OHS Canada Magazine

Hands-Down Protection

December 1, 2009
By Angela Stelmakowich
Health & Safety

If safety gloves were ships, the main message would likely be "steady as she goes." While no great new wave looks to be bearing down on the marketplace, that hardly means the waters are not churning j...

If safety gloves were ships, the main message would likely be “steady as she goes.” While no great new wave looks to be bearing down on the marketplace, that hardly means the waters are not churning just below the surface.

Building on innovations in linings and coatings, making gloves more form-fitting, and upping end-user education are critical issues charting the course toward an even better fit for today’s workplaces. That’s surely welcome since the need for chemical resistance, heat protection, impact avoidance and keeping hands clean is not retreating any time soon.


Michael Everett, general manager (Canada) for Best Glove Manufacturing Ltd. in Coaticook, Quebec, says the company’s current focus is on improving and refining existing technologies. Ongoing research and development efforts include identifying combinations of materials for glove linings, thinner linings to bolster comfort and making available different coatings to suit specific hazards.

Ken Grieve, director of marketing for Bob Dale Gloves in Edmonton, says synthetic gloves have been gaining momentum for the past few years, and he expects more of the same in future. “There’s the depth of different types of gloves coming out, that we’re seeing in the marketplace as well as what we’re developing,” says Grieve.


Superior Glove Ltd. Canada in Acton, Ontario is responding to market need (and opportunity) by ramping up a few areas. Joe Geng, the company’s vice-president, says the first focus is to build on the use of seamless knitting technology.

As for glove specifications, Geng reports his company sees “testing the attributes of gloves as an area for opportunity.” Customers are demanding information on cut, puncture and abrasion resistance, as well as heat insulation, he says.

Fit is clearly an issue, supporting as it does worker comfort and, in turn, compliance. Although hardly new, Bruce Dally, vice-president of sales and marketing for Watson Gloves in Burnaby, British Columbia, sees coated gloves continuing to be a market force. “They continue to be the best-selling glove because of how they fit, how they protect and how they’re able to help an employee do his job better and safer,” says Dally.

And overall hand protection must take into account glove material, linings and coatings. The Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety (CCOHS) in Hamilton, Ontario advises that choosing an appropriate material requires reviewing, among other things, the task to be done, the hazards, flexibility and touch sensitivity needed, type of potential contact, contact period, and training regarding the hazards of skin contact, the limitations of any gloves used, the possible result if gloves fail and when to dispose of or decontaminate gloves.

Geng suggests by asking questions (and demanding information) “end-users are becoming much more educated and this is resulting in improved hand protection for workers.”


First, there is the need; second is the compliance. And central to compliance is comfort. If users are not comfortable, says Everett, “they’re going to find a way not to wear [safety gloves],” he says. “Then they just set themselves up for injury.”

Everett likens glove liners to the foundation of a house. “From there you can dip them: full dip them, palm dip them [and] flat dip them.”

Expanding and enhancing flat-dip glove offerings is an area Best Gloves will continue to pursue. The process calls for starting with a seamless knitted glove and dipping the palm and fingertips in some coating (these may include natural rubber, neoprene, polyvinyl chloride [PVC] and nitrile, a synthetic rubber), he says.

“Historically, the gloves would be completely dipped,” says Everett, but by coating only the zones where protection is needed, comfort is greatly enhanced. “It’s breathable, it’s a lot more flexible, a lot more comfortable.”

West Chester Holdings in Monroe, Ohio seems to concur that dips are the way to go. In August, a foam nitrile, palm dip glove was released to market that features a nylon shell, dip over the palm and fingertips, antibacterial surfactants, and a knit wrist for wearer comfort. Capable of drawing liquid away from the surface, the company notes, the gloves grip well even in wet applications.


Geng points out that cuts are the number one hand injury in industrial workplaces, thereby falling squarely in the market’s line of vision.

Grieve would agree cut resistance is another growth area. “We’re really seeing end-users becoming more aware of the value of investing in a cut-resistant glove to protect their workers,” he reports.

Cut-resistant materials include, among others, Kevlar, Dyneema, glass and thin strips of steel woven together. Geng notes there are different related standards, including those of the European Union and the United States. “Both these standards rate gloves on a scale of 0 to 5, but the test methods are completely different and the standards do not correlate at all,” he argues.

