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Every year work gloves and sleeves improve to offer stronger protection with higher cut resistance and better insulation from heat. And while these innovations are crucial to safety, another equally important aspect of protection is comfort. A glove that workers find comfortable is a glove they’ll wear consistently – the best A9 glove on the market can’t prevent lacerations if it’s in your worker’s pocket.

John Hanks has been in the EHS field for nearly a decade, including time at a large aerosol can manufacturer. Workers there handled steel sheets with very sharp edges. “They were basically handling a four-sided knife,” he said, adding that even with such a dangerous job, “one of my biggest uphill battles was getting people to keep gloves on their hands at all times and to use the proper gloves.” Hanks said his workers wanted gloves that were “not too thick and not too thin. If they were too thin, they’d get needle pokes through the gloves from protruding objects. If they were too thick, they couldn’t feel what they were handling. Then they wouldn’t wear them at all for some tasks and we’re right back to square one.” Hanks estimated that, even with lighter gloves, about 10 percent of his workers experienced skin irritation from glove materials and had trouble finding something they could wear through a whole shift.

Hanks said irritation usually happened when workers started sweating, and that problems increased significantly in the summer months. So what causes so many workers to experience skin irritation from their gloves or sleeves? To find out, we have to understand how gloves are made cut-resistant.


According to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics1, in 2016 there were 1,118,400 nonfatal occupational hand injuries involving days away from work in private industries in the United States. Hand injuries resulting from cuts and puncture cost the construction industry approximately $382 million each year, second only to back strain and sprain injury, according to the BLS.
The National Safety Council offers a guide to estimating costs: Direct cost of a laceration is about $10,000; stitches about $2,000 plus indirect costs; butterfly about $300; and a severed tendon about $70,000.

Protect your hands

According to the BLS, 70 percent of workers who experienced hand injuries were not wearing gloves.

To help prevent workplace injuries, OSHA’s hand protection (PPE) standard mandates that employers select and require employees to use appropriate hand protection when employees’ hands are exposed to the following hazards:

  • skin absorption of harmful substances
  • severe cuts or lacerations
  • severe abrasions or punctures
  • chemical burns or thermal burns
  • harmful temperature extremes

    OSHA recommends that “gloves be selected based on the task that will be performed, the chemicals encountered, and the performance and construction characteristics of the glove material.”2

    Choosing the right hand tool is also a key part of protecting your hands.3 Tools with handles that fit your hand reduce fatigue, increase productivity and reduce the risk for hand and wrist problems. Having to grip a tool too tightly or bend your wrist awkwardly to use a tool can lead to repetitive strain injuries and reduce your grip strength.

    Common hand injuries

  • Fractures, crushed injuries and amputations
  • Lacerations, cuts and punctures
  • Skin disorders caused by contact with chemicals and burns
  • Work-related musculoskeletal disorders (MSD) caused by using a forceful grip, awkward hand and wrist positions, and/or excessive hand vibration
    A hand injury, such as the loss of a finger, a broken bone, nerve damage, MSD, or skin disorder, can interfere with a worker’s job performance and quality of life, sometimes ending a career. Work-related hand injuries are also costly to the employer, in terms of lost work time and productivity, and higher insurance rates. Avoid injuries on and off the job If you work with your hands for most of the day, you might be at increased risk of repetitive stress injuries.3 Plenty of common activities present additional risks to the hands, including yard work, working on a car or power tool use. Practicing the same hand safety habits you follow on the job will help keep your hands safe at home. The following hand –related illnesses often go unnoticed until they become more serious, but may begin in the workplace.
  • Carpal tunnel syndrome – caused by a pinched nerve in the wrist, it leads to tingling or numbness in the fingers and sharp, shooting pains in the wrist.
  • Osteoarthritis – also known as wear-and-tear arthritis, it occurs when cartilage between bones wears down over time.
  • Symptoms include pain, tenderness, stiffness or a grating sensation when moving the affected joint.
  • Tendonitis – caused by inflammation of the tendons, symptoms of tendonitis include tenderness, pain and swelling.


    After five years in development, a new standard that provides a framework for improving employee safety, reducing workplace risks and creating better, safer working conditions all over the world has been approved by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO).

    ISO 45001 Occupational Health and Safety Management Systems, which was developed with support from the American Society of Safety Engineers (ASSE), is a voluntary consensus standard intended to help combat the global toll of work-related fatalities, which currently number about 7,600 a year.

    The first-of-its-kind global model for managing safety and health risks is expected to be published in March. In addition to enhancing employee safety, ISO 45001 is intended to improve business outcomes.

    ASSE played a key role in the seven-stage process that began in 2013, serving as the administrator of the U.S. technical advisory group (TAG) to the American National Standards Institute (ANSI). According to ISO, 93 percent of its members voted in favor of the new international standard, far above the requirement of a two-thirds majority.

    “ISO 45001 is one of the most significant developments in workplace safety over the past 50 years, presenting an opportunity to move the needle on reducing occupational safety and health risks,” said TAG Chair Vic Toy, CSP, CIH. “The goal was to create a widely accepted standard that can produce a highly effective safety and health management system for an increasingly interconnected world, regardless of an organization’s size, location, supply chains or nature of work. It becomes a minimum standard of practice, and a good one at that.”

    The standard was developed by a committee of occupational safety and health experts who followed a combination of other safety and health management systems such as ANSI/ASSE Z10, OHSAS 18001, ISO 14001, ISO 9001, guidelines from the International Labor Organization, and various national standards. ISO 45001 will replace OHSAS 18001, a British standard that grew to global acceptance. There will be a three-year transition period for registrants.

    Many organizations, especially in Europe and Asia, are transitioning to a management-systems approach as a better way to control organizational risk and achieve a measure of corporate social responsibility. That new foundation is ISO 45001, reflecting diverse opinions and methods from around the world on the best ways to construct an occupational safety and health management system. These comprehensive systems help companies combat well-known workplace hazards such as falls, which are a leading cause of on-the-job injuries and deaths.

    “A significant aspect of ISO 45001 is how it works within an organization to integrate with processes and goals,” Toy said. “Everyone has a role and responsibility in the management system. Safety and health becomes a shared objective, and when done right, the organization greatly benefits from this cohesive way of managing risks.”

    The multi-year process of establishing a global standard included input from more than 75 countries across six continents. The ultimate outcome will be safer and healthier workplaces across the globe as companies adopt the groundbreaking standard to reduce injuries, illnesses and fatalities.

    “Better management of risk is needed by businesses in every industry to not only protect their human capital, but to achieve growth and sustainability objectives while improving their bottom line,” said TAG Vice Chair Kathy A. Seabrook, CSP, CFIOSH, EurOSHM. “ISO 45001 is a tool to help organizations do just that.”


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