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How much cut protection do I need?

Q:

How much cut protection do I need?

A:

Every day industrial and trade workers are faced with the risk of injuring their most important tool: their hands. From cuts and slashes to nicks and abrasions, the importance of having adequate hand protection can’t be overstated. In fact, the U.S. Department of Labor indicates that 30 percent of workers who suffered hand injuries were wearing gloves that were either inadequate, damaged, or the wrong type of glove for the given job hazard. A stunning 70 percent of injured workers weren’t wearing gloves at all.

It’s clear that both employers and workers need guidance when it comes to selecting PPE for hands, so how much cut protection is needed is a great question (learn more about proper PPE provision in Employee Rights-What PPE Does My Employer Need to Provide?).

Hand Protection Standards

Simply put, the amount of cut protection you need varies depending on the hazards present. ANSI/ISEA 105-2016 outlines the standard for hand protection in the U.S. and ranks the cut performance rating of gloves on a scale from A1 to A9 (with A9 being the most cut resistant). The updated standard also tests for needle-stick punctures, which is particularly important in the healthcare and sanitation industries.

It’s a good idea to use these new ratings to determine the appropriate level of cut protection you need rather than just opting for the most cut-resistant gloves available. Why? Gloves that offer far more protection than necessary can be too thick and bulky for the task at hand, often leading to workers discarding them altogether.

Guidelines: Which Level of Protection Fits Your Job?

A1-A2

Provide some level of cut protection versus no glove at all. These are often standard work gloves that are acceptable for many general applications without a high risk of cut. Their primary concern is basic protection and enhanced grip.

Suitable for:

• Nuisance cuts like paper cuts and other minor hazards

• Low cut hazards such as material handling, small parts assembly with sharp edges, and general purpose applications

A3-A6

Gloves marketed as “cut resistant” tend to start at the A3 level. They should have some type of technical material layer that resists cuts and slashes—and this shouldn’t just be a double-layer palm. Most of the cut-resistant gloves available fall in this range.

Suitable for:

• Light to moderate cut hazards including light glass handling, forestry, and packaging

• Medium cut hazards like appliance manufacturing, glass handling, and canning applications

• Medium to heavy cut hazards such as food prep and meat processing

• High cut hazards like pulp and paper (changing slitter blades), dry walling, and electrical

A6-A9

Offer greater cut protection for high hazard work but make concessions in other areas. Dexterity, flexibility, and breathability are often affected, and these gloves often have more limited feel and flex than lower levels. Price tends to increase significantly in this category as well.

Suitable for:

• High cut hazards such as glass and window manufacturing and recycling plant/sorting applications

• High cut hazards including metal recycling and aerospace applications

• Extreme cut hazards like metal fabrication, automotive, and sharp metal stamping applications

It’s important to remember, of course, that these are general guidelines. When it comes down to it, the best way to ensure you have the cut protection you need is to test a material against the hazards present at your worksite. This is not only an invaluable part of a PPE program, but absolutely essential for the hand safety of workers (protect your workers with The 4 Essential Elements for Ensuring Contractor and Workplace Safety).

For more advice, check out Helping Safety Managers Pick the Right Pair of Work Gloves on Ergodyne's blog.

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Written by Andy Olson
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Andy Olson is responsible for the protection product pillar and serves as the company's ISEA representative on the hi-vis apparel, hand protection, and eye protection standard committees. He has authored numerous articles that have been published in safety trades on topics ranging from hand protection and worker visibility, to protection for worker-generated head injuries and eyewear compliance. He also trains distributors and end users nationally on the ANSI/ISEA 107 hi-visibility standard and other relevant safety topics.

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