One American National Standards Institute/ International Safety Equipment Association standard contains a chart noting performance level and corresponding weight (in grams) needed to cut through with one inch of blade travel. The chart reads: 0 — less than 199; 1 — 200 to 499; 2 — 500 to 999; 3 — 1,000 to 1,499; 4 — 1,500 to 3,499; and 5 — more than 3,500.

With regard to cut-resistance, Grieve supports greater consistency. If a glove maker says a certain level has been achieved, there should be some accountability, he notes.

Grieve would likely consider himself a Dyneema guy — calling the “world’s strongest fibre” reliable, consistent, easy to use and long-lasting. “Dyneema isn’t the cheapest fibre out there, but at the end result, it’s going to save some injuries and downtime,” he adds.

Another strength area may be composite yarns. With the combination of two or more high-strength materials offering better performance than the sum of their parts, Geng says his company is putting some focus on this area. As an example, he cites the mix of Kevlar and stainless steel.

Superior Gloves released just such a product earlier this year. In laboratory cut-testing trials, the gloves withstood 1,700 grams of force, notes information from the company.

The spinning process used for the composite yarns allows a stainless-steel wirecore to be incorporated. It will not pop through to the wearer’s hand, thereby increasing comfort.


No glove material is impervious to a specific chemical forever and no single material is resistant to all chemicals, notes information from the CCOHS. Among other things, risk varies according to the specific chemical, its concentration and the length of contact. Materials that may be appropriate when using chemicals include natural rubber, neoprene, nitrile rubber, butyl rubber, Teflon and polyvinyl chloride.

Permeation rate, breakthrough time and degradation must be taken into account to ensure not just the promise of worker safety, but actual safety. Some chemicals permeate gloves in a few seconds; others take days or weeks.

To get a firmer grasp of what may work, Best Gloves offers chemical resistance charts on its website so visitors can make comparisons.


This past fall, Ergodyne in St. Paul, Minnesota introduced a new trades glove which offers impact protection, durability, abrasion resistance and grip. Kevlar and PVC zones on the palm and fingers, combined with reinforced Kevlar stitching, maximize protection, toughness and grip security, the company notes.

Designed for the most extreme applications — including oil/gas drilling, extraction and refining, tool pushing, mining, demolition, heavy construction, ironwork and barrel or drum handling — the glove has molded armour on knuckles, fingers and the carpal bone for impact protection, pinch injury prevention and blow deflection, “flex zones” for h
igh dexterity, dorsal padding for metacarpal protection, abrasion-resistant PVC on the palm and three fingers to limit liquid penetration, and reinforced Kevlar palm stitching for extended wear and durability.

Dally notes his company offers a line of gloves that are well-suited for use with any high-impact tool, drills or machinery that creates vibration since the gel inside the units deadens vibration.


Of course, not every workplace is measured by its rough and tumble — but that does not mean hazards are absent.

Last January, Ansell Healthcare in Red Bank, New Jersey — responding to a request from the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) — announced the availability of gloves, made of Viton over butyl, to protect workers from phenol chloroform and a variety of dangerous chemicals. “Previous products that provided an appropriate level of chemical protection did not meet lab technicians’ practical needs for dexterity and tactile sensitivity,” says Matt Carlson, environmental health and safety specialist for the UCSF.

The new glove provides greater than 90 minutes of chemical resistance to breakthrough for phenol chloroform and other chlorinated solvents, with excellent resistance to degradation. It also has breakthrough times greater than 200 minutes for chemicals such as acetic acid, benzene, ammonia hydroxide, carbon tetrachloride, dimethylacetamide, methylene chloride and sulphuric acid.

Labs, by their nature, need to be clean and sterile. But those attributes are of value in related settings too.

Best Gloves has introduced gloves to protect against swine flu, methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureas and other pathogenic microorganisms. These can be used for routine activity, patient care, decontamination and clean-up, and can be wiped with hand sanitizers to kill microoganisms.

Dally suggests that with H1N1 in mind, disposable gloves made of nitrile, rubber latex or PVC would do the trick.

