Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Getting a Grip

ISO Symbol for 'Gloves Required'
We take many parts of our lives for granted, and we don’t typically realize how important they are until one of them gets injured or goes missing.  When it comes to body parts, our hands tend to fall in that category.  How would you cope if one or both of your hands were missing or out of commission?  Providing proper PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) to guard against injuries can help, however, the selection of PPE for hands can be vast and varied.  Here are a few aspects of glove selection that should be considered.

Physical Injuries to your hands can come in several different ways. Physical trauma can get ugly fast, and be quite painful.
  • Crushing can happen when heavy loads of forces compress the hand. Mild impacts can cause bruising of the skin and underlying muscles.  More severe forces can break the skin by forcing the flesh from between the incoming object and the underlying bones.  Wearing gloves with hard-shell knuckle guards and/or rubber bumpers across the backs of the hand and fingers can be beneficial.  Brightly colored gloves can be helpful here because they make your hands more visible to both yourself and others.  Wearing black gloves when loading counterweights on a dark the fly gallery is a good way to get your pinkies smashed!
  • Abrasion is caused when your skin is rubbed tangent to the skin surface.  Continued mild scuffing can build callouses, where continued rubbing can cause blisters to form.  More abrasive surfaces can tear-away chunks that you would rather stayed attached.  ANSI / IESA 105-2011 Abrasion Resistance is rated on a scale of 1 to 5, with 1 being the least, and 5 being the best.  For gloves tested to the European EN 388 standard, the scale is 1-4.
  • Impalement or Punctures can come from many different types of sources like wood splinters, needles, screw and nail tips (think about that the next time you reach around something to grasp it without looking to see what’s there first . . .), and sharp ends of wires, glass shards, or sheared metal.  ANSI / IESA 105-2011 Puncture Resistance is rated on a scale of 1 to 5, with 1 being the least, and 5 being the best.   For gloves tested to the European EN 388 standard, the scale is 1-4.
  • Cutting occurs when there is a sharp edge like a saw blade, knife, freshly sheared metal, or an unpolished glass edge.  ANSI / IESA 105-2011 Cut Resistance is rated on a scale of 1 to 5, with 1 being the least, and 5 being the best.  For gloves tested to the European EN 388 standard, the scale is also 1-5.
Thermal Injuries can happen when the surface temperature of an object is beyond the ability for skin to dissipate the energy differential.
  • Extreme Cold can be caused by handling dry ice (frozen carbon dioxide) can result in freeze burns.  Grabbing a cold handle on a truck door after it has been sitting in sub-zero weather can do this, too.
  • Extreme Heat is most often encountered with hot lighting equipment which can burn you and/or raise blisters that will take a while to heal. The nozzle ends of heat guns used for accelerated paint stripping / drying or activating heat-shrinkable tubing can also be hazardous, as can soldiering irons.  Welding can expose your skin to both high intensity UV rays which can result in sunburn-like skin irritation, as well as the more common burns from molten metal spatter.  Synthetic glove materials (rubbers and plastics) can melt when exposed to extreme heat, so using cloth or leather type products typically are a better choice if you don’t like the feel of molten plastic on your skin.
There are additional ANSI / IESA ratings for Heat Degradation Resistance (melting), Conductive Heat Resistance, and Conductive Cold Resistance.

Chemical Exposure creates two additional categories of ANSI / IESA ratings:
  • Chemical Permeation is when the glove may be porous or absorbent to the chemicals you are using and do not create a protective shield between you and the exposure chemical.  Open weave fabrics (natural or synthetic) may be comfortable to wear because they breathe well, but fluids can flow right through them.  Leather may offer a bit of protection as most fluids don’t soak through them rapidly, but they will saturate and allow undesirable chemicals to come in contact with your skin.
  • Chemical Degradation is when the gloves disintegrate or otherwise decompose due to a chemical reaction with the chemicals they are exposed to. It is ALWAYS a good idea to dip test the glove (without a hand inside it) you are considering using to see how it reacts BEFORE you put on the glove and use it.
Melted Gloves - That could be your skin!
If a glove has a leak or gets torn, then the chemicals can get inside the glove and be forced tightly against your skin.  This is where the tear, puncture, and cut resistance can become very important.   Know before you go!

If you have questions about the compatibility between a glove material and a chemical, then look at the Chemrest Chemical Resistant Glove site at:   They have an interactive tool that shows you the best type of glove materials for use with many common chemicals.

Vibration Exposure can happen when you are using an orbital sander, reciprocating saw (hand-held jig-saw), or hammer-drill. These types of protective gloves have special vibration energy damping pads built into the palms of the glove to minimize the mechanical energy transferred to your hands. Prolonged exposure to excessive vibration can cause nerve numbness (tingling sensation or ‘dullness’) and even permanent nerve damage.

Electrical Contact can be deadly, so the electrical insulation factor is an important consideration when working around live electrical items.  Of course working ‘hot’ requires special permits, so unless you are a fully qualified electrical worker, please make sure that you power-off and/or unplug equipment before you attempt even the most basic of repairs.

Gloves with Grippy Dots
Traction - Getting a Grip can be important for many tasks around the workplace, so having gloves with a rubberized or tacky palm and fingers can actually reduce your end-of the day fatigue.  These gloves give you a little extra traction so that you are less likely to be fumble-fingers and drop things (particularly on your feet!).  This can speed the loading and unloading of trucks, too.

Snagability - Not Getting Caught-Up in Things can be a real safety concern.   It is commonly recommended that you should not wear gloves when you are working drills, power saws, planners, and other equipment that might draw your hands into the machine or tool should they get a bit too close. In these cases, it may be better to lose a bit’o flesh than to be sucked into the machine and loose much more.

Keeping the Bugs Out should always be a check list item.  When you leave your gloves laying around the shop or in the bottom of a tool box it is always possible that spiders and mites can set-up house inside them (they like small dark places), so the next time you pull the gloves out to use them, you are instigating a home invasion for those pests and they’ll fight back by biting you.  Keep your gloves someplace clean, dry, and bug-free.  After the sweat dries, store them in a large ziplock bag.

Fingers: Count-em’ 1 to 10!

PPE – Pick the right tool for the job.

(This post first published in TheatreFace Online Blogs)

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