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Material Innovation Revolutionizes Back-Of-Hand Protection

Andrew Shields, Contributor

Most gloves used for industrial PPE across the construction, automotive, and oil and gas industries have back-of-hand protectors, with the vast majority made from thermoplastic rubber (TPR). Until now, there was very little manufacturers could do to change the characteristics of the compositions they were using. They could either add more plasticizer to make their gloves softer or less to make them harder, each approach having a negative effect on comfort, dexterity or level of protection.

Supporting Industrial Safety Standards

PPE standards enable manufacturers to determine the performance requirements for the protective products they design and the procedures to test them. They also help safety managers make informed choices about the right product for any given job.

Standards for industrial gloves that protect against cuts, punctures, abrasion and chemical exposure had existed in the U.S. for many years, but no means existed to assess the performance of PPE designed to protect against back-of-hand impact injuries.

“What is significant now is that there has been an explosion within the back-of-hand impact category in the last eight years,” says Paul Harris, VP of Product Strategy and Innovations at PPE manufacturer MCR Safety. Empowered by waves of innovation in materials technology and design, work on a standard began in 2016 by a specialist sub-group of the International Safety Equipment Association’s long-established Hand Protection Group. This comprised seven major glove manufacturers, D3O and a surgeon specializing in plastic and reconstructive hand surgery.

Published in March 2019, ANSI/ISEA 138 is the American national standard for performance and classification for impact resistant hand protection.

As with all standards, ANSI/ISEA 138 establishes minimum performance, classification and labelling requirements for occupational hand protection products. However, it goes further in incorporating performance levels from 1 to 3, clearly identified with mandatory pictograms, to aid health and safety managers in selecting the most appropriate product for a task. “These performance levels give clarity as to how much energy is being transferred through the glove,” says Rodney Taylor.

“The revolution in back-of-hand impact performance through material advances such as Impact Additive have made ANSI/ISEA 138 practicable and facilitated a standard that is a game-changer in terms of PPE protection.

“The language around levels of impact protection has evolved, so we now have greater precision: Safety managers are far better equipped to navigate the hand protection landscape. They are free to choose from a range of products competing on factors including design, durability, comfort and cost—but not on key performance characteristics.”

A Protection Revolution

A potentially new approach is the use of Impact Additive from D3O. This ingredient deploys advanced polymer chemistry and can be blended into existing processing and manufacturing techniques, delivering unmatched impact protection properties to traditional TPR and revolutionizing back-of-hand impact performance.

It is a completely disruptive process to be able to add impact protection to the back of a glove without altering the way in which a manufacturer processes TPR.

“This liquid additive can modify the existing properties of TPR to deliver greater impact protection while also enabling softer, thinner gloves,” says Rodney Taylor, Global Sales and Marketing Manager for Industrial PPE at D3O.

Impact testing revealed that TPR enhanced with Impact Additive reduces transmitted force by up to 34% compared to standard TPR of the same type, thickness and geometry. This figure was consistent across a wide range of plastisol formulations and compared very favorably to an initial target of a 15% reduction.

More Protection, Less Bulk

Previously, glove manufacturers could only use impact protection as bumpers sewn onto their products. Now, additional impact protection can be included in their formulation with no change to design or manufacturing processes and no disruption to the manufacturer’s supply chain.

Because it is added to the plastisol and is very easy to mix, there is no need to use any special equipment outside of the traditional TPR manufacturing process.

As well as delivering an increase in impact performance of up to 34% with no increase in bumper thickness, the use of Impact Additive reduces the hardness of TPR bumpers by up to 18%. This, together with improved temperature stability in extreme hot and cold conditions, delivers greater dexterity and comfort without compromising on performance—critical factors to ensure worker compliance.

In addition, because the new additive is easily blended with existing plastisol during production, intricate molding designs can also be achieved to improve the look and feel of new gloves.

Future opportunities for such protection could include other applications where TPR is used, both industrial gloves and other types of gloves that have TPR elements on them. WMHS

Andrew Shields is an award-winning journalist and editor for D3O, available at

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