The latex would be an option, of course, unless an individual has a latex allergy. “Guidelines for Latex and Other Gloves,” a publication produced by then-Saskatchewan Labour, say the proteins and additives in the gloves may cause reactions, ranging from hives to runny nose, asthma and full intolerance.


With winter’s arrival, protection from the cold would certainly be welcome. But why not also be seen.

Marigold Industrial Inc. in Greenville, South Carolina has recently released a new range of high-visibility thermal gloves suited for outdoor tasks — from construction to utilities and materials handling. The gloves feature a thermal, terry loop, seamless lining, an open back to reduce perspiration buildup, and natural latex rubber coating on the palm and thumb.

Keeping the hands warm and dry in cold, wet and winter conditions will help reduce the threat of accident brought about by a loss of grip and feeling, notes a company release.


Sometimes, the customer wants something general. Earlier this year, Ansell launched a new portfolio of vinyl and latex disposable gloves designed for a wide range of food handling, general duty and light industrial applications. The natural rubber latex provides high dexterity while offering the strength and comfort characteristics of natural rubber latex.

Can a single glove cover off all hazards? “There is no such thing as a catchall glove, not even close,” says Geng.

When a worker is exposed to a number of hazards, Everett says, people may select gloves according to “whatever is the most destructive and use that as your comparative.” However impressive the protection, there will be a trade-off.

With a big, bulky glove, for example, Everett cautions that comfort and tactile dexterity will, no doubt, take a hit.

But with gloves becoming more durable, Grieve says there may be a shift in thinking about simply using something once and then throwing it away.

Magid Glove & Safety Manufacturing Ltd. in Chicago now offers general purpose work gloves with 100 per cent bamboo fibre shells. With more corporations launching “green'” purchasing initiatives, “buyers are striving to comply,” the company reports.

Bob Dale Gloves expects to release an all-purpose bamboo glove by year’s end. The biodegradable glove fits great, is form-fitting, is sleek and (depending on how it is soiled) can be washed three or four times before disposal, says Grieve. “The environmental aspect is what we’re really pushing toward, but there’s some style in there as well.”

Everett’s view is that there can never be too much comfort, but there can be overprotection. Grieve adds a glove can be produced with cut level 5 protection, but if that level is not required, “you’re just overpaying for the glove.”

Dally agrees comfort is paramount. Citing construction crews across from his office: “If they’re not comfortable, if [the glove] creates a blister, they’re not going to wear their gloves. That means they’re not going to buy our gloves. And if they’re not wearing gloves, they’re in jeopardy of hand injury.”


Ultimate protection is aligned closely with buyers becoming informed and involved. Grieve, for example, says his company can do what is called a G-3 audit. The idea is to work with the end-user to survey the workplace setting, what tasks are being done, what safety programs are in place and what equipment options are part of the client’s current arsenal. Representatives “do a full audit from beginning to end, then we do some analysis and we get back to them with some suggestions,” he says.

Superior Gloves’ website lets visitors “Ask the Glove Geek,” Ansell has introduced a guide to simplify the glove selection process, and Watson Gloves does regular site visits. It is “up to us to recommend the ideal glove that provides the most value without jeopardizing safety for the best price,” Dally says.

Still, more awareness is needed. “It is amazing how many companies have been using the same glove for 30 years simply because they are available,” Geng says.

“Getting the right glove for the right application takes time,” Grieve suggests. “To do it right the first time is where people are going to save money and protect workers.”

Angela Stelmakowich is editor of OHS CANADA.


Ultimate protection is closely aligned with buyers being informed and involved.



The CCOHS’s “Guide to the Selection of Skin Protection” outlines the hazard, the degree of hazard and the protective material required. Below are a few examples:

• severe abrasion would demand a reinforced heavy rubber, staple-reinforced heavy leather glove (for less severe abrasion, a rubber, plastic, leather, polyester, nylon or cotton glove would do);

• cold requires leather, insulated plastic or rubber, wool or cotton;

• temperatures of 350-plus degrees Celsius would demand asbestos or Zetex, while Nomex, Kevlar, neoprene-coated asbestos and heat-resistant leather with linings would be alright for heat up to 350 C; and,

• radiation would demand lead-lined rubber, plastic or leather.


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