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Certifying Ergonomic Gloves

Safety and comfort go hand in hand

The primary purpose of the use of personal protective equipment (PPE) is to protect workers against hazards that cannot be eliminated or adequately reduced by other means. While designing and selecting PPE it is extremely important to know and take into account the principles of ergonomics, which can ensure the acceptability, and by extension the use of PPE. On the other hand, the PPE placed on the market should be evaluated in terms of ergonomics and the potential impact on the user1,2.

Evaluating ergonomics

Ergonomic properties are also of great importance, as glove fit and comfort of use affect manual dexterity and work safety3. The choice of methodology is critical in evaluating the ergonomic properties of protective gloves4. Currently, those properties are assessed based on two methods specified in safety standards, that is, the dynamometric grip and pull test according to EN 1082-2:20005 (glove fit and anti-slip qualities); and a test involving the picking up of pins with varying cross-sectional diameters according to EN 420:2003+A1:20106 (finger dexterity).

Figure 1. Evaluation of ergonomic properties of protective gloves

In the standard EN 420:2003+A1:20106 method dexterity is measured only with steel pins, each 40 mm long and respectively of 5 mm to 11 mm diameter. The pins shall be placed on the flat surface, and a trained operator wearing gloves shall pick up the appropriate pin by its circumference. The test results correspond to the smallest diameter of the pin that can be picked up. They do not reflect fully the characteristics of gloves as regards their ergonomic properties expected in the case of manual work, for which a higher level of such properties is desirable.

These tests, however, lack objective indicators, and their results consist of the subjective assessment of sensations associated with upper limb fatigue, discomfort, and glove fit. In recent years, a number of nonstandard tests have been developed for the evaluation of the ergonomic aspects of hand protection products, involving physical, physiological, and psychophysical methods7, 8, 9.

It must be underlined that the current requirements provided for in the standards for protective gloves concerning assessment of compliance with Directive 89/686/EEC contain a basic reference to the evaluation of ergonomic properties.

Figure 2. Factors relevant to the ergonomics of protective gloves

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In the Central Institute for Labour Protection – National Research Institute (CIOP-PIB) a new approach to assessing the ergonomic properties of gloves was developed, taking into account factors relevant to ergonomics in PPE: biomechanical, sensory, anthropometric, thermal, and psychological. As shown in Figure 2, biomechanical measurements are crucial for the assessment.

These factors are quantified by conducting the tests according to our own customised methods. The criteria developed at CIOP-PIB takes into account the factors relevant from the point of view of ergonomics of personal protective equipment and test procedure, according to our own Ergo Gloves method. This consists of five steps, each respectively indicating the following factors:

  • Biomechanical
  • Sensory
  • Anthropometric
  • Thermal
  • Psychological

“the choice of methodology is critical in evaluating the ergonomic properties of protective gloves”

Table 1. Dexterity tests

Test Manual Dexterity Test
Test 1 Cylinder grip and pull test for the evaluation of gross hand and arm movements
Test 2 Purdue Pegboard Test for the evaluation of fine finger movements
Test 3 Simulated occupational task of pulling aside for the evaluation of gross arm movements
Test 4 Simulated occupational task of holding down for the evaluation of gross hand movements
Test 5 Simulated occupational task of rotating for the evaluation of gross movements of the hands and arms

Figure 3 - Assessment of biomechanical factors - step 1

The above factors are quantified by the tests conducted according to our own methods and determination of the following parameters. Those related to the biomechanical factor – indicator of the degree of manual dexterity limitations and total dexterity limitation index – biomechanical study of the five dexterity tests (Table 1) correlated with the assessment of muscle loading (EMG) of the upper limb (Step 1).

Figure 4 - Assessment of sensory factors - step 2

Parameters related to the sensory factor – the bending modulus of the material – a sensory test in terms of the comfort of use, determined, among others, by the material flexibility (Step 2).

Figure 5  - Assessment of anthropometric factors - step 3

Parameters related to the anthropometric factor – the internal width and length of the glove, minimum and maximum allowances in the fingers – anthropometric study in terms of the dimension of gloves including arrays of anthropometric measurements of the hands (Step 3).

Figure 6 - Assessment of thermal factors - step 4

Parameters related to the thermal factor – thermal analysis in the assessment of hygienic properties of the material and the microclimate inside the product (Step 4).

Figure 7 - Assessment of psychological factors - step 5

Parameters related to the psychological factor – subjective comfort of work while wearing the glove – psychological research in the field to answer the survey associated with subjective feelings during the use of the product (Step 5).

Positive results from steps one to five allows certification for the Ergo Gloves mark (Figure 8). The mark was registered by the European Union Intellectual Property Office (EUIPO) on 30 September 2016 under the number 015430135.

Figure 8: EU trade mark Ergo Gloves which will be used for marking of gloves with high ergonomic properties

The objective of the Central Institute for Labour Protection – National Research Institut was to develop a methodology for testing gloves for superior ergonomic properties specified in the document “Comfort evaluation criteria for products: Gloves with very good ergonomic properties – Ergo Gloves certification”. These criteria are more demanding than those stipulated in the relevant CEN standards and ensure greater user comfort. ERGO GLOVES certification is applicable both to protective and work gloves, as well as to gloves used for other purposes.

