Getting a grip on protective glove selection

June 21st, 2024

Businesses that select protective gloves for their workers can often overlook the importance of grip, which is critical for undertaking tasks safely. As Georg Rouette, Business Support Manager at Midas Safety, explains, poor grip can result in hand injuries and impact performance and productivity, hence why testing is helpful to measure grip quality and inform decisions on glove selection.

Protective gloves are one of the most important items of personal protective equipment (PPE) that workers require, especially for safety-critical work. However, if the glove’s grip is poor because it’s not suitable for a particular task or the work environment, workers’ health and safety (and that of others) could be at risk. Ensuring gloves fit properly is also essential, as poorly-fitting gloves can increase the risk of accidents.

Hand injuries can have a detrimental impact on a worker’s quality of life and their ability to work. Injuries are, unfortunately, a common occurrence. According to the European Statistics on Accidents at Work (ESAW), around one-tenth (11.1%) of non-fatal accidents are linked to the handling of objects.1

Hand injuries

Workers can sustain a wide range of hand injuries when they wear gloves that demonstrate poor grip. These include fatigue, as the wearer tends to apply excessive strength when handling objects, and muscular strain, which happens when undertaking repetitive tasks with inappropriate hand protection.

A primary concern is the increase in risk of lower leg or foot injuries if heavy objects being transferred are dropped because of poor grip or hand fatigue.

Poor grip can also increase the risk of cuts when workers handle sharp objects, particularly in oily or wet conditions. This is because the worker will have to apply greater pressure if the glove’s grip is not suitable for the task.

Inadequate grip can also cause other serious workplace injuries. For example, there is also the potential for falls from ladders, especially outside on wet or greasy surfaces.

Beyond the importance of health and safety, poor grip can have a knock-on effect on business performance. For instance, the gloves can affect how accurate and efficient individuals are in completing tasks, and ultimately reduce quality and productivity. By contrast, if a glove has an excellent grip for a specific task, workers can move objects safely at greater speed, driving up efficiency in the process.

Glove selection considerations

Businesses should consider several factors when selecting the correct gloves for different applications.

First, they need to be mindful of the general risks the worker will face, including cuts and abrasions, exposure to hazardous chemicals, and Musculoskeletal Disorders (MSDs). Second, they need to consider the environment the worker is operating in and specifically whether it will be slippery due to oily or wet conditions. Third, they must ensure the worker is armed with the correct glove size to ensure the individual has the correct hand protection fitting. Finally, they need to consider the glove’s manufacture, in particular the materials and coatings it is made from.

All these factors are also critical considerations when determining a glove’s grip performance. For example, a glove that has a good grip when handling objects in a dry environment might not be as effective when working with objects in an oily environment. Likewise, a glove that maintains strong oil grip might not be suitable for precision handling.

In other words, different applications require different grip quality to protect workers from injury and reduce the cost of workdays lost to absence.

Although there are currently no industry standards or any regulations governing grip specifically, it would be hugely beneficial for businesses if data on this was available for dry, oily, and wet surfaces because it would provide a better indication that the hand protection provided performs effectively when used for different applications.

Testing procedure

Midas Safety has developed and undertaken, with an external testing and accreditation body, to test 36 gloves from its portfolio, containing different polymers and coatings to measure the gloves’ grip performance.

By considering several critical factors, including hazards, the objects handled, environmental conditions, and fit, the procedure makes it easier to identify gloves with the correct grip level for a particular task.

The test procedure is only a starting point and requires further refinement, it does, however, provide a handy comparison guide. In particular, what the data produced reveals is that some gloves are more suitable than others for specific applications when put under test conditions.

For example, all of Midas Safety’s gloves performed exceptionally well when they were tested on a dry surface. However, the manufacturer’s solid nitrile-coated glove provided the strongest grip of any of its gloves in a dry environment, whilst its PFT nitrile-coated glove demonstrated the best grip in an oily environment.

Important insights

These insights are useful when specifying gloves because they provide a better indication of the most effective hand protection for use in specific work environments.

Having said that, cost will always be a factor for businesses, and procuring a wide selection of different gloves that demonstrate exemplary performance may not necessarily be feasible. In this respect, there is another important insight that Midas Safety’s test procedure offers.

After testing a wide range of its glove products, Midas Safety’s best-performing glove for all-round grip is currently the Waves Lite range, which scores in the top range for grip performance with dry, oily, and wet surfaces.

Other considerations

Grip factor, however, is only one important consideration for businesses looking to safeguard workers’ health, safety, and well-being. Others include longevity, particularly when workers are handling abrasive materials, cut resistance, and thermal quality.

Fit is also incredibly important. A glove that is too tight will accelerate hand fatigue, no matter how high-performing the glove’s grip is. If a glove is too big for the wearer, grip strength will be compromised. Also, a glove’s weight and thickness will naturally affect dexterity and comfort, so these must be balanced alongside grip performance.

However, with the current lack of any standards governing safety glove grip, Midas Safety’s test procedure is an important first step.

Not only does the test provide a greater insight into different gloves’ grip performance when used on different surfaces – giving businesses a helpful benchmark on which to select the most suitable gloves for specific tasks and/or applications. It also reinforces Midas Safety’s ethos to be transparent and to provide consistency across its global manufacturing sites.

Moving forward, Midas Safety intends to test all of its new products for grip to highlight the different benefits its glove range offers and provide a basis for making further improvements in the future.



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