The hands are a worker's most important tool. However, the realities of hand injuries in the workplace suggest a disconnect between company ambitions to improve safety and the number of end users requiring medical treatment and/or time off to recover.

Impact-related injuries can vary widely—from a bruise to the knuckles to a severe bone fracture.

The bones and tissues in the back of the hand are especially vulnerable to impact injuries, which are common in a variety of vertical markets and end-use applications, from offshore oil and gas, construction, mining, manufacturing, and warehousing to transport industries.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports around 300,000 cases annually of injuries or illnesses affecting the upper extremities, of which 42 percent were injuries to the hand. In 2015, more than 40 percent of all recordable incidents in the oil and gas industry affected the hands, according to the International Association of Drilling Contractors (IADC).

IADC figures for 2016 also show the fingers to be the most vulnerable part of the body in terms of lost time. Injuries to fingers accounted for a third of all total recordable injuries and almost 20 percent of lost-time injuries. Meanwhile, the hands and wrists accounted for around 11 percent and 10 percent, respectively.

The cost of lost time and productivity is significant, estimated by the National Safety Council to be $142 billion in the United States alone in total in 2017.

Reducing the Risk from Impact

Until recently there was nothing to help assess the performance of industrial gloves designed to reduce the risk of back-of-hand impact injuries.

The European hand protection standard EN 388 was updated in 2016 to include impact assessment. However, the North America market remained without a performance-based standard to assess glove impact protection.

In an industry first, the International Safety Equipment Association (ISEA) has developed a new voluntary standard to address this: ANSI/ISEA 138, American national standard for performance and classification for impact resistant hand protection.

he standards committee responsible for developing ISEA 138 is made up of leading glove manufacturers, materials experts D3O, and expert insight from Dr. Lloyd Champagne, a surgeon based in Phoenix, Ariz., who focuses on plastic and reconstructive hand surgery.

"As far as what anatomy in the hand is most vulnerable," said Champagne, "the two main problem areas are the fingertips, which are very commonly injured because they are the part that is universally in contact with everything, and the big knuckles, which are frequently impacted by things such as wrenches slipping or people catching their hands under the hood of a car."