For most of us, our hands are our most reliable and dependable tools. We tend to think of them as strong and sturdy, but the reality is that our hands are quite fragile, especially when we use them in high-risk work environments.

Statistics

20% of all disabling injuries involve the hands. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS, 2012) 186,830 of those injuries involved days away from work, with an average of 5 days away from work for hand injuries. Moreover, the cost of the average recordable laceration to the hand is $40,023.

Post-accident investigations have determined that most of these hand injuries were preventable. 70% of employees who sustained a hand injury weren't wearing any hand protection, while 30% of those who did were wearing the wrong type of glove for the job.

Oil and Gas Industry Hazards

The oil and gas industry is one of the most hazardous industries in America. Tight controls are kept in place to manage the fire and explosion risks present across job sites, but there are also less obvious risks, like those to the hands and fingers.

Working in oil and gas operations means working with heavy tools, drills, chains, and other heavy equipment in a fast-paced environment. Contamination with oil or greases is also common, and it makes holding a grip more difficult, increasing the risk of smashes, pinches, and cuts.

Hand injury is a common topic in safety meetings and toolbox talks, and for good reason. 53% of total hand injuries were attributable to derrickmen and floorhands. These numbers don't include the utility workers in the industry, so the total number of hand injuries is likely higher. Historically, hand and finger injuries make up between 50% and 80% of all recordable injuries in the oil and gas industry.

Cut-Resistant Gloves

Cut-resistant gloves are safety gloves that have the ability to withstand a longitudinal cut under a certain amount of pressure. They are different from puncture resistant gloves, which are able to withstand downward piercing pressure, though some gloves have both of these properties.

The focus of this article is cut resistance. However, we have to note that due to the contamination potential with oil and greases, most safety gloves used in the oil and gas sector should not only be cut and impact resistant, but also to be water- and oil-proof and provide grip even when contaminated.

(Learn more about Dorsal Hand Impact Protection: One of the Fastest Growing Categories in Personal Protective Equipment.)

Additionally, due to so many high-speed moving parts, the gloves should fit snug to the hand, so they don't become entangled.

Standards

There are two major world standards that define the different levels of cut resistance. Europe, Canada, South America, and Asian countries follow the EN 388 standard, while United States follow the ANSI/ISEA 105-2016 standard.

Cut Resistance Standards

These two standards are not equivalent and their differences come down to different testing procedures. The ANSI system uses a regular blade dragged over the material, while the EN standard uses a rolling blade. To get an understanding of the forces applied in the EN testing, multiply the Newtons by 10 (actually with 9.8 to be precise, but 10 makes for easier math).

In this article, we will make reference to the ANSI standard only.

Cut Resistance Levels

The ANSI/ISEA 105-2016 standard lists nine different cut resistance levels, labeled from A1 (weakest) to A9 (strongest). The levels indicate how much pressure (in grams) it takes for a blade to cut (longitudinally) through 25 mm of material.

(Learn more in Cut Resistant Gloves: A Guide to Cut Resistance Levels.)

How the Test Is Done

  • The glove sample is placed on a conductive strip and loaded onto the TDM-100 (the machine used to run the test)
  • A straight blade is loaded into the machine
  • Weight is added to serve as force
  • The blade moves across the fabric
  • When the metal blade touches the metal strip, the test is terminated
  • The blade is replaced with a new one to ensure accuracy
  • The sample is cut five times, each with three different loads
  • The distance traveled to cause cut through at various forces is recorded
  • The data is used to determine the load required to cut through the sample

Cut Resistance Table

Cut Resistance Level

Grams of Pressure

Applications

A1

200-499

Assembly, Maintenance, Material Handling, and Shipping and Receiving

A2

500-999

Assembly, Appliance Manufacturing, Automotive, Construction, Maintenance, Material Handling, Metal Handling, Heavier Kitchen Preparation, Glass Handling

A3

1000-1499

Assembly, Appliance Manufacturing, Automotive, Construction, Maintenance, Material Handling, Metal Handling, Heavier Kitchen Preparation, Glass Handling

A4

1500-2199

Appliance Manufacturing, Automotive, Construction, Glass Handling, Machining, Metal Handling, Metal Stamping, Paper Production, Intense Kitchen Preparation, Glass Handling

A5

2200-2999

Appliance Manufacturing, Automotive, Construction, Glass Handling, Machining, Metal Handling, Metal Stamping, Paper Production, High-Risk Kitchen Preparation, Butcher Shops, Meat and Poultry Applications

A6

3000-3999

Appliance Manufacturing, Automotive, Construction, Glass Handling, Machining, Metal Handling, Metal Stamping, Paper Production

A7

4000-4999

Assembly or movement of large, bulky, or heavy objects with sharp edges (also recommended for assembly or movement of items that are difficult to grip)

A8

5000-5999

Assembly or movement of large, bulky, or heavy objects with sharp edges (also recommended for assembly or movement of items that are difficult to grip)

A9

6000+

Assembly or movement of large, bulky, or heavy objects with sharp edges (also recommended for assembly or movement of items that are difficult to grip)


The level of protection indicated in the table promises that a blade exercising that amount of force on the glove material will not result in a cut longer than 2.5 cm, though it might still penetrate the material.

Most oil and gas companies, due to the nature of their work, mandate that the safety gloves worn in their sites have at least an A5 cut resistance level, while a minority of tasks require a minimum of A7.

Cut Resistant Materials

Despite a huge number of commercial names, 98% of the cut resistant gloves in the market are made of only three materials:

  • Ultra-High-Molecular-Weight Polyethylene (UHMWPE) Yarn (e.g. Spectra, Dyneema, TenActiv)
  • Para-aramid Yarn (e.g. Kevlar, XKS, Aramex, Rhino, Metalguard, Armcore)
  • Steel Mesh

The most common materials in the oil and gas sector are the first two. Both materials have pros and cons and when choosing one over the other you have to consider the hazards on site and your needs.

Para-aramids

Para-aramids are said to be five times stronger than steel and are inherently flame resistant. Live sites would likely require para-aramid gloves.

Para-aramids and are easily washable, extending the glove’s lifetime, especially in dirty environments.

They have better insulating properties, which is a major consideration since a lot of oil and gas work is done in the cold season in cold locations like North Dakota and Alberta.

However, para-aramids are better for puncture protection than cut protection. For cut protection level over A5, a high-density knit fiber cover is needed, which makes the glove bulky and uncomfortable.

Para-aramids also have weak chemical performance and are not great for abrasion, requiring a coating or cover glove (though coated palms are common for most oil and gas gloves).

UHMWPE

UHMWPE is 40 % stronger than para-aramids, making it a good choice for gloves with high levels of cut protection.

UHMWPE offers excellent dexterity, it feels cool to the hand and is comfortable and lightweight.

In addition to cuts, it also resists abrasion, chemicals, water, humidity, and UV light – all of which are common in oil and gas worksites. These gloves can also be washed, which reduces the cost of ownership for companies.

While UHMWPE seems superior to Para-aramids on most fronts, it is a poor insulator, so it needs additional insulation for winter work, which makes the glove bulky.

Conclusion

Hand and finger injuries are the most common non-fatal workplace injuries and are often either preventable or their severity can be substantially reduced by using the right gloves for the job. Employers must evaluate the hazards, provide the proper gloves, and ensure they are worn by their team.