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Gloves for Trenching: How to Find the Perfect Pair

By Rick Pedley, Contributor

Suitable hand protection for workers performing trenching or working in trenches needs to include protection against cuts and abrasions. Photo courtesy of PK Safety.

In construction trenching, workers remove rocks, soil, and other material from the ground for the placement or repair of buried utilities, pipelines, water transport, and other potentially hazardous activities. These materials can be dangerous to workers, especially on their hands.

Trenches are deeper than they are wide, and cave-ins pose the greatest risk to workers. While systems including shoring, benching, sloping, and shielding help protect workers, and safety measures are in place from a competent person regularly inspecting the site, workers are largely responsible for their own safety and the safety of their coworkers while in the trenches. It’s vital that workers follow the relevant standards and safety systems to protect themselves and others working with them. These safety systems also include wearing and using protective gear they’re trained on, including a harness and lifeline, hard hat, and safety gloves.

Focusing on hand protection

Suitable hand protection for workers performing trenching or working in trenches needs to include protection against cuts and abrasions. Those hazards exist in the form of equipment, as well as the environment that includes metal, dirt, and rocks. Cut-resistant gloves will protect from lacerations and some punctures from job hazards, whereas abrasion-resistant gloves protect against friction and other abrasive materials and work conditions. These gloves come in an array of materials and combinations of materials, ranging from leather to chainmail, based on the kinds of hazards the worker needs protection against.

Leather safety gloves made from cowhide, pigskin, or goatskin, may also be a good option during milder trenching work. They stretch and don’t limit one’s range of motion, can grip equipment easily, and can be highly durable while offering decent protection from the different elements of this type of work. Reinforced leather safety gloves can offer cut resistance and be designed for electrical safety.

Impact resistance is an important quality for trenching gloves as well. Construction work in general, requires PPE like hard hats, steel-toed boots, and safety glasses to protect against fragments, dust, stones, and other flying pieces of debris from drilling, sawing, sanding, and grinding. Your knuckles and hands are in danger from falling objects, swinging equipment, and other impacts, especially because trenches are such tight spaces where you can’t always get away from a hazard easily. Impact-resistant gloves can be ergonomic, helping you avoid the pain from pounding, and they prevent hand injuries from outside impacts as well.

Narrow in on your needs

Impact resistance is another important quality for trenching gloves. Photo courtesy of PK Safety.

Will you be welding, cutting, or brazing during trenching and shoring? You’ll need specialized welding gloves for that purpose. These gloves need to protect against flames, heat, and metal splatter dangers. Standard gloves that protect against cuts, flames, heat, and sparks won’t offer enough protection during this type of work. Welding gloves will be insulated with thermal protection and have longer sleeves than other safety gloves to help protect your arms and work with other PPE that you’re wearing.

There are many glove options on the market and depending on the specifics of your trenching and shoring work, you might need a combination of protections, or more than one pair for different aspects of your job. Keep in mind that the more kinds of protection that a glove offers, the less dexterous it becomes. While more protection than you need sounds great, making sure that you’re protecting only against those dangers you’re likely to face means that you’ll be much more productive and comfortable at work.

No matter what kind of glove you’re wearing on the job, you should regularly inspect them for damage. If you find that your gloves are damaged before you begin your shift, or something happens on the job to damage them, they need to be immediately removed from service and replaced or repaired, as appropriate. CS

Rick Pedley, PK Safety’s President and CEO, joined the family business in 1979. PK Safety, a supplier of occupational safety and personal protective equipment and manufacturer of their own new FR line GRIT, has been operating since 1947 and takes OSHA, ANSI, PPE, and CSA work safety equipment seriously (www.pksafety.com/contact-us).

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