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As part of our Expert Interview Series, we spoke with Matt Reid, a High Performance Textiles Manager at DSM Dyneema®. He has 20 years experience in the glove industry and hand protection authority. We had the opportunity to sit down with him to discuss the dos and don’ts on developing and maintaining a Hand Protection Program as well as where the future of hand protection is taking us.
1. When you walk through a facility, what are the biggest mistakes you see Safety Managers making with regard to their Hand Protection programs?
The biggest problem I see is overcompensation. Safety managers have too much information coming at them, so when it comes to gloves they tend to go to the highest level of cut protection, ANSI level 5, even when it is not needed or even desirable. This is often not a good thing because cut level 5 gloves are often stiff and inflexible, so they are choosing a glove that people simply won’t wear. I actually saw this very recently in a facility that was handling sheet metal. The workers actually had the gloves in their pockets, and quickly put them on when they saw the safety manager, because they literally could not do their jobs with the gloves provided to them.
Safety managers need to consider test results as one reference point in their decision, but not trust blindly in the test results alone. Choosing the right hand protection for a facility needs to more be than simply a “checking the box” exercise.
The best way to solve this is simply by putting more emphasis on hand protection. Hand injuries are the #1 preventable hand injury in the work place. In our Zero Excuses campaign we stress that something is obviously missing if there are still millions of recordable hand injuries every year in this economy. Some of those injuries are traumatic and life altering. Often safety managers feel that there is PPE and gloves, but that is the wrong attitude. Gloves should be considered a safety item just as important as fall protection or respiratory protection. Safety Managers don’t need to be glove experts but they should be knowledgeable enough to have a conversation with a manufacturer about gloves, test methods, and hand protection in general.
2. What are the best practices you see with regard to hand protection?
The facilities that have safety professionals that consider hand protection as important as other PPE items. The ones that get to know Hand Protection such as standards, products, technologies, and the manufacturers who are leading the way.
3. Who is the best with regard to hand safety and what do they do?
I think there is a lot of low hanging fruit here. Many industries as a whole are not using the optimal choice of hand protection, and leather is still the largest single type of glove style. Out of necessity the food processing industry has been using high performance products for years. Relatively speaking, they have some of the best control measures with “turn in a glove to get a glove” and internal laundering, but vending and tracking are showing up more often in general industry and the controls are vastly improving. There is a lot of potential for vending programs to really improve hand protection. Facilities will be able to control safety costs by controlling misuse of PPE and in turn, provide better quality hand protection for their employees.
I guarantee 8 of 10 companies are not controlling usage the way they should. Then, one day they will wake up and realize they are spending $300,000 on gloves.
4. What are some of the worst practices you’ve observed?
Double or even triple gloving, which I’ve witnessed in an automotive plant. Those workers couldn’t even bend their hands! This of course led to other issues, such as compliance. Before joining DSM Dyneema® X years ago, I worked for a glove manufacturer that designed a Terry glove for them that had the same protection as 3 gloves combined and 4x the flexibility.
I’ve also seen facilities use gloves with totally the wrong material or fiber for the function. I once visited a food processing facility that was using a basic standard-weight spun aramid glove. The cut performance was not adequate, laundering the aramid based glove was difficult (not bleachable) and the durability was not good.
5. If a manufacturer was going to pay you $ 1 million dollars to reduce their hand injuries to zero in one month, what would you do to get them there in a hurry?
If there is no time to design a specific glove for the application then I think it comes down to putting the resources in place for intensive assessment, training, monitoring and incentivizing. Each position in the operation needs to be fully assessed from safety perspective such as what are potential sources of injury happen and what is the best product for the specific application. They would also need specific training for each function based on those assessments (ID the hazards, training needs to be often and repetitive and specific), regular monitoring of use (are they wearing…how is product working, what could be better) and then rewarding the team and individuals for adopting the program into everyday thinking. Really those are the basics of any good hand protection program, it would simply be a matter of executing the basics really well.
6. What do you think hand protection will be like in 5-10 years?
I think the current trend of higher performance that is lighter, more flexible, more comfortable will continue. I think you will see material technology increase with smart materials, like materials that harden on impact, inspired by Sea Cucumbers, or gloves that can repair themselves. Material science will drive hand protection design and improvements.
I also think you will see even more of a merger with performance, hand protection and style, design, and more appealing look. Well-designed gloves that people want to wear help improve compliance and reduce injuries.
7. What are your favorite instructional resources on safety?
Zero Excuses website of course! I tend to look at the individual websites of the market leaders in the safety industry. There are unique differences that you can pick up on with each individual company. I also look at the Bureau of Labor Statistics which breaks down injuries in the US by category of injury or industry segment. My company is also part of several Safety Industry related association or groups that keeps me informed about standards, and general issues (ISEA, IGA, ANSI, EN388).
8. What are your favorite gloves you had a hand (pun intended) in developing?
My favorite gloves these days are any developed with Dyneema® Diamond Technology, because the material is establishing a new standard in cut protection. Earlier I mentioned some stats about how many hand injuries continue to occur in the workplace. We know that 7 out of 10 cut injuries to the hand happen to workers not wearing gloves. Why is this? For many it is a comfort issue. With Dyneema® Diamond Technology, manufacturers can create gloves that achieve the necessary cut protection, but in thinner and more comfortable styles. Some of these cut resistant gloves are so thin it is almost like not wearing gloves at all! From previous career experience outside DSM Dyneema®, any opportunity to work with materials and technology that pushed the boundaries of cut protection and fit the way we are with this new innovation provided the most job satisfaction.
9. If you could eliminate one glove from the face of the earth which glove would it be?
Leather gloves. I’m just joking, sort of. Leather gloves have their place but they are used in a lot of applications where they really shouldn’t be. A lot of this is because of historical influence, “this is the glove my Dad wore when he worked here. ” It also has a manly or macho image associated with it. There are better options available today than leather gloves for most jobs, especially when we talk about cut resistance, an issue for which leather offers almost zero protection.
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Hand Injury Rates are Reduced by 60% when using the right gloves.