Wearing gloves helps protect your hands. This basic principle seems simple, but the details are a lot more complicated. What glove will give me the best protection when I handle needles, glass, sheet metal or solvents? What glove won’t reduce my dexterity? And if I wash it, will it protect me less? What if I don’t wash it? What if the things I handle are coated with solvent or oil? There are lots of questions to consider before you actually pull on a glove. That’s why the IRSST has funded and conducted a number of research projects on protective gloves.
Chemical and Physical Hazards
The most recent study focused on the effect of cutting fluids on the mechanical resistance of protective gloves. For workers who use cutting fluids, the risk is both mechanical—when handling pieces of metal—and chemical—from exposure to the cutting fluids. And then there’s also the fact that cutting fluids can alter the mechanical resistance of gloves.
The results of an earlier study on the effect of contaminants on the mechanical resistance of protective gloves showed the importance of considering the possible presence of industrial contaminants when choosing protective gloves against mechanical hazards.
A few years ago, in cooperation with INRS-France, the IRSST designed an application to help preselect polymer materials for use in personal safety equipment, including not just gloves, but also coveralls and boots. ProtecPo, which was recently updated, is an interactive online app that helps you choose the most suitable materials to protect skin, especially against solvents and solvent mixtures.
For some workers, including police officers, correctional officers, garbage collectors and horticultural workers, the risk of being pricked by hypodermic needles is a real concern. These workers have to wear gloves that are needlestick-resistant, but still allow them sufficient manual dexterity and tactile sensitivity to perform their tasks.
A research project on the development of a method for testing the needlestick resistance of gloves was conducted in response to joint requests from three occupational groups concerned about exposure to needlesticks. Another exploratory study assessed workers’ manual dexterity, tactile sensitivity and comfort when wearing needlestick-resistant gloves to do their jobs.
Cuts and punctures account for a large proportion of the hand injuries suffered in a number of working environments. Knife blade tips, metal shards, poorly deburred parts and glass splinters are examples of this wide range of hazards. The lack of information about the combined puncturing and cutting process and the absence of objective methods of characterizing this category of hazards make it impossible at present to assess the protection that gloves provide against punctures and cuts.
Researchers interested in this question have studied the fundamental issues involved in the behaviour of materials providing protection against multiple mechanical hazards that simultaneously combine puncturing and cutting, in order to develop an objective test method for characterizing resistance to puncturing by a sharp, pointed object.
Exponential growth in industrial applications of nanotechnologies and the associated increase in the risks of occupational exposure to nanomaterials has prompted researchers to turn their attention to the OHS risks involved. Researchers have been measuring the penetration of nanoparticles through protective glove materials. One IRSST grant recipient has made this the focus of his research project.