Buying Work Gloves - The Difference Between Safety And Protection

By: William Penworthy

Who would have thought that work gloves could prove to be so dangerous! The truth is that inappropriate work gloves, bought for safety reasons, are actually the direct culprit for many work related hand injuries. Itís not hard to understand why, but it seems to have been the inevitable result of a series of well intentioned decisions, all of which have resulted in workers in businesses and industries facing a greater risk of injury or accident than before.

Not only has it long been known that work gloves and safety equipment are essential in helping to protect the workforce, but with health and safety legislation tightening up the requirements and responsibilities of employers, it has become essential for industries to identify and source the most appropriate safety equipment possible. This demand has resulted in a large number of safety equipment manufacturers and distributors providing industry related safety equipment, including safety gloves, eyewear and other forms of protective clothing.

With increased demand, and increased availability of safety clothing, there seemed little scope for employers failing to meet the required standard of safety. Those who failed to do so faced a new threat in terms of an increased tendency for litigation. As society grew to embrace the collective idea of responsibility, it became increasingly important for industries to ensure that the best safety equipment was in use. Unfortunately it is at this point that a gross error tends to be made by many companies, who confuse safety for protection, and then go on to believe that the two words mean more or less the same thing. In anyoneís book, safety and protection might seem to be of much the same school of thought, but in reality, it is the difference between these two concepts which has led employers to make errors of judgement when choosing work gloves and safety equipment for workers.

The trouble is that by choosing anti vibration gloves or cut resistant gloves employers may assume that offering maximum protection is the requirement. This then leads to the purchasing of thick safety gloves which provide the entire hand, and even the wrist and forearm, massive protection. But protection tends to go hand in hand with decreased dexterity and reduced manoeuvrability. Being wrapped in cotton wool is fine, as long as you donít intend to move or do anything. Over protection or inappropriate protection can lead to workers being less able to sense those items they are touching, or tools which they are using, and may restrict movement considerably.

This restriction in inappropriately chosen safety gloves can result in one of three scenarios occurring. Either workers find that they are unable to operate as efficiently as before, reducing output and profitability across that aspect of the business or industry. The second possibility is that the protective gloves reduce movement, feeling and dexterity, leading directly to accidents in the workplace, such as the wrong button pressed, items dropped, knocked or damaged. Try making a cup of tea wearing boxing gloves and youíre more likely to work slower, spill more, cause more problems, and result in less tea made less well, and with more mess to clear up.

The third scenario is the one which, unfortunately, is tending to occur more and more. This is where workers fail to use their anti vibration gloves, cut resistant gloves or other safety gloves, and risk their hands with no protection whatever. In this case, any accident is far more likely to result in a much more serious injury, and is likely to cause the worker to either be unable to work for considerably longer, or unable to work at all. The legal ramifications are then considerable.

Instead of choosing inappropriate gloves, or confusing protection for safety, it is far better to find a supplier able to provide a wider range of safety gloves, each designed for a specific purpose. For example, cut resistant gloves are unlikely to require a full quarter of an inch of toughened leather around the entire hand. It may be that only the back of the hand and the wrist are ever at risk. By providing gloves that have excellent protection in these areas, but are much thinner over the palm of the hand and fingers, workers will be able to operate as efficiently as before, able to feel their tools and equipment, move their hands with ease and without restriction, yet protect themselves from likely injuries at work.

It is by appreciating the difference between safety and protection that allows employers to select work gloves which are appropriate for the job, and not just appropriate for any conceivable hazard whilst limiting the actual ability to carry out the tasks required.

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