Kinga Demetriou, Certification Manager, PPE Team Leader at BSI explores PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) and how to prevent hand protection injuries in the workplace.
Ensuring that employees are safe at work must be a high priority for all organizations, regardless of industry. According to the Labour Force Survey1, 441,000 of non-fatal injuries occurred at work between 2020-2021. Whilst this can have a considerable impact on businesses, ultimately organizations have a responsibility to look after their people, as laid out in The Health and Safety at Work Act 1974.
Upper limbs are most commonly injured in workplace-related accidents in Great Britain, according to data provided by RIDDOR2, with fingers, thumbs, hands, wrists or the rest of the arm being the areas impacted most. However, most incidents in the workplace can be prevented if the correct level of protection is provided.
Gloves are just one of the most common types of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and an important part of self-protection in the workplace. Many gloves are designed to protect against one specific type of hazard.
“protective gloves are often an integral part of the required personal protection kit box”
For example, butchers’ gloves are made as highly cut resistant to prevent injuries caused by knifes, electricians’ gloves provide protection from live electrical hazards, and oven gloves protect against burns and scalds from touching hot surfaces. There are also examples of gloves that protect from multiple hazards simultaneously, i.e. examination or surgical gloves primarily protect against microorganisms such as bacteria or viruses, but often offer an additional protection against mild chemicals commonly present in hospital environments or healthcare settings; and firefighters’ gloves, which have multiple thermal claims but at the same time protect against mechanical or chemical injuries too.
“sometimes dexterity will need to be affected especially if protection is more important”
In fact, there are a range of hazards that require the use of specialist hand protection including chemical or biohazards, heat or cold exposure, manual handling, electrical or radiation hazards, sharp objects, vibration from machinery. Therefore, protective gloves are often an integral part of the required personal protection kit box.
Many factors should be considered when purchasing PPE gloves, with the main ones being:
- What substances will be handled?
- Which hazards are likely to be encountered?
- The duration and type of contact the gloves will need to endure.
- Who will be wearing the gloves, (while taking into consideration the wearer and any personal requirements, i.e. potential skin allergies)?
- The job at hand and any task-specific needs.
Further considerations should also include:
- Size and fit – gloves come in variety of sizing, good fit would offer better protection, too small glove may tear while too loose-fitting gloves can affect dexterity. Sometimes dexterity will need to be affected especially if protection is more important.
- Protection levels – gloves offer varying levels of protection against a given hazard, therefore, risk analysis should be done to ensure that the glove meets the required level for the task.
- Wear and tear – inspecting gloves for signs of physical damage, such as cuts or tears, discoloration or swelling.
- Expiration – never use a safety glove past its expiration date.
There are a range of different types of PPE gloves for different industries including medical, building, construction and trade-specific requirements which all offer varying levels of specialised protection for hands. The most common types of PPE gloves include:
- Anti-vibration impact resistant gloves
- Builders’ grip gloves
- Cut resistant gloves
- Electricians’ gloves
- Disposable gloves (examination, janitorial and surgical)
- General handling gloves
- Heat resistant or insulating gloves
- Leather gloves
- Nitrile coated gloves
- PU coated gloves
- Rigger gloves
- Protective sleeves
- Thermal grip gloves (including oven gloves or mitts)
A step forward for PPE and diversity
In industries where women remain under-represented, it hasn’t made economic sense to provide PPE in a range of smaller sizes and cater for women. However, in construction for example, some female workers may find that most PPE doesn’t fit them or is otherwise unsuitable because boots and gloves don’t come in their sizes and suits are too large and poorly ventilated. Additionally, in some sectors maternity wear does not exist. This is why the way PPE is made is changing with the driving force being the evolution of standards to ensure that PPE is designed to keep everyone safe.
Standards written for PPE often fail to take into account a more diverse end user. Health and safety is an industry which has a predominately male demographic, although this is changing. The experts that develop the standards come from this demographic, which means there can be a lack of diversity on the committees that write PPE standards around the world.
The standards which committees are responsible for developing are increasingly accounting for diversity of all types. In fact, BSI has a project to identify all standards that need to have a ‘personal’ aspect to them – and this includes not only gender and cultural diversity but also religious, disability, medical and other forms of body differences such as amputees.
