Our hands are one of the most widely used tools in the workplace. Protecting them with the right personal protective equipment only makes sense. Easy task, right? Not always. It depends on the type of work you do.
Your employees, supervisors and managers can evaluate the need for hand protection, such as work gloves. using the following assessments.
Is Your Current Hand Protection 'Working?'
If you currently have specific hand protection (i.e., work gloves) that your workers use, do an assessment to ensure they are “working”. If workers aren’t wearing their hand protection, they are exposing themselves to job-related injuries.
- Perform a personal protective equipment assessment. This can help identify whether you are already using the best hand protection for the job or if a change is needed.
- Look at what is required by OSHA. Make sure the hand protection your workers use meet OSHA's selection requirements.
- Look at your injury and illnesses record keeping data for any hand injuries that have occurred and the reason.
- Ask workers how well the current hand protection is working for them. Do they perform well for the tasks they are being used for? Do they fit well and are they comfortable? Are they being?
What Specific Hazards do Workers Need to Avoid?
According to OSHA requirements, work gloves are required when employees’ hands are exposed to hazards such as those from skin absorption or harmful substances, severe cuts or lacerations, severe abrasions, punctures, chemical burns, thermal burns and harmful temperature extremes.
When you do a PPE assessment for hand protection, look at the specific hazards within a job, such as:
- Are chemicals present in any form (liquid, gas, powder or vapor)?
- Do workers have to immerse their hands in chemical or other types of solutions?
- Are there physical hazards, such as sharp, ragged, rough objects that might cut or puncture?
- Are there electrical hazards or extreme temperatures hands need to be protected from?
- Are there wet or oily objects that workers need hand protection for?
Who Wears Hand Protection and for How Long?
Conducting a job hazard assessment can tell you which jobs require hand protection and whether it will be for a few minutes throughout the day or for extended periods.
Comfort level affects a worker’s willingness to wear gloves. Even an employee’s health can be impacted if he or she has an allergy to materials such as latex.
How long hand protection such as work gloves last depends on:
- Maintenance and changeout schedules. Different types of gloves have different inspection, testing and maintenance requirements.
- Storage and care. Some gloves require laundering and/or decontamination before re-using.
- Length of wearing. One-time use or re-usable.
What is the Work Environment?
The type of hand protection needed can also be impacted by the work environment, where the day-to-day tasks are completed.
- Indoor or outdoor environment or both?
- Protect from extreme heat or cold temperatures?
- How long will an employee be exposed to extreme temperatures?
- Is it an operational environment, such as a warehouse or industrial facility, or more of an office environment, such as a dentist's office?
- Exposed to occupational heat hazards, such as welding torches or furnaces? Or a locker facility where workers may be going in and out of cold storage areas?
- Containment facility where employees work with hazardous chemicals?
What is Your Top Priority When Choosing Hand Protection?
Providing the best protection possible for your employees is obviously a top priority. Other factors that may influence your choice include:
- The hand protection’s characteristics (i.e., tactile sensitivity, dexterity).
- Total number of wears per glove.
- How the hand protection’s cost affects your bottom line.
- Potential cost savings you may be able to achieve.
- The EN 388 rating (protection against mechanical hazards).
- Training workers on the proper care, use, fit, limitations and inspection.
Lack of hand protection could actually cost your company in the long run. “In 2014, the U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics (BLS) reported that 40 percent of the 346,170 upper-extremities cases were hand injuries. These cases resulted in an incident rate of 12.7 percent and a median days-away from work of five.”
While the final decision lies with each individual organization, OSHA has standard requirements to help you choose the right work gloves for your business and be ready for the workday.