Protecting your employees from on-the-job hand injuries can seem overwhelming. The plethora of misinformation, myths, and misnomers surrounding personal protective equipment (PPE), and more specifically, cut-resistant gloves certainly exacerbate the issue.
In this article, we’ll tap into a number of expert resources on cut-resistant gloves to expose the top myths surrounding hand protection, so you can ensure that you’re making the best, most informed decisions when it comes to protecting your workforce.
1. PPE should be your first line of defense against injuries.
The Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) defines PPE as “equipment worn to minimize exposure to a variety of hazards.” However, PPE should not be seen as a first line of defense but rather as a last resort.
There are a number of control measures that should be applied before PPE is ever considered, including:
• Eliminating the hazard by redesigning the process
• Substituting with a safer process or product
• Controlling the hazard at the source
• Reducing exposure through administration
If you cannot implement any of these control measures, then it is your responsibility as an employer or safety manager to provide appropriate PPE to protect your employees from workplace hazards.
2. Providing PPE means my employees are protected.
According to a survey conducted by Kimberly-Clark Professional at the American Society of Safety Engineers (ASSE) Conference & Exposition, 98% of respondents said they observed PPE noncompliance: workers not wearing the required protection when they should have been. Providing PPE is not enough to ensure that workers are safe. You also need to invest in an ongoing PPE training program and commit to building a workplace culture focused on safety.
3. A hand injury won’t really impact my bottom line.
Cuts and lacerations may not sound like a big deal for your business, but the numbers clearly paint a different picture. OSHA estimates that when you factor in the costs of ambulance transportation, medical treatment, and rehabilitation, just one incident can run a bill upwards of $40,000. And that number doesn’t even include indirect injury costs—training replacement employees, accident investigation, lost productivity, repairs to damaged equipment, lower employee morale, injured business reputation, etc.—which are estimated to be as much as four times that of direct costs.
4. Cut-resistant gloves make my employees’ jobs more difficult due to lack of grip and dexterity.
Thanks to the evolution in glove fabrics and technology, cut-resistant gloves are thinner, lighter, and more comfortable than ever before. According to an article by Ansell, a leading distributer of industrial hand protection, “Gloves are offered that include a textured finish on the fingertips, which is ideal for grasping smaller and lighter objects…For larger, heavier objects, gloves are available that incorporate a unique new technology that creates a roughened surface comprised of microscopic channels in a patented ultra-thin coating, which directs fluids away from the grip surface.” In fact, new fibers like Ultra High Molecular Weight Polyethylene (UHMwPE) used in gloves today are more cut resistant than ever before—and with no loss to comfort or dexterity.
5. Leather gloves provide excellent hand protection.
Despite this popular misconception, leather is actually the worst material for cut protection.
According to Ansell, “Leather is just skin and can be cut as easily as human skin, especially when it is wet or covered with oil.” Leather once ruled the work-glove world, which is why many still think of it as a good choice today. But when it comes to cuts and lacerations, leather offers practically no protection for your employees.
6. Cut-resistance levels don’t really matter.
Even though different cut tests can show wide variances for the same glove, and OSHA regulations don’t specify specific cut levels, the difference in levels is reflective of gloves’ ability to provide cut protection. Bear in mind the advice from glove manufacturer Banom: “the most effective way to evaluate a potential hazard is to expose a test glove to the edge itself without anyone’s hand in the glove.” That said, cut resistance tests and levels provide value as a starting point for identification of the appropriate glove for a specific threat.
7. Level 5 gloves are cut-proof.
Even Level 5 gloves aren’t infallible. It’s important to recognize that no glove should ever be considered 100% cut-proof. In an article for EHS Today, Tony Geng of Superior Gloves says “When talking about the property of cut resistance, the most important distinction to make is that gloves are cut-resistant, as opposed to cut-proof. In fact, there is not a glove in existence that can claim to be cut-proof.” Be wary of any glove manufacturers touting cut-proof claims.
When it comes to protecting your workforce from hand injuries, knowing the facts upfront is critical. Don’t be misguided by the many myths surrounding cut-resistant gloves, and always work with the most reputable glove manufacturers and distributors in the industry to ensure that the protection you’re providing your employees is the highest quality and offers appropriate protection for the job.