The most effective solution to deal with PPE that does not meet the needs of a diverse workforce is to remove the need for PPE wherever possible. Where it isn’t possible, it is the organizational culture and effective consultation and participation of the workforce which removes obstacles and barriers, such as discrimination or embarrassment (real or perceived).
These principles are clearly seen in the international standard on health and safety management –ISO 45001. Organizations that implement this standard will empower their workforce to participate in good health and safety and in many cases the workforce will come up with effective solutions to PPE challenges.
BSI has produced a white paper on diversity in Personal Protective Equipment, which can be downloaded at http://page.bsigroup.com/diversity-in-ppe
There is an ever-rising need for organizations to comply with health and safety regulations; therefore, professionals need to explore the use of PPE. However, with a variety of protective gloves on the market – each with its own use and application, how do organizations invest in the right protection? Understanding the PPE Regulation (EU) 2016/425 can offer some help, in order to make the right choices of hand protective equipment.
Gloves require mandatory CE and UKCA certification under the PPE Regulation (EU) 2016/425.
“PPE standards are increasingly accounting for diversity”
Hand protection offers a far-reaching level of hazard defence from thermal, chemical and impact to biohazard and general household liquids and come in the form of gloves, finger guards and arm coverings.
There are many different types on the market – each with its own use and specific application. The PPE Regulation groups all products into three main categories depending on the level of risk in the workplace.
Minimal risks are present, and employees can identify and assess the level of protection that the product offers. Such risks might include superficial mechanical injury, contact with hot surfaces not exceeding 50°C and atmospheric conditions that are not of an extreme nature. In order to fall into this category, products must comply with the Essential Health and Safety requirements and bear the CE marking or UKCA marking.
Category II: Intermediate
Neither complex nor simple, products in this category should be certified by a Notified Body/Approved Body, to prove that they meet the technical requirements of the PPE Regulation’s relevant specifications.
PPE in this category is designed to protect workers against dangers that could cause serious harm to their health and in some instances, death. These products safeguard employees against electrical risks, dangerous voltages and provide insulation during high-tension work. To meet the requirements of this category, manufacturers not only need to get their products certified by an accredited body, but also undergo constant surveillance. Their chosen accredited body will select and test samples to ensure all products meet the required standards.
The majority of gloves fall within category II or III and therefore require EU Type Examination and if complex, on-going surveillance too.
How can you tell if hand protection is up to standard?
Specifiers and purchasers of PPE can derive a measure of reassurance about the quality and safety of products from the presence of the ‘CE’ mark and ‘UKCA’ mark.
To keep employees safe in the workplace and reduce health risks, protective gloves have to comply with all the requirements of the PPE Regulation and carry the CE mark to be sold legally in the EU and the UKCA mark from 1 January 2023.
“most products currently covered by CE marking will require the UKCA marking from 1 January 2023 in the GB market”
Following the UK’s departure from the EU on 31 January 2020, the UK introduced United Kingdom Conformity Assessed marking, known as UKCA marking. This replaces the CE mark on some products placed on the market in Great Britain.
Existing CE product marking is acceptable for products already on the market, however products sold in Great Britain from 1 January 2023 will require UKCA marking. The exception to this is manufacturers in Northern Ireland who will still be able to place products on the market in Great Britain with CE marking following this deadline. Placing products in Northern Ireland will differ because the CE mark or the UKNI mark will be required.
As an Approved Body, BSI can work with organizations on the required conformity assessment procedures that will allow them to affix the UKCA marking on to the following products:
- Construction Products submitted to the Construction Products Regulation (CPR)
- Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)
- Gas appliances
- Pressure Equipment
- Lifts submitted to the Lift Directive
- Marine equipment
- Measuring instruments
- Radio equipment
- Medical Devices
There are roughly ten times fewer UK Approved Bodies who can provide the UKCA mark. Whilst not everyone will decide to sell their product in Great Britain, we expect a majority to do so, and thus there can be a build-up of work for these UK Approved Bodies.
