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Safety Zone: Gloves in the Age of the Smartphone
Gabriel Curry explains why getting the right work glove requires more than just making sure it fits. From finishes to various fibers to dip treatments, spending a little more upfront can ensure your employees will actually use personal protective equipment.
By Gabriel Curry
Date Posted: 12/1/2010
Have you looked at glove choices lately?
There has been a revolution underway that is both exhilarating and confusing in the protective glove business. Space age fibers, new methods in coating—it’s high time to get updated on what’s available and what it can do for safety, productivity and cost control. To think you could retire the old ill-fitting leather gauntlets in favor of a safer, less expensive, more comfortable glove that you don’t have to remove to send a text message is a good reason to examine the latest news on work gloves.
Thumbing through your supplier’s catalog is likely to raise more questions than it answers. Dyneema? Nitrile? ActivGrip? Hang on – class is about to begin:
Introduction to Glove Materials
Knitted Shells: Many gloves begin with a seamless knitted shell in a variety of materials. The ability of manufacturers to knit a well-fitting product including all five fingers without needing a single seam seems to me to be as miraculous as spinning gold out of straw. If the fiber has a little elasticity or flexibility to it like nylon, cotton, or even the new cut-resistant Dyneema, it will hug and stretch with your movements like a second skin.
Dips: Gloves have been dipped with waterproof coatings for longer than Madge has been soaking ladies’ hands in Palmolive dish soap. It has only been in the last fifteen years, however, that the “flat dip” process has been perfected, where only the palms and fingertips receive the coating, leaving the back of the hand to breathe through the shell and flex comfortably.
A variety of materials have been employed as dipped coatings, each one lending its peculiar talents and properties to the glove. This has led to an explosion of shell and dip combinations, offering a rich variety of cost/performance profiles aimed at different industries or tasks.
Finishes: And that’s just the beginning. The next frontier was to refine the “finish” of the dipped coating. Nowadays, you can find gloves with traditional smooth dip coating, textured dips, and lately we’ve been seeing a new level of sophistication with customized finishes like air-infused, foamed, and the proprietary ActivGrip®.
Armed with this background, you can now look at your suppliers’ catalog and be able to deconstruct most of the gloves they have to offer. If you learn the properties of the materials and finishes contained in the gloves, you can even evaluate for yourself if a given glove will be suitable for the application you work in.
Table 1 is a brief rundown of the materials and their properties:
Recommendations for the Pallet Industry:
Cotton, nylon, and Dyneema are all suitable materials for handling pallets assuming the proper coating is applied. Dyneema, while initially costing a lot more money than the other two, will earn its way to cost-effectiveness by outlasting the others and protecting workers from cuts and lacerations.
As for coatings, latex and nitrile are both excellent choices; they both will protect against nuisance hand injuries, but avoid latex if you expect to be handling something oily. If you have the chance to get gloves with the advanced finishes like ActivGrip®, your employees will thank you for providing them with gloves that they can wear all day and maybe even forget they have gloves on.
Gabriel Curry is president of Hub Industrial. He can be reached by email at Gabriel@hubindustrialsupply.com or by phone at 800-743-9401, or visit http://www.hubindustrialsupply.com
Table 1. Types of glove materials and properties.
Cotton: Inexpensive, breathable, comfortable
Nylon: Inexpensive, durable, moderate abrasion resistance, water repellent
Dyneema®: Comfortable, cool in summer, superior cut and abrasion resistance, superior durability, washable
Kevlar: Good cut, superior heat tolerance
Dip Coatings for General Purpose/Cut resistant applications
Polyurethane: Comfortable feel to the hand, excellent wet grip
PVC: Good abrasion resistance, inexpensive coating
Latex: Good wet grip, good cut resistance for a coating, good puncture resistance
Nitrile: Excellent coating in oily application, give good oil grip, resists deterioration in oils, excellent cut, puncture, abrasion, and tear resistance.
Crinkle: Cut resistance
Dots: Wet grip
Microfinish® / (ActivGrip®): Superior tactility and grip
Air-Infused, Foamed: Improved comfort and grip