The definitive guide to hand protection

guide to hand protection
With the hands being crucial to the performance of everyday tasks, an injury causing a loss of function, grip, range of motion or even amputation, is extremely debilitating.

Research has found that around one third of those who suffer a hand injury will also suffer from depression, post-traumatic stress, or both, leading to a reduced quality of life.

According to a 2008 report from the Australian Safety and Compensation Council, work-related hand and wrist injuries are the most common work-related injury type and lead to 8,400 hospital admissions each year.

The report states that the most common cause of these injuries are accidents stemming from powered machinery without the correct protection, power tools and knife injuries. Manufacturing, construction, wholesale and retail trades are the most dangerous industries for hand injuries.

With wearing appropriate safety gloves reported as reducing the incidence of hand injury by around 60-70 per cent, it is no wonder that Australian legislation takes hand protection seriously.

Employers are required to provide application-specific personal protective equipment (PPE) at no cost to employees – as well as assessing all other WHS options found in the hierarchy of control. 

Given the vast range of industries that present dangers of hand injury and the many different hazards that may be present within each industry, choosing the correct safety gloves requires a detailed risk assessment.

A safety glove offering protection that is specific to the hazard should be chosen – whether chemical or welding hazards, cutting, crushing or vibrating hazards.

Other considerations must include the requirement for dexterity and feeling when performing the application or whether the glove will be used in wet, oily or cold conditions. In some cases, the solution may be a combination of two different gloves.

Comfort and Fit:

Many workers forego the use safety gloves because they feel they are uncomfortable. However, a high quality, well-fitted glove will be more comfortable; thus, more likely to be worn and less likely to be taken off by workers.

Furthermore, poorly fitted gloves – whether too loose or too tight – do not provide adequate protection as they provide less control, dexterity and grip and may present catching hazards. Read more.

Cut Protection 

With cuts and open wounds as the most common workplace injury requiring hospitalisation and accounting for 35 per cent of workers’ compensation claims for work-related hand and wrist injuries, cut protective gloves are a must.

However, cut protection alone is not enough and the glove’s other features should match the application – whether for grip, dexterity, or specific to wet or oily conditions.

The cut protection rating should also be scrutinised. European and American Standards both use a 1-5 cut protection rating scale, however they are not comparable or interchangeable. Read more

HAVS Protection

Exposure to vibration from tools and machinery can cause disrupted circulation in the hands and forearm and permanent damage to nerves, tendons, muscles, bones and joints – known as Hand Arm Vibration Syndrome (HAVS).

Symptoms may include tingling and numbness in the fingers and loss of strength or pain in the hands or arms. Using gloves to minimise risk is essential. Read More.

Wet and Cold Conditions:

Handling cold, wet or oily materials in cold conditions with the incorrect glove type can create safety issues as the hands become cold, leading to a loss of feeling and control.

Gloves that offer protection against the elements while remaining lightweight, breathable and functional-, as well as catering for the specific application, – is crucial to hand safety in colder conditions. Read More.

Chemical Hazards:

No one type of glove can protect against all chemical hazards and compatibility charts must be consulted when identifying suitable gloves for a particular application, according to the University of Western Australia, Department of Safety, Health and Wellbeing.

Gloves should be checked routinely for leaks and rejected gloves destroyed immediately.