It comes as no surprise that full-time electricians experience an injury rate higher than the national average. What may be surprising, however, is that a little more than 20% of those injuries reported aren’t connected to electrical contact. Instead, they come from cuts, lacerations, and punctures to the hands and fingers from cutting and stripping cables, cutting conduit, handling luminaires and trays that have sharp edges, and opening various objects.
According to a recent study conducted by Ansell, many electricians prefer to work bare-handed. Not only did respondents find this method more comfortable, but they also said gloves actually make them less productive — due to the fact that they don’t have the dexterity necessary to work with small wires and in tight spaces. Many even admitted to removing their gloves in order to accomplish certain tasks and then not putting them back on to save time.
While it’s understandable that many gloves on the market today are bulky and get in the way of doing the job, not wearing them is risky. After all, these cuts to the hands aren’t always minor annoyances. Injuries can be as serious as multiple stitches or even the loss of a finger.
Even if electricians are wearing gloves to protect against cuts and abrasions, they may be subjecting themselves to other injuries if their gloves do not fit properly. Repetitive stress injuries are frequently reported by workers in the electrical field. That’s because when gloves do not fit correctly, the hand must do more work to provide force and grip. When this occurs on a repetitive basis, the constant strain can cause hand fatigue (making workers less productive) as well as injuries like carpal tunnel syndrome and tendonitis.
Although there’s no doubt that going bare-handed provides risk to the worker, there are also potentially damaging repercussions for electrical construction firms and job-site owners. In fact, a National Safety Council study reports that the cost of just one hand or finger injury can range from $540 to $26,000 per patient. As a result, the construction industry spends roughly $382 million a year on hand-related injuries, losing five days of productivity per incident.
According to a study by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), 70.9% of arm and hand injuries could have been prevented with personal protective equipment (PPE), specifically safety gloves. Based on the results of this study, an OSHA regulation was passed in 2008 that states employers must provide PPE to all employees or run the risk of incurring up to a $7,000 fine per violation.
The solution is finding hand protection that gives workers the dexterity they need to do the job while providing the cut protection to keep them safe. The glove selection process can be overwhelming with all of the options available, especially in retail outlets where many electricians purchase their own hand protection. In the Ansell study mentioned previously, electricians consistently reported confusion about which gloves to choose for different applications. When making a glove purchase, make sure you consider the following items:
Cut protection rating: The American National Standards Institute (ANSI) maintains a rating system for safety gloves based on the Cut Protection Performance Test (CPPT), which measures the amount of force (in grams) applied for failure to occur at a 25-mm distance of travel for a standard cutting blade. Performance ratings are classified by ANSI from level zero to five (see Table) based on the outcomes of the CPPT test. Electricians should look for a glove with at least an ANSI Level 2 rating, meaning that the glove provides at least a moderate level of cut protection. As a gauge, ANSI Level 4 gloves are recommended for workers on a construction site who handle extremely sharp materials like sheet metal or jagged debris.
Grip: With a good grip, workers can significantly reduce the chance of cut injury by preventing slipping and slicing, decreasing the grip force required during a task, and giving them more control of the object they’re handling.
Tactility: Tactility relates to the ability to feel materials a worker is handling. It is virtually impossible to feel small- to medium-sized parts or wires when wearing leather or other bulky gloves. This creates a problem with productivity and accuracy. Conversely, there are gloves on the market that make workers feel as though they are doing the job bare-handed. Wearing a glove that provides tactile sensitivity means the worker can keep them on at all times, greatly reducing the potential for hand injuries.
Durability: Durability is also key to long-lasting cut protection. Most gloves are used for extended periods of time, and it is important to ensure that they provide the same level protection at the end of the shift as they did at the beginning.
Fit: Gloves must properly fit the hand. Gloves that are too large or too snug can actually cause stress injuries. In addition, if gloves don’t fit, they won’t be worn for the long haul. Look for gloves designed with an ergonomic fit to match the contours of the hand. Gloves should also always be tried on prior to wear to ensure accurate sizing.
Material: A glove’s liner can be made with materials that are inherently cut-resistant. Specially engineered yarns, such as Kevlar, Dyneema, or Spectra, all have three or more times the cut
protection of leather gloves, even though the gloves made with them are much thinner than leather. If manufacturers use these materials correctly in the knitting processes, the liners can be comfortable as well. They can be cool and stretch with the hand to improve worker fit and productivity — and help to ensure gloves are kept on while doing a multitude of tasks.
Coatings: Coatings applied to the outside surface of gloves can increase cut protection and enhance worker performance. A natural rubber coating, for example, provides a high level of cut resistance and enhances grip. Nitrile and foam nitrile coatings protect against snag, puncture, and abrasion while promoting comfort. Polyurethane-coated gloves resist snags and abrasion, and promote a good dry and wet grip.
Anyone in the electrical field knows there are countless hazards to the work they do. Some sources of injury can’t be prevented. Cut and repetitive strain injuries to the hand and fingers can. By choosing the right glove, electricians can experience the bare-handed feel they desire and still be protected from harm.
Glove for use at heights
The ProFlex 750 At-Heights construction glove delivers the comfort, durability, and protection required for climbing as well as the fit and dexterity needed to work effectively in the world’s highest work zones, according to the company. Designed to reduce fatigue and discomfort while climbing, the glove features strategically placed padding on the upper palm and on the lower two-thirds of the fingers for gripping rungs. The fingertips on the glove are double-layered for durability but remain padding-free for high dexterity. The glove is extremely durable, says the company, featuring a double-layer palm using Rovenica (a flexible material that provides up to four times the strength of goatskin leather) and Kevlar stitching on the palm and fingers.
Two new gloves were recently added to the XKS line: the Magid CutMaster XKS500 and CutMaster XKS510 (pictured). The new palm-coated work gloves feature an ANSI Cut Level 4 rating, which, according to the company, is as much as 2.5 times greater cut protection than palm-coated gloves made from a 100% aramid or HPPE yarn of a similar weight. The XKS500 features NitriX Grip Technology, a proprietary sandy nitrile palm coating, while the XKS510 showcases a premium foam latex palm coating. Both gloves are made of a lightweight, 13-gauge, high-density machine knit manufactured using the company’s proprietary XKS yarn.
Magid Glove & Safety