The Ergo Gloves certification procedure consists of five steps, as seen in Figure 9.

Figure 9: Ergo Gloves certification procedure

The first step is application for certification. The Applicant shall submit a copy of the completed form “Ergo Gloves Certification Request”, which clearly and unequivocally identifies the gloves concerned.

The Applicant shall also submit:

  • A completed “Glove Specification Form”
  • A copy of reports on conformity testing for the criteria (Figure 2)
  • One pair of gloves to be certified

The submitted documentation shall be examined for completeness and formal correctness (Step 2). The Applicant shall be notified if any formal defects in the “Ergo Gloves Certification Request” or the accompanying documents are identified. If the documentation passes formal scrutiny, it shall be passed on to the evaluator, who shall then conduct substantive evaluation.

In the process of substantive evaluation (Step 3), the evaluator shall:

  • Examine whether the content of the “Ergo Gloves Certification Request” is consistent with that of the “Glove Specification Form”
  • Define the scope of the required laboratory tests based on the data supplied in the “Glove Specification Form,” unless such tests were already performed prior to the application – then the evaluator shall check whether the scope of the laboratory tests performed is appropriate for the gloves in question and shall examine the supplied test reports

The evaluator shall ascertain whether or not the results of laboratory tests of the gloves in question meet the criteria (step 4). The successful Applicant shall be notified about passing the certification process, and shall be sent the decision to issue an Ergo Gloves certificate (step 5).

“positive results from steps one to five allows certification for the Ergo Gloves mark”

The certificate shall include the following information:

  • Details of the certificate holder (name and address)
  • Details of the glove manufacturer (name and address)
  • Name of the product
  • Reference to the criteria for product evaluation
  • Reference to reports from laboratory tests
  • Expiry date
  • Terms and conditions concerning certificate use
  • Scope of glove use
  • Photograph of the product

The certificate shall be issued to the Applicant for a period of three years.

Conclusion The Ergo Gloves trade mark informs about high ergonomic properties of gloves, which are characterised by comfort of use. This mark will be awarded by CIOP-PIB to protective gloves if they pass with positive results the laboratory assessment according to the criteria developed for that purpose, enabling buyers and users to distinguish the gloves providing high comfort of use, optimal for work requiring good tactility and dexterity.

Acknowledgement

The publication has been based on the results of Phase III of the National Programme “Safety and working conditions improvement”, funded in the years 2014-2016 in the area of research and development works by the Ministry of Science and Higher Education / The National Centre for Research and Development.

The Programme coordinator: Central Institute for Labour Protection – National Research Institute

References

  1. Koradecka, D. (ed.) Work Science – Safety, Health, Ergonomics (oryg. Nauka o pracy - bezpieczenstwo, higiena, ergonomia), CIOP, Warsaw 2002, Vol. 2 and 8.
  2. Koradecka D. (ed.) Use of Personal Protective Equipment in the Workplace, Handbook of Human Factors and Ergonomics, John Wiley & Sons Press, USA 2012, pp. 895–910.
  3. Irzmanska E., Ergonomic Gloves. The evolution of ergonomic properties, Health & Safety International, Issue 55, pp.15-25, August / September (2014).
  4. Muralidhar A., Bishu R.R., Hallbeck M.S., The development and evaluation of an ergonomic glove, Applied Ergonomics, Volume 30, Issue 6, 1 December 1999, Pages 555–563.
  5. EN 1082-2:2000 Protective clothing. Gloves and arm guards protecting against cuts and stabs by hand knives. Gloves and arm guards made of material other than chain mail.
  6. EN 420:2003+A1:2010 Protective gloves- General requirements and test methods.
  7. Larivière C., Tremblay G., Nadeau S., Harrabi L., Dolez P., Vu-Khanh T., Lara J., Do mechanical tests of glove stiffness provide relevant information relative to their effects on the musculoskeletal system? A comparison with surface electromyography and psychophysical methods Applied Ergonomics Volume 41, Issue 2, March 2010, Pages 326–334.
  8. Irzmanska E., Tokarski T., A new method of ergonomic testing of gloves protecting against cuts and stabs during knife use, Applied Ergonomics, Vol. 61, pp.102 – 114 (2017).
  9. Irzmanska E., Okrasa M., Preliminary study evaluating manual dexterity tests assessing gloves protecting against cuts and stabs by hand knives, INTERNATIONAL JOURNAL OF INDUSTRIAL ERGONOMICS, Vol. 56, pp. 138-149 (2016)
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Emilia Irzmanska Ph.D. (Eng.), D.Sc. (Eng.) Head of the Laboratory of Hand and Foot Protection at the PPE Department, Central Institute for Labour Protection – National Research Institute (CIOP–PIB) in Warsaw, Poland.
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