Law enforcement officers are no strangers to dangerous situations, but they often face an overlooked threat while on duty: needlesticks. A needlestick injury poses an elevated danger due to the risk of infection from bloodborne pathogens (diseases) such as hepatitis B and C, and HIV. These diseases can be extremely detrimental to your health, as well as financially costly – and they’re also extremely prevalent.
Drug addiction and the opioid crisis contributed to nearly 47,000 deaths from drug overdoses and caused substance use disorders in another 1.7 million people in the United States in 2017 alone. Plus, with 60-80 percent of injection drug users having an infectious bloodborne pathogen, first responders, firefighters, public safety officials, and correctional officers are highly vulnerable to needlestick threats and the risks that come with them.
For the approximately 850,000 police officers nationwide, specifically, risk most commonly occurs during pat-down searches, searches incident to arrest, property searches, and vehicle searches. Read more about this here.
Needle-resistant gloves and protection zones
The best way to avoid an unexpected needlestick injury while on the job? In addition to best practices when it comes to search and frisk, research suggests that needlestick-resistant gloves lower the odds of a needlestick injury in police officers.
In fact, a 2017 report published by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recommends “providing officers with [needle- and] cut-resistant gloves for their use when they are performing searches and pat-downs,” in addition to providing nitrile gloves and/or face shields, in order to combat the dangers of accidental needlestick injuries.
However, choosing an effective and reliable needle-resistant glove can be challenging – so we’ve put together some tips to help law enforcement choose the right glove that’s up for the job.
Tip #1: Know what makes a glove needlestick-resistant
When looking for new protective gloves, it’s important to note that too many products use terms like “slash-resistant” and “puncture-resistant” to sell their brand but don’t substantiate these claims with test results. Therefore, make sure you look for a detailed explanation from the manufacturer regarding needlestick testing or test scores – needlestick testing is imperative to ensure the gloves you are using are indeed needle resistant.
Under the ANSI/ISEA 105 hand protection standard, ASTM F2878 addresses the unique mechanics of hypodermic needle punctures related to PPE and is performed using a 25-gauge needle. Ratings are scored on a 1-5 scale, with a level 5 measuring at 10 Newtons or higher. Learn more about this standard here.
Expert tip: Standardized safety tests like the ASTM F2878 have made the selection process easier for safety managers seeking out application-specific PPE. For specific questions on a glove, you’re interested in, you can contact the manufacturer directly for test scores and more.
Tip #2: Needle resistance stands alone as a protective quality
It’s important to note that needle resistance is different from industrial [blunt] puncture and much different from the cut-resistant technology that you’re used to.
Puncture resistance has two standards: blunt puncture and needlestick puncture. Industrial or blunt puncture testing uses a probe (similar to a ballpoint pen) to simulate a tear or burst hazard, whereas needlestick puncture testing utilizes a 21-, 25-, or 28- gauge hypodermic needle to more accurately account for needle hazards in work environments. Read more about this here. And when it comes to cut protection, testing for this standard is much different than puncture, and the material used does not always provide needle-resistance.
When looking for gloves, make sure your glove is not just “puncture- or cut-resistant” but is actually “needle-resistant” – and that it has been tested in accordance with ASTM F2878 under ANSI/ISEA 105.
Tip #3: Understand purpose-built protection with purpose-built zones
For more specific kinds of needle protection, needlestick-resistant gloves that offer protection zones in the glove is a great option.
Protection zones are different areas on the glove that are purpose-built to provide protection to specific areas of the hand. Found on the palm, back-of-hand, fingertips, and finger sidewalls, these zones are especially convenient during different kinds of tasks where frequent injuries are more common in certain areas.
Protection zones are able to offer different kinds of needlestick ratings as well, depending on the task at hand.
Here are the main protection zones to pay attention to when deciding which glove you need:
- Palm: This is the most injured part of the hand, so you’ll want most protection from needle, cut, and puncture here
- Back-of-hand: Depending on your task, you’ll want the back of your hand protected from needlestick and cut hazards alike
- Fingertips: Your fingertips are often one of the first parts of your hand that could come in contact with a needlestick
- Finger sidewalls: The sides of your fingers can be vulnerable in a glove when needlestick hazards are present
Expert tip: In addition to protection zones, looking at characteristics like dexterity, durability, and breathability are huge to ensure comfortable, high-performing gloves on the job.
Types of HexArmor® law enforcement protective gloves
HexArmor® offers a premium line of safety gloves for just this purpose – these gloves offer between one to three layers ofSuperFabric® brand material* protection within various areas of the glove. In the chart below, you will find HexArmor’s lineup of PointGuard® Ultra gloves made specifically for law enforcement personnel, their best uses, and their performance and protection levels.
Here’s how HexArmor® is a market leader in needle-resistant protection
Advanced needlestick technology
HexArmor® sets the industry standard for needle protection by providing needlestick solutions that layer SuperFabric® brand material** inside the gloves to arrest, deflect, and stop needle punctures from reaching the skin’s surface, delivering needle resistance levels of 2 or 5 – the highest rating possible. HexArmor® tests all needle-resistant products to the ASTM-F2878 needlestick safety test, so you can compare products and make sure you’re getting the protection you need.
Added cut resistance
Unlike typical fiber-based needlestick gloves, HexArmor® with SuperFabric® is designed to prevent hazards from puncturing through and ultimately penetrating the skin’s surface. Most of our SuperFabric® PPE maintains industry-leading A6 to A9 rated cut levels, in addition to offering excellent abrasion resistance and durability.
Not sure what you need? HexArmor® can help
There are several factors to consider when choosing which law enforcement glove is right for you.