We had two hours to finish the work. I was stapling springs to the mattress frames as quickly as I could but I was getting frustrated by how stiff my gloves were. I wanted to get the job done and I was sick of wearing something so uncomfortable. So, I took them off and I could finally work as fast as I wanted to. But it only took a few more staples before I felt one brush the edge of my finger. I didn't get hurt, but it was too close for me. I put the gloves back on even though it slowed me down.
Dealing with Bulky Gloves
Employees exposed to potential hand injuries must wear appropriate protection. But PPE is not always as comfortable as it should be. Bulky gloves can be difficult to work with, and workers often decide to work without them for the sake of convenience and comfort.
The reality is that workers can’t do their jobs with injured hands, so hand protection is paramount for those at risk. And what’s the best way to ensure workers use them properly? Providing them with quality work gloves tailored to the specific tasks being done.
What Makes a Quality Work Glove?
How we define quality when it comes to work gloves will be different for every industry (and maybe even every individual). But there are a few key things to look for:
- Good fit
- Comfort level, including breathability, wickability, and dexterity
- Strong and durable material
How to Avoid Overpaying
There’s a common misconception that “quality” means “expensive,” particularly when it comes to leather. This is simply not the case. While expensive grain leather, for instance, may be a great choice for appearance and repelling water, suede leather (or split leather) performs significantly better in terms of wear, abrasion, and strength.
There are some other factors that you might pay for that don't necessarily indicate quality, such as fancy grip patterns, chemical tolerance, and layers upon layers of material.
Manufacturers have created countless decorative grip patterns in an effort to convince consumers that this one or that one will have the ultimate grip. While there may be slight differences when dry, each of the patterns performs similarly when wet, which makes the elaborate patterns pointless for many jobs.
Chemical tolerance is sometimes touted as the ultimate in safety. The truth is, there are gloves that can withstand incredibly harsh chemicals yet dissolve in water. While it’s important to know which chemicals a glove can stand up to, it’s equally as important to remember that this tolerance isn’t an indicator that the glove is high quality for all applications.
All of this is to say: quality means different things in different situations. What is high quality in one industry may not hold up in another, and vice versa. Your best bet is to assess your risks and try out a variety of gloves that address them. Quality work gloves are the ones that best protect your workers from the identified workplace risks while holding up well against frequent use.
It’s extremely important for management to take hand safety seriously. Hands are no less at risk than eyes or toes are. And frankly, injured hands can’t work, which hurts both your safety record and your productivity. With that in mind, employers should do regular assessments to ensure the safety of their workers is being adequately addressed.
Some of the questions you should consider:
- What will the gloves be used for?
- How do employees use their hands when performing specific tasks?
- How much manual dexterity is required?
- How great is the exposure risk for each hazard?
- How often are the gloves worn, and for how long?
- How can you get a good fit for each worker?
The single most important thing employees can do is to wear the gloves that are provided. If the gloves aren’t adequately meeting your needs, it’s important to speak to a supervisor and have this rectified (if the gloves provided will put your hands at risk, see How to Refuse Unsafe Work for advice on what to do).
Workers should also inspect their gloves before each use. Look for small cuts and tears. If in doubt, fill the gloves with water to expose any pinhole leaks. Quality can diminish with extensive use, so it’s vital to confirm your gloves are fit for use before putting them on.
Personal protective equipment is only helpful if it’s used properly and for the right applications. While there may not be a one-size-fits-all safety glove, finding a quality one doesn’t have to be difficult. Assess your hazards, seek out a reputable manufacturer, and match the glove characteristics to your identified risks. If a glove meets or exceeds the needs of your workers and can withstand heavy use, that’s all the quality you need.