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Health and Safety International | Issue 42

Glove Selection

How to select disposable gloves Disposable gloves in a galaxy of colours are everywhere in the workplace. Indeed if we think about it, there are countless tasks in the workplace that entail the wearing of disposable gloves. With this rising demand for disposable gloves, comes increasing variability in quality. In addition to this vast diversity, users all appear to have different expectations. And yes, every individual is different, with different hands and therefore different needs. Never before has selecting disposable gloves seemingly been so complex. The good news is that by taking into account the following four criteria, those involved in selecting disposable gloves can cut through this complexity and hopefully make the correct choice. 1. The regulations: This is the starting point! Unfortunately users, distributors and even the manufacturers themselves may fail to interpret the legislation correctly. Taking into account the risks within the workplace (often chemical and biological), only a glove that is registered according to Personal Protective Equipment Directive (89/686/EEC) as Category III (Complex Design) is likely to be suitable. These gloves are designed for irreversible or mortal risk and will ideally have been tested against the latest version of the standards (EN420:2003 + A1:2009 or EN374-1/2 & 3: 2003). There are, however, many traps. To find out more, please see below under the heading ‘Knowing your stuff’. Making the correct choice in terms of the regulations is the minimum that needs to be achieved. 2. Protection: We must not forget that the primary function of the glove is to protect the wearer and as such it is not a fashion accessory. Here, we must not lose sight of three basic elements: • Glove materials (whether they be nitrile, latex or neoprene) behave in different ways and each one of them offers advantages and disadvantages • The length – the longer the glove the better it will protect the wearer. In this respect it is worth remembering the minimum liquid proof length requirement (EN374-1:2003) that specifies that a Category III PPE glove must have a length of 24cm, 25cm and 26cm for respectively sizes 8 (M), 9 (L) and 10 (X-L) • The thickness – this is what provides the protective layer on the hand. Whatever the glove material used, the thicker the film the higher the level of protection afforded to the hand. A difference of just two or three hundredth of a centimetre can have a significant impact These three elements can affect seriously glove performances. If you’re not persuaded, then see how chemical permeation can vary with gauge thickness by comparing two disposable nitrile gloves with different gauge thickness. (Table 1) 3. Comfort: Wearing gloves all day long is by no means an easy task. The notion of comfort is both very personal and highly subjective, making it difficult for glove manufacturers. Sometimes they will prioritise comfort before personal protection, as they know users will be very sensitive to this issue. Once again, different materials offer advantages and disadvantages. Latex is undoubtedly the most comfortable material thanks to its superior elasticity, even if nitrile is making great strides in this area. Be careful, however, as in the majority of cases in order to make nitrile more comfortable, you reduce the thickness. While the result is an undeniable gain in comfort, there is also a significant loss in protection. Again, in considering the question of comfort, we should also not forget the risk of allergies and irritation as these may be more prevalent with low quality gloves. High concentrations of chemical residues by virtue of the gloves undergoing reduced washing or insufficient chlorination can contribute to increased risk of potential occupational dermatitis. 4. Price: While important, this remains the final part of the selection criteria. Let us not forget that a glove may be worn primarily for personal protection. It is worth pointing out that as much as 60% of the manufacturing costs of a glove are based on the raw materials – hence the very large price fluctuations in recent years, especially on latex. Faced with this rather turbulent operating environment, manufacturers may quickly opt to reduce the length or thickness of the gloves to the extent that there could be as much as a 100% difference in the amount of raw material between two gloves. Therefore the glove will be less expensive and more comfortable, but unfortunately less effective in terms of its primary function of personal protection. So what price do you put on your personal safety?

Going Through Fire For Your Safety

A look inside the ‘textile torture chamber’ for PPE The Hohenstein Institute offers testing, certification and research to do with textiles. This means it’s more than possible that managers responsible for the procurement of workwear for their organisation will have been influenced in some way by the product safety expertise Hohenstein has. Testing Personal Protection Equipment (PPE) is an expanding part of Hohenstein’s work. Mariana Schubert, Head of the PPE Test Centre, gives us an insight into the work of her team.

