What Features to Look for in Puncture-Resistant Gloves

According to Occupational Health and Safety, more than 43% of non-fatal injuries to the upper extremities are hand injuries. Hands are susceptible to many types of injuries, including cuts, scrapes, burns, lacerations and punctures. These types of injuries are easy to prevent with the simple wearing of gloves. 

In fact, two out of every five hand injuries are cuts or punctures. It’s essential to invest in quality puncture-resistant gloves to help prevent these injuries that can cost employers as much as $10,000 in medical bills. Here’s a guide covering what to look for in puncture-resistant gloves.

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Start with the Right Puncture Standard 

Not all puncture-resistant gloves are created equal. Both the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) and its European equivalent (EN 388) use similar methods for determining the strength of puncture-resistant gloves. 

They use a 4.5mm diameter steel probe with a slightly rounded tip, similar to a #2 pencil, moving at 100mm/minute to penetrate the fabric at a 90-degree angle. They then measure the maximum force in Newtons required to penetrate said material. 

The place where they differ is on the scale. ANSI uses a 0–5 scale and EN 388 uses 1–4. Light duty gloves are 0s and 1s, while heavy-duty options are 5s and 4s, respectively. 

How To Use This Information 

Sticking with the ANSI for now, here’s a general look at what each rating is effective for: 

  • Light-duty gloves (0–1) are suitable for parts assembly and handling light materials like paper and cardboard. 

  • Light/medium-duty (2) are suitable for material handling, light construction, and packaging. 

  • Medium-duty (3) are suitable for construction, light metal stamping, manufacturing, and light glass handling. 

  • Medium/heavy-duty (4) are suitable for the same as level three, with an addition of food handling and regular glass handling. 

  • Heavy-duty (5) are suitable for mining, oil/gas handling, heavy construction, demolition, metal fabrication, and manufacturing. 

Think carefully about the job you need to do, and compare it to the ratings to figure out which level of PPE is best for your needs. 

Keep in mind that a higher rating doesn’t immediately equal better performance. The higher-rated gloves use stiffer materials for greater protection, so you sacrifice some dexterity and grip. Some puncture-resistant gloves have rubber coatings on the fingertips to help alleviate this issue. 

What About Needles? 

In 2016, ANSI designed a new probe to test for hypodermic needle protection. Using a 25-gauge steel needle moving at 500mm/minute, which is five times faster than the previous testing method, they figured out a similar rating scale for protection from needle punctures. You must use this scale if you are handling needles to choose the best glove. 

Do You Need Palm or Full Coverage? 

Most puncture-resistant gloves only provide coverage to the palm. This is because most puncture wounds occur when picking up or lifting an object, like a piece of glass. Additionally, full-coverage means a stiffer, more difficult-to-use glove. 

If your work involves digging around in materials like wood, metal, or glass, consider using a full-coverage glove as your PPE. This includes positions like materials disposal, junk disposal and waste management, for example. 

Conduct a Hazard Assessment 

Once you have an idea of what rating for puncture resistance you need, conduct a hazard assessment of the workplace. This will help finalize your choice of puncture-resistant gloves. 

Nova Group developed the RED book, which is a miniature job hazard analysis. Employees use it to assess the risks they may be faced with that day, such as exposure to hazardous materials, and what steps are in place to mitigate these risks. 

Consider Other Industry Factors 

While puncture resistance is key for some industries, don’t forget other factors that may need to come into play. For example, a worker in waste collection will also need to consider a glove with good grip and possibly liquid resistance. This helps protect them from spills and from dropping objects. A worker in steel manufacturing will also need to consider cut resistance (which is assessed differently than puncture resistance). 

Make sure the gloves you choose are applicable for every aspect of the job at hand. 

Don’t Neglect Comfort 

Of course, the protection afforded by puncture-resistant gloves should be paramount. Their whole purpose is to help you avoid injury, so choosing a glove based on comfort rather than protection is not a good idea. 

However, no amount of threats or pleading will get employees to consistently wear uncomfortable gloves. Try to find a balance between the protection rating and how easy it is for employees to continue to do their jobs.

Author

Barb Abrahms

Barb Abrahms is the CEO and co-founder of PalmFlex. Abrahms has over 20 years of experience consulting her team and customers on their ideal personal...

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