Is this the end of the general purpose glove? As safety managers come under increasing pressure to reduce the cost of hand injuries, there is a new focus on gloves that provide advanced levels of cut protection.
In the US, 13 per cent of all industrial injuries occur on the hands of workers, with cut injuries posing a major welfare risk and a significant cost to employers. Of reported workplace injuries in Australia in 2009-10, eight per 1,000 persons employed suffered cuts or open wounds, while 2014 report listed work-related injuries related to cut/open wound at 14 percent of injuries or illness.
These avoidable injuries are in the sights of safety leaders and business executives.
Evidence of a change in demand comes from the glove manufacturer Ansell that has observed a global shift in demand from what are known as 'general purpose' hand protection gloves with minimal cut protection, towards much lighter, more comfortable gloves with substantial cut protection ratings.
The key drivers of this change are cited as the significance and prevalence of workplace hand injuries, combined with the growing range and greater affordability of gloves that offer specified levels of cut protection.
"Safety leaders are completely aware that people who handle sharp materials, tools and machinery are at risk of cut injuries. At the same time they have often been frustrated by the lack of choice in cut resistant hand protection solutions that provide comfort and dexterity, together with pricing that is affordable for the businesses they represent," said Ansell's Scott Corriveau, President and General Manager, Industrial Business Unit.
Cost reduction and improved productivity
The move towards competitively priced, high cut resistance hand protection may also be good news for the cost reduction targets of purchasing managers who seek better price and performance value in businesses such as mining that constantly face cost pressures.
Corriveau said safety leaders have often experienced difficulty in achieving hand protection compliance; however new materials and economies of scale deriving from higher production of gloves with medium level cut protection have contributed to their growing affordability.
Growing demand for gloves with greater cut resistance may also encourage safety managers to more closely scrutinise compliance issues such as the lack of mandatory independent testing certification that exists in Australia under the current European aligned Australian glove standard.
"Safety Managers are clearly looking for products that will improve worker performance and productivity, while giving their people additional protection without sacrificing comfort. As a consequence of improvements in materials and manufacturing technology, some glove manufacturers have been able to develop a range of cut resistant styles at prices close to those considered general purpose," he said.
What impact will the trend towards more affordable gloves with high levels of cut resistance have on for the industry in the next 18 months?
Reading the current signs, there will be winners all round, starting with workers who will be better protected against cuts while performing their tasks more productively and with greater comfort, thanks to the use of lightweight glove materials.
Other winners will be their employers who may benefit from a more productive workforce, less downtime and fewer injury claims, putting a hold on the risk of higher insurance premiums.
As these benefits are realised, will this see the end of the 'general purpose' glove in Australia?