Evaluating Glove Grip Performance and Its Effect on Fatigue, Safety and Efficiency

By Eric Jaeger, Contributor

The correct glove grip can reduce fatigue, improve material handling safety and improve workplace efficiency.

Everyone who wears gloves understands the overall importance of grip, yet no one seems to be able to evaluate, quantify and communicate a ‘value’ for the grip of a particular pair of gloves. To further exasperate the issue, glove grip can vary widely based on the environment and surface being contacted. Is the surface wet or dry? Cardboard or metal? Smooth or rough? It’s a difficult, excuse the pun, slippery subject.

What Is The Definition Of Grip?

For our purposes, grip can be defined as a person’s grasping strength when holding an object. That object could be a tool such as a wrench or hammer, a controller such as a steering wheel or an object such as a box, piece of sheet metal or assembled component. Each of these items has a different surface material, weight and shape. Each one could be hot, wet, oily or cold. And the surface finish could be inherently rough, smooth or tacky. Given these variables, it’s easy to see that a person’s grip on each of these will be different. And by extension, a pair of gloves will also have quite different grip, dependent on each of these variables. It is no wonder that while everyone understands the concept of grip, we still struggle to evaluate, quantify and communicate grip performance for gloves.

Why Is Grip Important?

– It reduces fatigue
– It increases safety
– It increases efficiency

Grip is a key factor in determining glove performance; finding gloves with the correct grip for a particular task can reduce hand fatigue, improve worker safety and even improve workplace efficiency. Studies have shown a direct correlation between the repetitive force required to grasp objects during an eight-hour workday and an increase in hand fatigue. Increased hand fatigue has been linked to long term illness such as arthritis, carpel tunnel syndrome and Reynaud’s disease. Workplace hand fatigue is also linked to an increase in jobsite accidents – dropped tools and components can easily wreak havoc such as foot impact injuries to one’s self and head impact injuries to others. A tool that is dropped into machinery can cause major malfunctions that risk not only shutting down a manufacturing line but also the potential of severe injuries.

On the other hand, maintaining a good grip on tools, parts and equipment can increase workplace efficiency. Analysis of warehouse logistics data shows that workers who wear gloves with the correct grip – that is, grip that is designed specifically for handling cardboard – can sort and deliver far more packages per shift than a person not wearing gloves at all. Thus, outfitting your workforce with the right gloves, with grip performance designed for their specific tasks, can result in reduced fatigue, increased safety and even increased efficiency. This will not only reduce short- and long-term injuries but improve the company’s bottom line.

So, how do you determine what is the ‘correct’ grip performance for your team? Most importantly, you will need to test different gloves, from different manufacturers, in the specific environment and for the specific tasks being performed by your workforce. But how do you narrow down your choices? There are literally thousands of options. And you don’t typically receive a lot of help from suppliers – manufacturers offer gloves that use ‘grip’ in the name of the glove, but that really provides no guidance. Grip in what situations? On what surfaces? Even when gloves claim to have improved ‘wet’ grip or ‘oily’ grip, they do not give any sort of relative data or information. Improved compared to what? Indeed, the problem lies in the fact that, currently, a testing standard that measures glove grip across different environmental factors and on different surfaces does not exist.

Glove Grip Defined

Maintaining a good grip on tools, parts and equipment can increase workplace efficiency.

It may seem like we’ve come to a dead end, but actually we haven’t – grip performance can most definitely be quantified. Here’s how to do that. The first step is to define ‘glove grip.’ This can be defined as the amount of friction between the two contacting surfaces, in this case the palm surface of the glove and the surface of the object being gripped. ‘Friction’ is more accurately defined as the friction force between two surfaces when in contact with each other, and the resulting measurement is defined as the Coefficient of Friction between the two surfaces.

Fortunately, many tests exist that accurately measure the friction force between two surfaces. In this case, we can leverage existing PPE testing standards that measures the Coefficient of Friction for shoe soles on walking surfaces, under varied circumstances. There are two such standards – ISO 13287 and ASTM F2913. Each uses the same automated test equipment to evaluate Slip Resistance. The test methods can be easily modified to evaluate the friction force between a whole glove palm and a specified testing surface. Also, the surface can be purposely coated with water, oil, etc. to simulate real world hazards. Once test parameters have been set, glove palms can be evaluated with a consistent test methodology across a variety of surfaces, and the Coefficient of Friction can be accurately measured and quantified for each combination of glove palm and surface.

At that point, the Coefficient of Friction values for different gloves can accurately be compared to each other – and you can definitively say that glove A has better grip performance than glove B on smooth wet surfaces, for example.

Using this test methodology, a manufacturer could evaluate their gloves for grip in dry, wet and oily conditions, and then give each of them a ranking or rating for grip performance. In this way, grip could be evaluated and rated similar to cut protection. After all, anyone can say they have a ‘good’ cut glove, but that is meaningless without an ANSI or EN388 rating.

So, the next time you are presented with a glove that claims to have ‘good’ grip, be sure to ask the supplier to back up their claim with a grip rating or solid data – no different than you would require for cut protection. Because the right grip in a glove can reduce fatigue, improve safety and increase efficiency. WMHS

Eric Jaeger is General Manager of Ironclad Performance Wear. Jaeger has been with Ironclad since 2001 and managing the Ironclad Performance Wear division of Brighton-Best International since December 2017. Prior to being named General Manager, he ran several departments including research and development, sourcing and operations. Jaeger has a degree in Bioengineering and was a Biomedical Engineer before switching to the PPE market (www.ironclad.com).