Not a Simple Choice

The proper work-specific gloves are a key part of staying safe on the job.

Working with sewage requires waterproof gloves for obvious reasons, but that may not be enough. The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health says there are about 25 hand injuries per 10,000 workers every year. According to OSHA, 70 percent of hand injuries happen to workers who are not wearing gloves; the rest happen when the wrong gloves are used.

It is the employer’s responsibility to make sure workers are using the right gloves for the right situations, along with other appropriate safety equipment. OSHA has no specific regulations pertaining to gloves, but they are required PPE: “Employers shall select and require employees to use appropriate hand protection when employees’ hands are exposed to hazards such as those from skin absorption of harmful substances; severe cuts or lacerations; severe abrasions; punctures; chemical burns; thermal burns; and harmful temperature extremes.” (29 CFR 1910.138)

OSHA’s guidance lists several criteria to guide you, as well:

  • Type of chemicals handled
  • Nature of contact (total immersion, splash, etc.)
  • Duration of contact
  • Area requiring protection (hand only, forearm, arm)
  • Grip requirements (dry, wet, oily)
  • Thermal protection
  • Size and comfort
  • Abrasion/resistance requirements

ANSI has a voluntary standard (ANSI/ISEA 105-2000) to help measure performance of different gloves. The numerical scale measures such things as resistance to cuts, punctures, and several other criteria.

That will help, but working with wastewater poses a unique hazard, in that a cut glove can also expose a worker to any number of infectious diseases ranging from tetanus to typhoid fever and hepatitis. Waterproof gloves may not be enough; it may be necessary to wear multiple gloves, or one with several layers, to protect against multiple hazards such as wastewater, electricity, punctures, and abrasions from equipment.

An example is the “FR Waterproof Ultimate Lined with Kevlar” glove from Youngstown Glove Company (ytgloves.com). The company claims its glove provides flame-resistant protection in cold, wet, and winter conditions. Its outer shell is 100 percent cowhide leather. Inside are a layer of Nomex insulation, a breathable membrane that is waterproof and windproof, and a layer of cut-resistant Kevlar for flame resistance and cut protection. It is just one line of gloves made with Kevlar marketed by Youngstown; many others offer Kevlar gloves as well.

US Jetting is now marketing a glove made of a relatively new material, according to President Nick Woodhead. From TST Sweden, it is designed for jetting, high-pressure painting, and working with hydraulics. “You look at some of the injuries that occur, a lot of people lose limbs,” says Woodhead. “These gloves can take a direct straight jet of about 3,000 psi and a rotary jet of 7,500 psi.”

Marketed under the ProOperator name, the gloves are made of an ultra-high-molecular-weight polyethylene called Dyneema. Used in body armor, climbing equipment, parachutes, joint implants, and other areas where high strength and light weight is needed, Dyneema is said to be, weight-for-weight, up to 15 times stronger than steel and four times stronger than Kevlar (see Cleaner, November 2012). “You wouldn’t dream of walking through a plant without safety glasses today,” says Woodhead. “Up to now, there hasn’t been a glove that could withstand a water jet injury, now there is one.”

As the technology of protective gear continues to grow, expectations of employers will grow right along with it. It’s a good idea to keep up with the changes so you can offer employees the latest in equipment on the job so they can go home to their families safely every night.



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