The following is adapted from Rethinking Hand Safety.
A Liberty Mutual study found that about 70 percent of hand injuries happen because people aren’t wearing gloves when they should be.
For want of a proper work safety glove, hands are cut, broken, and bruised. Skin is torn off, and fingers are lost. Men and women must endure months, even years of agonizing recovery, with no guarantee that their hands will ever be quite the same.
When hand injuries occur, everyone suffers. Team morale goes down, and company costs go up, with the added expenses of worker’s compensation, safety fines, lost time, and turnover.
Choosing a glove may seem like a small decision, but if the work you do endangers hands, this “small decision” will have a huge impact. I guarantee it.
To protect your workers’ hands, you need the proper glove. The proper glove, as I define it, is the one that meets the minimum requirements, and that people will actually wear.
To find the proper gloves for your company, follow these four steps:
- Do a hazard assessment.
- Identify the requirements for each kind of glove, per task.
- Ask for samples and run trials.
- Put together the data and make the purchase.
Let’s unpack each of these steps so that you can ensure your workers are wearing the right gloves—the gloves that will prevent injuries and save hands.
#1: Do a Hazard Assessment
In order to know what the proper gloves are for your company, you need to know what hazards and risks your workers face. To this end, do a hazard assessment per task, or better yet, do an assessment in tandem with a reputable glove company. They’ll probably do it for free.
A hazard assessment is critical because workers don’t always know what dangers they face. In fact, according to Matthew Hallowell, a professor at the University of Colorado Boulder, studies have shown that, in general, workers are only aware of about 45 percent of the hazards they face.
Your job with a hazard assessment is to see more risks than they do. Your job is to identify as many of the hidden dangers as possible before they happen. Not after they happen.
#2: Identify the Requirements for Each Kind of Glove, Per Task
Identify the requirements for each kind of glove, per task. By “requirements,” I don’t just mean government standards. I mean clearly understanding what’s actually needed in terms of protection, grip, dexterity, comfort, etc.—for that very particular task. That means close study and talking to workers.
Gloves should meet, not exceed the requirements. As with Goldilocks, “just right” is just right. If, for example, you find you need a cut level A2, don’t even test out a cut level A5—it will be too bulky. Gloves must not be too bulky, too expensive, or too overdesigned for the work, because then they won’t get used.
As you make your list of requirements, you may realize that you need ten or more different kinds of gloves in your facility. It is far better—and safer—to get gloves specialized by task, instead of trying to find a one-size-fits-all glove, which usually doesn’t exist or will be too bulky to actually use. The rule of thumb is one task, one type of glove.
#3: Ask for Samples and Run Trials
Ask a glove manufacturer to supply multiple glove samples for each task type requiring different kinds of gloves. Assuming each sample meets your requirements, you only need two or three glove options, plus the incumbent glove. If you try to run a trial with more options than that, you will likely find the logistics a nightmare and the feedback confused.
Once you get the samples, run trials with a selection of actual workers performing the actual tasks. Have multiple workers use the gloves for about a week. Don’t let one worker, one supervisor, or one purchasing manager make this decision.
These trials are incredibly important because gloves provide absolutely no protection if they are not worn. A Liberty Mutual study found that about 70 percent of hand injuries happen because people aren’t wearing gloves when they should have. Often enough, they weren’t wearing their gloves because they literally couldn’t do their jobs with the gloves on.
By running trials, you can ensure that the gloves you choose are practical and comfortable enough that your workers will actually wear them.
#4: Put Together the Data and Make the Purchase
Finally, when the trials are complete, put together the data, compare prices, and negotiate bulk deals on your purchase.
Remember that you will likely need multiple glove types for multiple tasks. My company makes over 1,000 different kinds of work gloves because that’s how many it takes to fit all the kinds of work and safety minimums of our customers, along with all the kinds of comfort and style needed to fulfill that otherwise simple dictum.
THE IMPACT OF THE PROPER GLOVES
With the proper gloves for each task, you will be able to rest easier, knowing that your workers are protected. Worksite injuries will go down, and worker morale will go up. Workers will be able to complete their tasks safely and effectively.
With the proper gloves, you can save the finger, the worker, the schedule, the customer, the year, and the company.
For more advice on hand protection and how to choose the proper gloves, you can find Rethinking Hand Safety on Amazon.