Viewpoint: time to rethink the need for safety gloves?
10 Apr 2017
Globus’ Nick Green considers the case for wearing safety gloves in a modern engineering process.
General thinking has been that gloves should be avoided where exposed rotating machinery is used, as the operator has an increased risk of being caught up and drawn into it.
But is there a case to be made in today’s modern engineering environments – with a growing emphasis on fully enclosed, computer- operated machinery – to rethink the use of technical safety gloves?
Although there remains a clear and present danger in wearing hand protection where exposure to rotating equipment is present, thankfully the modern day machine shop has changed considerably, with precision machining often undertaken by fully-enclosed, computer-controlled machines.
However, not all risks can be engineered out and while hand protection should be seen as a last resort, it is still required to protect against mechanical risks which pose a very real threat to workers, mainly from handling pre- and post-machined components; changing and maintaining multi-faced modern cutting tools; and even from cleaning and maintenance programmes.
Hand protection is especially important where synthetic or water-based coolant is present and there is potential to splash or contaminate the operator
The introduction of coolants, water and oil emulsions and other lubricants in the engineering process can increase the risks for operators. While they aid cutting, they not only reduce grip and control when handling components, but also increase the potential for dermatological risks.
Human interaction remains an essential part of the job. The rotating parts of traditional machining operations may be guarded to some extent, but could still be within an operator’s reach – so the goal is one of balance.
Hand protection is especially important where synthetic or water-based coolant is present and there is potential to splash or contaminate the operator.
Wearing a glove that provides the right mechanical protection for handling these type of components is only one important facet in the glove selection process and those selected should offer the right level of cut and abrasion performance.
So it is important to consider the combination of both mechanical and grip performance.
One example is the introduction of nitrile foam palm coatings, combined with new innovative technical cut resistant yarns.
This safety glove can be worn for securely handling dry or lightly oiled ferrous and non-ferrous materials, as well as pre- and post-machined medium and heavyweight components.
The flexible fully-coated nitrile base level coating provides a barrier to oils, greases and a myriad cutting fluids, thus reducing the risk from contact skin diseases.
Any operator wearing a range of hand protection providing secure grip and control when handling awkward, heavy or oily/greasy components will also benefit from increased posture and reduced musculoskeletal damage.
The big question
Should gloves be used for operating rotating machinery? While the answer remains no, there are in many instances requirements for hand protection.
Therefore, the solution is to wear gloves that offer increased grip in those environments that include foam nitrile palm coatings in conjunction with technical fibres that protect from minor nicks and cuts, then removing the glove when operating the machinery.
There are other environmental risks too, such as contamination and contact from coolants, cutting fluids and lubricating emulsions that increase the efficiency of metal-cutting applications.
It is important to protect the operator from extended contact from these substances which are applied during the cutting operation.
Nick Green is corporate accounts director at Globus