Our first thought in hand protection is often to start with a glove that would protect operatives’ hands against the possibility of injury incurred by mechanical hazards, such as cuts or puncture wounds etc. And this isn’t wrong.
However, when did we last consider the health of our operatives’ hands?
Did you know that Construction operatives are more than twice as likely to develop contact dermatitis, as those working within other industries?
What could cause the onset of dermatitis?
It can begin with repeated friction from wearing a wet glove that is in close contact with the skin causing nasty irritation. The glove could be wet from the working environment or conditions, or it could be due to carrying out wet work without waterproof gloves. For example, working with wet concrete can be highly abrasive, as it has the ability to absorb moisture from the surface of our skin, and also lead to potential burns.
Biological agents are another trigger that could lead to work-related dermatitis. For example, in the summer months, ongoing exposure to sweaty conditions can result in the skin becoming a breeding ground for bacteria and fungus.
Work-related dermatitis can also be caused by uncontrolled exposure to chemical agents that sensitise the skin, such as those found in concrete and other hazardous substances.
Hand health conditions are notoriously difficult to spot immediately. As recently commented by a H&S Manager, “These health problems can take root without any sign, and it is this lack of immediate signals which means that often no action is taken in the short-term to prevent them.”
So what can we do to overcome these risks?
|Hand health risk||Suggested solution|
|Working in wet environments||Select a glove with a waterproof coating, such as nitrile. But ensure that the glove is fully coated, not just palm coated, otherwise the back of the hand will still be exposed to risk.
This glove has been recognised by Highways England with a Blue Star award for innovation in overcoming such challenges.
|Sweaty hands from working in hot conditions||Select a glove with a higher gauge, as this determines how lightweight the glove is. The more lightweight a glove is, the less resistance there will be to hand movement, and therefore less heat build-up, but also less friction when in close contact with the skin. Take this glove for example, a perfect balance of protection for the safety and health of hands in warm or dry conditions.|
|Working with chemical agents||Select a glove that conforms to EN16523-1 and is capable of protecting against the specific chemical agent in use – see more detail on understanding this standard here.|
Hand protection vs hand health
It can be tricky to weigh up hand protection vs hand health in the balances. Which takes priority?
At STALSEN, we believe there’s no need to compromise on either. Clearly, a threshold must be set for minimum mechanical protection in order to reduce injury caused by cuts and other mechanical hazards. However, based on that threshold, in selecting a glove for wet conditions and a glove for dry conditions, immediately the first two risks outlined above are addressed, and there’s no sacrificing protection. What’s more? It’s simple for the operatives to understand.
As organisations, it’s essential we take a holistic view on hand protection, considering the health and safety of our operatives’ hands, not just for now, but for the long-term.
Because nobody should get a hand injury at work.
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