Have RPE - Will Travel

Factors influencing the implementation of RPE in the workplace How does crossing the Atlantic, the English Channel, or even national borders within mainland Europe affect the level of protection that RPE provides? Technically it shouldn’t, but in practice it currently does. The same person, doing the same job in different countries is deemed to achieve different levels of protection from the same piece of RPE that they wear. This article explains why, holds out hope of a solution for the future and invites you to be part of the solution. When we are unable to control inhalation hazards by engineering controls we rely on respiratory protective equipment (RPE) to reduce the exposure to those hazards to safe levels. The choice of which RPE to select is based on many factors, but the protection factor assigned to the RPE plays a major role in the decision process. Not only does this impact on the decision making during the selection procedure, but it also subsequently has a bearing on initial outlay and running costs, how the job is conducted and the supporting regime needed to implement effective use of the selected RPE. These assigned protection factors (APFs), therefore, play a very important role. When we consider their origins, however, and when taking a wider view of APFs published in various countries and how they were derived, one sees a picture of sound scientific applications, mixed with ‘professional judgment’, variation and inconsistencies. We have to ask: Are they still fit for purpose given globalisation of business? But hold on – don’t start throwing APFs away just yet. They have played a pivotal role in improving the selection of adequate RPE and will continue to do so in the future; however, their suitability for certain RPE types (devices) has been questioned by both RPE manufacturers and end users. With a new suite of RPE standards being developed in the international arena (under the umbrella of ISO) that will fundamentally change the way RPE is described and classified, it is now an opportune time to reassess their suitability.

Hearing Protection

Most hearing conservation programmes are ineffective Most of the workers expected to use hearing protection either get no protection whatsoever or the performance of their PPE is inadequate. The implications of these findings published in the UK in a recent HSE report are far reaching. The common assumption that PPE is a reliable solution to hearing damage risk problems is simply untrue, leaving many personnel still at risk and many companies open to claims. Peter Wilson of the INVC summarises the results of the research and outlines the key factors required to make hearing conservation programmes as effective as possible.

Safety Case and Beyond

Providing appropriate, effective safety systems is clearly important in maintaining and improving the safety performance of a large scale industrial asset or organisation, but perhaps equally important is creating and encouraging a positive safety culture throughout the organisation. Research has shown that the key influence on an organisation’s safety culture is management attitudes and behaviours towards safety, and their willingness to lead by example, communicate clearly on risk and safety issues and involve personnel in the process of improving safety performance. Here, we use the offshore oil and gas industry as an example to demonstrate both how regulatory developments can drive improvements and how operators can build on those developments to encourage workforce involvement and thus further improve safety performance.

Safety From the Floor to Your Footwear

While quite rightly much attention is given to ensuring workforces wear suitable footwear, it’s important to get to the base of the matter - quite literally, to the floor. Engineering consultants Mark Pillinger and George Sotter join forces to discuss Sustainable Slip Resistance in a bid to minimise a commonplace hazard - slips and falls in the workplace.

Working at Height

According to the Health and Safety Executive in the UK there were 3,956 serious injuries due to falls from height from April 2010 to March 2011. That is a lot of injuries and a lot of lost time at work. The automatic line of thought (and this is part of the issue as we are dealing with psychology in this article) that risk assessors employ tends toward thinking of ladders or mobile elevated work platforms (MEWPs), which is all perfectly good. Well, not quite perfectly because those are just the means of getting up to a height. It is true that quite often people do short term work via those means but that ignores other parts of the problem such as fragile roofs, for example. How often have we read that some fool has told a 17 year old to go up a perfectly safe ladder on to a perfectly dangerous roof? Sadly, I can think of two straight away that resulted in the deaths on different occasions of two teenagers. Managers have sent young lads up on to roofs without first checking that the roof is safe or training the youth on how to assess it. Subsequent falls through skylights or other fragile areas have been fatal. Similarly, not securing tools while they are up there has caused injury too. In some cases I have seen tools left at height when work has been completed only for them to fall at a later date. The Working at Height Regulations in the UK and no doubt other countries’ regulations, insist on a full risk assessment prior to work at height. We are going to look at some psychological elements that are involved.

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