What’s the best way to evaluate the performance of your hand personal protective equipment? That’s easy – a glove trial. It’s the process of field-testing different models of safety gloves, either from a single source or from several manufacturers, in order to identify the best glove for a particular job. Looking at things like comfort, usability, and applicability specific to your workers. When done correctly, the benefits of a glove trial include:
- Improved hand safety program and equipment
- Reduced rate of injuries
- Increased awareness of hand safety issues among workers
- Higher rates of compliance with hand safety PPE requirements
- Reduction in costs related to hand protection through increased efficiency and durability of work gloves, reduced insurance rates, medical costs, and workers’ compensation claims
How do you conduct a hand PPE trial to help you see these kinds of results? Read on.
1. Assess the hazards and work environment
When you begin a glove trial, it is important to consider as many application-specific issues as possible. Answer these questions in detail:
What hazards are present?
Conduct a thorough assessment and list all existing and potential hazards. These may include metal, glass, wood, sawing or cutting tools, blades or knives, wire, needles, hammers, scaffolding joints, pipes, insulation, connections, etc. Are there cut hazards in the form of long, sharp edges? What about a possible pinch and smash injuries from dropped tools, rocks, pipes, etc.?
How much protection is needed?
The type of glove and protection levels will depend on the application. Check for cut, abrasion, and puncture risk to determine your glove’s cut level, as well as impact hazards in case your glove needs back-of hand impact protection. Some applications require heat resistance, anti-vibration padding, or chemical-exposure protection as well.
What kind of dexterity is required?
Glove dexterity on the job must be considered, especially if workers are removing their gloves to complete high-dexterity tasks. Ask yourself: Do your workers require a high level of tactile sensitivity in order to do their jobs? Will they be picking up small parts or handling sheets of plywood or steel beams?
Where is the job being performed?
The location where your employees are doing the majority of their work will have an impact on glove selection. Are they indoors or outdoors? Is it an excessively hot or cold environment? Are there other factors pertinent to the job that may cause an issue, such as working around oil pipes or handling lumber, steel, or glass?
Are there potential grip issues?
A glove’s palm material must be designed to offer appropriate grip characteristics per application, as poor grip can lead to increased hazards from dropped tools and knives, in addition to increased fatigue and strain. Pay attention to tasks that could affect worker grip, such as applications involving mud, oils, cleaning fluids, and other workplace substances.
What is the temperature of the materials being handled?
Do workers regularly handle tools or parts that are extremely hot or cold? This can affect glove properties such as grip, protection, and durability.
Are there any corrosive materials? Consider whether there are fluids like solvent or acids present that could break down the glove fibers or coating.
2. Identify the common applications
The key to finding the right glove for the job is to look at the applications and tasks that are representative of most of the work being done. Select a glove that offers the necessary levels of comfort, protection, and dexterity for the most common, day-to-day tasks.
Although it is tempting to look for a one-glove solution, the reality is that a single glove can almost never meet all needs. If you outfit your entire workforce with a glove that is suited only to the easiest job, the most hazardous task, or the application that only occurs once a week or once a month, it may provide too little protection – or too much – for the work they’re doing every day.
This will have a negative impact on glove compliance, safety outcomes, and the overall effectiveness of your hand safety program. If necessary, offer a different glove for use with an extreme or unusual task. Most of the time it is best for workers, and for hand safety programs, to use a glove that offers the right level of protection for the work performed most often.
3. Audit your current glove program
An audit of your existing glove solution will help you understand what is working, what isn’t, and where improvement is needed. Learn what your employees like about the gloves they use now. Find out where the glove isn’t meeting their needs. Identify any trade-offs between a new glove and the old. By collecting this information, you can work to ensure that the trade-offs are minimized and that any new gloves used in the trial offer the same features that your work crews have become accustomed to.
You can address any objections that may come up during the trial, selection, and implementation process. Knowing what your team likes and dislikes will help you find something better and explain how it is an improvement upon your old glove.
4. Select your trial crew
Having the right trial crew will help you find the right gloves and also help get buy-in from the rest of the employees once a glove has been chosen and the new program is rolled out. Choose people for the trial crew who are serious about safety on the job and will provide honest and constructive feedback. Encourage them to share their experiences, personal preferences, and anything else that might be relevant to glove selection. Be clear that this feedback will help determine which gloves are ultimately provided to the entire team. Let them know that their feedback will be shared with the glove manufacturer and could result in product improvements.
Get an agreement from the crew stating that they will provide written feedback as well as the glove samples at the end of the trial since both are needed to make the best decision. Provide feedback forms that are easy to use.
5. Collect and review the data
When you’ve reached the end of your field-testing period, collect all of the feedback forms and the gloves used in the trial. Give the trial crew a chance to offer verbal feedback, and record what is said. Record anecdotes and stories of any “saves” from accident or injury that occurred during the glove trial. Collect and review written feedback forms. Examine the trial glove samples and note their condition with regard to cut resistance and durability of the fabric. Include all relevant information in your report. Also, it is important to realize that the first glove or round of gloves tested may not fit your needs.
As you continue to try gloves, it might pay to revisit the specifics of various applications. For example, is there a fluid present that was not accounted for in your initial hazard and work environment assessment that could be causing premature failure or excessive wear? One goal of the glove-trial process is to uncover this type of information and address it with your glove selection. Add the new data to the application profile and hazards assessment as you select and field test the next glove solution.
6. Develop final glove specifications
Based on all the data collected after a successful trial, you can then narrow down and choose your gloves. There are several different specifications in gloves, including:
- Fiber type (e.g., protective tiles, nylon, etc.)
- Base weight (oz/yd²)
- Glove construction
- String knit, terry, etc.
- Coatings, dots, leather palms
- Ambidextrous (offers extended wear)
- Reinforced thumb saddle
- Cuff length
- Yarn size
- Glove sizing
- Cut resistance
- Reinforced thumb saddle (rating force and test method)
- Puncture resistance
- Abrasion resistance
- Needlestick resistance
- Other performance values required for the job (thermal testing, abrasion testing, etc.)
HexArmor® can help
We’ve spent years perfecting our understanding of how to help workers go home safe every day – and though it is not an exact science, we are confident that we can help you find a hand PPE solution that best fits your needs either through what is listed above or in person. If the latter, we’re here to assist you with an industrial trial program through HexArmor®. We’ll be there every step of the way to recommend and implement high-performance PPE.
In the meantime, you can gather an in-depth understanding of hand protection and everything that goes into it - from hand safety standards to glove materials – with our downloadable Hand Safety Handbook.
Let us help you improve your hand safety. Contact us today at 1.877.MY.ARMOR or visit www.hexarmor.com.