While many workers perform a variety of duties and jobs every day, the thing most have in common is the use of their hands. They are one of the most used and functional tools we have, and since thousands put their hands in dangerous situations for a living, unfortunately, many get injured.
The biggest cause of hand injuries isn’t a specific type of cut or burn, but from a lack of protective gloves. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics states 70% of workers who suffered hand injuries were not wearing gloves. The remaining 30% were wearing gloves but sustained injuries because the gloves were inadequate, damaged, or wrong for the type of hazard.
Your hands make almost every job and aspect of your life easier. Imagine trying to tie your shoes, open a bag of chips or cereal, or write without thumbs. Making sure your hands are properly protected should be a top priority when working in potentially hazardous situations. Here are some basic glove safety tips to help you avoid injury.
Not All Gloves Are Created Equal
With so many gloves ranging from cotton, leather, rubber, and Kevlar, it can be very confusing to figure out what kind you will need for the job. It’s important to talk to your manager or supervisor in charge of safety to review proper materials and guidelines for glove usage at your job. If your management is unsure of proper glove usage, there are several resources you should consider looking into.
The International Safety Equipment Association’s glove standard ANSI/ISEA 105-2005 is a document that provides complete numeric-scale guidance for selecting gloves within OSHA guidelines to properly protect workers.
Always consult your employer’s Material Safety Data Sheet or Product Safety Data Sheet to make sure you are aware of any hazardous substances you could come in contact with so you can make an educated decision.
A common misconception when working with electricity is choosing a glove based on color. The voltage protection of a glove isn’t classified by the color of the glove, but by the color of the tag on the arm of the glove.
If the Glove Fits
One of the biggest reasons workers neglect using gloves is discomfort from inadequate size. Kimberly-Clark Professional, a safety equipment provider, surveyed safety professionals at the National Safety Council Congress in 2007 and discovered 87% of respondents observed workers failing to wear protective gloves due to “discomfort.”
Properly fitted gloves are important because they offer greater dexterity when fine finger work is needed, decreased opportunity for snagging on a work surface, and lower chance of skin irritation due to friction. To properly determine the size of your hand, use a ruler to measure the width of your hand in the knuckle area by starting at the index finger.
Even if your employer is prepared with all the needed protective equipment, it is still up to you to make sure your gloves are in working condition. If possible, catch air inside your glove by rolling it up and squeeze the inflated glove to test for leaks.
Check your hands, try to cover or bandage any cuts or abrasions, and wash them thoroughly before putting on gloves to avoid any bacteria or infections from building inside the gloves. Gloves may not be yours and the following shift may have to use them.
Employers should be most concerned about the health and well-being of their employees by paying special attention to finger and hand injury prevention, but real safety begins with those who actually work in the potentially dangerous environments. If you work in these types of industries, only you can put your company safety policies into practice.