What do the RMS Titanic and those injured wearing improper Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) have in common?
Unfortunately, in both situations, those involved weren’t completely aware of the threat of danger until it was too late.
Here’s the good news: Accidents caused from workers wearing the wrong PPE for the job are extremely preventable – provided, that is, that the right precautions are taken.
Do you remember the days when leather gloves were the only option available on the market? Not anymore, now there’s plenty of choice. With all of the technological advancements and high-quality materials on the market these days, glove manufacturers are able to design work gloves that offer sizable benefits to workers in certain applications and industries. Because of this, it’s important to opt for a glove that was specifically designed and manufactured to suit the needs of the job being performed and to protect hands against related work hazards.
Translation: One glove does not fit all.
Seems obvious, right?
Still Wearing the Wrong Gloves
Believe it or not, when glove experts perform hand safety assessments, one of the biggest problems they find is not that workers aren’t wearing gloves, but that they aren’t wearing the right gloves. This is often because both employers and employees are unaware that they’re exposing themselves to such high risks by wearing gloves that were actually designed for other applications.
While those who haven’t experienced a recent increase in the number of hand injuries in their workplace are unlikely to question whether or not they’re wearing the right gloves, in actuality, this is extremely important. Although employees might feel a little attached to the gloves they’ve grown used to wearing, it’s no secret that wearing the wrong gloves has a direct correlation with the number of accidents in a workplace, as well as to the level of severity of those accidents.
Continuing with the Titianic analogy, this is what is referred to as The Iceberg Effect.
Although wearing the wrong glove might not seem like a big deal at the time, in reality, it’s the tip of the iceberg – one that spans the length of several ocean floors and is chock-full of unnecessary dangers and expensive hidden costs.
Establish an Effective PPE Program
Partner with a safety specialist and ask them to perform an audit of your workplace. Ask them to take into account the various hazards that workers will face when they’re on the job as well as the nature of the PPE that workers are currently wearing.
Could your workers benefit from wearing gloves that offer a little more cut protection? Are abrasions a concern? Is a stronger grip for oily conditions needed? These – along with any other questions that relate to the worker’s ability to get the job done in an effective but safe manner – should all be taken into consideration. That way, the safety specialist can ensure that the selected PPE addresses both the demands of the job as well as the various risks in the workplace.
Still not convinced why it’s so important to ensure that everyone is wearing the best gloves for the job? Maybe these hand injury stats will convince you:
On average, about 23% of workplace accidents are hand-related.
Reduce Waste; Increase Productivity
Not only will ensuring that workers are wearing the right gloves reduce the amount of PPE waste that your facility produces, but also it can increase worker productivity and compliance. The better-suited the gloves are to the task at hand, the more likely it’ll be that your workers will want to wear them. If you’re interested in saving your company even more money when it comes to PPE costs, establishing a laundering program will prevent you from having to replace your gloves as often.
Ensuring that your employees are safe in the workplace really is not a choice, it’s a requirement. Section 1910.138 of the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OSHA) states that employers must select and require employees to use appropriate hand protection when their hands are exposed to any of the following:
- Skin absorption of harmful substances
- Chemical burns
- Severe cuts and lacerations
- Thermal burns and harmful temperature extremes
- Severe abrasion and puncture threats
If you’re still wondering whether it’s worth the time and money it’ll take for you to re-evaluate your current PPE selections and whether or not they’re the best choice for your industry, the short answer is yes – it’s more than worthwhile. As you can see, implementing a proper hand protection program in your workplace isn’t just a good idea, it’s critical.
Not sure if your workers are wearing the best gloves for the task at hand? Ask a glove expert to come in and perform a complimentary hand safety analysis and glove audit.
This article first appeared in Industrial Safety & Hygiene News (ISHN) on September 1, 2016.