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The Three Keys to Hand Protection Management

By: David Shutt, Contributor

It is important to use the right hand protection for the application. Image courtesy of Wonder Grip.

On any given month, one might read about a dozen incidents resulting in injuries to the hands and arms. Gloves are the most common form of personal protective equipment (PPE) utilized, yet the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) still reports more than 140,000 lost-time hand injuries annually. Open any maintenance, repair and operations (MRO) manual or safety catalog and you will find a myriad of hand protection options that offer thousands of combinations of materials, lengths, over dips and degrees of overall protection.

Confused? Why is a topic that prolificates our industry still a leading cause of work-related injuries?

There are three primary words that I have experienced which contribute most frequently to on-the-job hand injuries.

Education

Education is both the act of teaching knowledge to others and the act of receiving knowledge from someone else. Education also refers to the knowledge received through schooling or instruction and to the institution of teaching. Education has a few other senses as a noun.

How would education be approached by a safety manager at a large end user that employs multiple thousands of workers – one who wants to increase his or her level of cut protection within their plant due to high number of hand injuries or lacerations? I would start with exploratory questions regarding the cut level and type of gloves they are using. Understanding and knowing the hazards within the applications will play a pivotal role in identifying what type of CE Certifications (for products used within the European Economic area) or ANSI/ISEA certifications are needed to correct the situation. In return, the employer generally does their part to reduce the hazards or completely remove them from the workplace, and then the PPE selection becomes one of the final steps to protect the worker.

PPE has evolved considerably, due to the development of best practices and innovative technologies and the increased awareness of standards that are in play to benefit the safety of the worker. Most safety professionals know, understand and devote themselves to the exercise of continuous education. It is imperative to stay competent in the changing world of safety regulations, as not having the correct protection can be just as bad as having no protection at all.

Enforcement

Enforcement without representation is a leading statement made on most safety assessments completed within safety departments. Too frequently, accidents simply occur due to mistakes made by workers. Enforcement of safety protocols seems to be the most challenging aspect of safety programs. Using the wrong hand protection for the application and failing to enforce the wearing of gloves during operations that call for them result in additional consequences of compliance and monetary failures on the plant’s behalf. Comprehending and implementing correct hand protection that adheres to current regulations should not be approached passively. The need for enforcement can be illustrated by one statistic from the BLS: 60% of lost time due to hand injury incidents occur when the employee is not wearing gloves. I have yet to enter a facility where the company does not provide gloves. Further, most facilities have a glove policy in place.

Increased turnover within the industrial workplace, coupled with a diverse cultural environment, has created obstacles in communicating about the proper PPE to be used within a facility. Therefore, many companies form safety committees to drive compliance. Regular safety meetings plus outreach programs that involve improvements toward PPE signage and vending have dramatically increased, to ensure that the worker is receiving the proper glove for the proper application.

Determination

This is not me speaking as the old ball coach, it is your safety committee speaking toward determining what PPE needs to be implemented. The industrial landscapes have always been dynamic and often the PPE lags in change. However, standards and regulation can help to assist in this transition and help formalize the process toward change. OSHA has two guidelines that assist in that determination, and they read as follows:

1910.138(a) – General requirements. Employers shall select and require employees to use appropriate hand protection when employees’ hands are exposed to hazards such as those from skin absorption of harmful substances; severe cuts or lacerations; severe abrasions; punctures; chemical burns; thermal burns; and harmful temperature extremes.

1910.138(b) – Selection. Employers shall base the selection of the appropriate hand protection on an evaluation of the performance characteristics of the hand protection relative to the task(s) to be performed, conditions present, duration of use and the hazards and potential hazards identified.

In the end, most glove manufacturers perform safety assessments and recommendations at no charge. These detailed audits are performed on-site at customer locations and result in a written recommendation of the hand protection to use with each hazard and samples for a trial period. Take advantage of these key partnerships with distributors and glove manufactures to provide employees with the appropriate and safest hand protection options available today. WMHS

David Shutt is National Sales Director for Wonder Grip USA. Wonder Grip is dedicated to continuously providing hand protection solutions for users faced with a perpetually changing environment. By placing the end user at the heart of our R&D, Wonder Grip’s range of solutions evolves on a permanent basis, redefining the very notion of hand protection (www.wondergrip.com).

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