Cut-resistance tests are just one element to consider when sourcing hand protection. Often, punctures are misreported as cuts. A sharp edge, corner, burr or other protruding hazard can penetrate the glove and scrape or cut skin. In some cases, hazards actually can poke through the glove material and cut the skin without damaging the glove.
Depending on the density of the knit and gauge of the glove (the measure of the number of knitting needles per inch), and the thickness of the fibers, a glove may “window,” allowing a sharp point or blade through the glove to cut the hand.
While many products on the market claim to be cut-resistant, they don't offer protection from the variable nature of hazards in the workplace. A claim of cut-resistance is made based on industry tests like EN388 and ASTM F1790, which only test resistance to straight and circular blades. These tests do not account for things like metal burrs, wood slivers, glass shards and angled blades that commonly are found in the workplace.
What users really need is a product that offers both cut and puncture resistance (laceration protection); a glove that essentially acts as a shield from straight- and jagged-edged hazards in a variety of field uses.
New technology in some products uses tiny hard guard plates that provide a high level of cut resistance, as well as protection from industrial puncture hazards like metal burrs, slivers, glass shards and wire pokes. There are few technologies on the market that are able to perform at a high cut and puncture level, so be aware of manufacturer specs when evaluating your PPE.
IMPORTANCE OF CUT AND PUNCTURE RESISTANCE
While replacing a steam valve on a lumber manufacturing site, a maintenance worker was exposed to a nail on a wooden crate. The worker accidentally grabbed the crate where the nail was protruding and the top layer of leather in his glove was torn. Fortunately for the worker, a second layer beneath the leather was able to stop the puncture force of the nail, and the worker did not sustain an injury.
If the worker had been wearing a knit, cut-resistant fiber used for cut-resistance in certain applications, he could have experienced a serious laceration. The initial nail puncture would have torn through the leather and caused the cut-resistant fiber to window, allowing the hazard to penetrate his finger.
Lacerations usually begin with a jagged or angled hazard puncturing the surface of gloves and ripping through to the skin. Remember to evaluate your PPE based on your application, and work with your manufacturer to obtain the correct specs for hand protection.
WHAT TO DO WHEN EVALUATING GLOVES
With all of this confusion (What tests are relevant today? What performance factors to consider?) in the PPE market, what can be done to make sure that as safety professionals, we pick the best gloves for the job? In our opinion — based on real world tests — the Coup test is not a relevant test for today's materials. An oscillating blade with a mere 500 grams of force (1.1lbs) is not relevant to, for example, an automotive worker moving sheet metal fenders and body panels.
The ISO and ASTM tests offer a better approximation of what you are going to find in a real-world work situation. That, combined with an assessment of “other factors” mentioned above, is what you need for picking the correct PPE.
To summarize, we have the following recommendations:
Partner with respectable distributors and glove manufactures to analyze your operations, specific hazards, injury rates and PPE budget.
Get the data. Ask for the outside lab results and focus on the Newton/Gram results, not just cut levels. If you are not getting the Newton number, then the glove was tested with the Coup test.
Assess the risk. Is the risk purely cut-related? Or is there a puncture risk too? If so, how can workers best be protected?
Test, test, test. Conducting safe and scientific tests with typical hazards is something your glove manufacturers should be able to help with. A hunting knife in the conference room does not qualify! Get out in the plant and set up a safe test for a true work hazard in the real world.
Keep good records. If you don't already, begin collecting injury data with pictures and an assessment of what happened so you can track successes over time and evaluate new products as they become available.
Steve VanErmen is vice president of HexArmor. For more information, visit http://www.hexarmor.com.