product development can be focused on meeting exact needs as  opposed to perceived needs. It also means that the level of impact protection within the glove industry will improve—hopefully to reduce the number of injured workers. Having an actual metric challenges glove-makers to make their protection even better.

The bones and tissues in the back of the hand are vulnerable to impact injuries, which are common in the offshore oil and gas, construction, mining, manufacturing, warehousing and transport industries. Impact-related injuries range from bruised knuckles, to pinching fingers between two pieces of equipment, to severe bone fractures.

Some things to consider when purchasing gloves for manufacturing or construction use:

  • Impact-resistant work gloves have unique protective features, such as Thermoplastic Rubber (TPR) or Thermoplastic Elastomers (TPE), and proprietary foams that shield the top of the hand from unexpected impact, smashes, crashes and abrasion injuries.
  • Soft, flexible, shock-absorbing pads can be strategically placed along the back of the hand for maximum cushioning, while not interfering with how the hands function.
  • Another feature to consider is the level of impact dissipation. Many gloves can claim high levels of impact dissipation for both back of hand and for the fingers.

When looking at a pair of high-impact gloves, notice that the gloves are constructed with a durable outer shell made up of sections of raised solid, rubbery material that is affixed to the glove. These rubber segments cover the back of the hand and usually all of the fingers. They are strategically placed to protect the wearer from impact in the spots it naturally occurs.

Glove styles available in the industry include dorsal impact-reducing gloves. Some feature molded rubber, combined with technical foams for maximum protection. It is important that the glove still maintains necessary dexterity, however. Many companies’ lines include hi-vis color schemes for signaling and hand-safety awareness, taking the guesswork out of purchasing.

The TPR gives the glove a segmented look. Along with providing superb high-impact protection, TPR improves hand movement—since those segments are free to move and bend flexibly.

High-impact work gloves are meant to be beneficial across the board in different industries, so most are also engineered with a high level of grip on the palm because of a hefty palm coating. This is especially useful in manufacturing and construction, where tool usage and dexterity/grip are important. WMHS