Most products currently covered by CE marking will require the UKCA marking from 1 January 2023 and manufacturers hoping to place products in the GB market are being advised to act now to avoid disappointment.
PPE in the European Union (EU)
When it comes to distributing PPE in the European Union (EU), all products that fall under the European Regulation must carry the CE mark. This is a legal requirement and means that manufacturers are allowed to do business in all 27 EU member states.
If a product bears the CE marking, it has been assessed against the essential safety performance criteria as specified in the EU Regulation. This mark also acts as the manufacturer’s confirmation that the product adheres to the specific requirements of all the Directives or Regulations that apply to it and that it can be sold legally in the EU.
The PPE Directive was previously focused only on manufacturers placing products onto the market, but the PPE Regulation means the whole supply chain is involved. This means importers, distributors or anyone involved in the supply and distribution chain should take appropriate measures to ensure that PPE meets standard requirements, and that they only make products which comply with the Regulation available on the market, and keep relevant documents for at least 10 years.
BSI’s status as a Notified Body for many European Directives and Regulations enables it to offer third party testing and factory production control assessments to issue CE marks in the Netherlands. The level of involvement of BSI is determined by the Category the product falls under in the Regulation.
Standards and certification
Achieving certification to standards provide reassurance that protective gloves have met requirements that a standard identifies.
New glove standard
The publication of the new glove standard, EN ISO 21420:2020 Protective gloves – general requirements and test method which replaces EN 420:2003+A1:2009 Protective gloves. General requirements and test methods builds on the need for PPE to ensure that the materials from which their products are made do not adversely affect the health or safety of users and responds to the growing trend in standardization to address the topic of “innocuousness”.
The new EN ISO 21420:2020 standard brings a new limit level of DMFa (dimethylformamide) in polyurethane-coated (PU) gloves; it also provides further alignment with the REACH (Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and Restriction of Chemicals) legislation on hazardous substances or substances of very high concern.
Protective gloves are frequently manufactured with the use of dozens of chemicals, and it is the manufacturer’s responsibility to ensure the products they place on the market are safe. This could prove challenging to the manufacturer in trying to determine whether it satisfies the provisions of the PPE Regulation. For this reason, the new standard pays close attention to alignment with REACH, by adding requirements for the absence of banned phthalates, but also nickel release, undetectable carcinogenic amines in azodyes, PAH content and the aforementioned DMFa content.
Above and beyond standard hand protection
The BSI Kitemark™ gives a higher level of assurance that a product will do what it claims. From a buyer’s perspective, it helps differentiate well-made PPE products from those of a lower standard – or indeed counterfeit goods.
Many manufacturers apply for Kitemark certification to make sure their products stand out from others. In order to achieve the Kitemark certification, a product must comply with the specified requirements of a publicly available standard, such as a British, European or International Standard, or PAS (Publicly Available Specification).
If a product holds the Kitemark, it has been through a testing process to ensure it meets the relevant standards and passes all the applicable requirements.
This also involves the assessment of the factory’s quality management system against the ISO 9001 requirements. Once a licence has been issued, the manufacturer’s factory will be audited on a regular basis and products will be tested frequently to make sure they still comply with the specified requirements. Both the audit testing and factory assessments are above the minimum requirements specified for the Intermediate & Complex category in the PPE Regulation.
“by understanding hand protection, many incidents can be prevented”
Manufacturers that achieve the Kitemark certification demonstrate their on-going commitment to deliver hand protection of the highest standards on the market.
In addition to offering standards and certification to the Kitemark, our services also include direct testing and verification at product development stage to providing evidence for the CE and UKCA marking of a manufacturer’s products.
Keeping employees safe at work may seem complicated, however by understanding what PPE is available and what to look for when it comes to hand protection, many incidents can be prevented. Certification to key product standards through CE or UKCA marking and the BSI Kitemark can help PPE manufacturers clear regulatory hurdles, while differentiating their proven products from poor quality competitors and fakes. Most importantly, however, it will give the peace of mind to consumers and commercial buyers that the quality, safety and reliability of PPE products is guaranteed. Visit the BSI website for further information on the standards and certification BSI offers in relation to hand protection.
1 and 2. www.hse.gov.uk/statistics/causinj/index.htm