For a long time, there was no standard for impact protection. ‘Why was it created?’, we hear you ask. Ultimately, it came about as a result of many gloves (or glove manufacturers) claiming that they were impact resistant purely because they sported thermoplastic rubber on the backs of their hands, when realistically one glove could provide you better impact protection than the other. What happened then was that people would trust implicitly in these gloves and proceed to carry out tasks with high risks of impact related injuries, often acquiring an injury that could have been prevented if they had been wearing scientifically tested impact resistant gloves. So, that was how the back-of-hand standard was brought about – with the aim of educating customers about impact protection and helping them find the best gloves for use in specific areas of work.
How do impact resistant gloves protect your hands?
Impact protection gloves are commonly used in the oil and gas, warehousing, agriculture, and automotive industries as these sectors require workers to use various industrial tools and machines at once. Workers in these environments are therefore particularly at risk of serious pinching, crushing, and puncture related industries. That’s not to say that other industries don’t have need of impact gloves, because there are numerous hazardous tasks that would require protection from potential impact, but these sectors are the ones that have the highest risk of impact related injuries.
It’s difficult to believe that an impact glove can make so much difference, but the science is undeniably logical. Impact resistant gloves can absorb and diffuse the energy caused by impact away from your hand, and significantly reduce the chances of their wearer obtaining a hand injury. The extra layer of material acts as a defence against falling objects and equipment, shielding the back of the hand from minor injuries, such as sprains and temporary numbness as well as major injuries such as long-term nerve damage.
When you look at a pair of impact gloves, you can see that the outer layer (aside from the liner) is made up of raised sections of solid, rubbery material. This is the part that provides the impact protection and is typically made up of either foam layers, gel padding, silicone rubber, or thermoplastic rubber. The chosen material usually coats the back of the hand and all of the fingers too (as fingers are just as impact injury prone as the back of the hand). Don’t think for a second that the rubber material has been placed haphazardly on the glove. Each piece is placed strategically with the fundamental aim of protecting the wearer from impact to the back of their hand. Some parts of the hand are weaker than others and therefore need extra protection, hence the strategic placement of the impact resistant material.
The best impact protection safety gloves are usually much thicker than normal gloves. However, this definitely doesn’t mean that their dexterity is reduced. Another clever aspect about how impact gloves function is the way that the material is fastened to the glove in small segments. The reason for this is so that the wearer is able to move and bend their hands freely, so they’re wearing gloves that are both dexterous and have a superb high impact protection. Respect to the person who invented that!
How do the different materials compare?
All of the materials have their pros, but the overall performance of TPR is just that little bit higher. Silicon has a high melt resistance and greater flexibility in the cold, but it usually has a lower impact protection than TPR. Foam offers a high level of dexterity but has less defence against impact. In addition, it tends to break down after extended use and continual exposure to elements such as chemicals, sweat and UV rays. Likewise for gel – it provides a sufficient level of dexterity and protection but has a higher chance of breaking down. TPR lasts longer than both gel and foam and offers unrivalled protection against impact.
And how does the way in which they are attached to the glove affect the performance of the glove?
There are actually two different ways for the impact resistant material to be attached to the glove. Maybe we’re diving a bit deep here but you did say all about impact protection! One way for the material to be attached to the glove liner is for it to be stitched. Opting for stitching is more likely to make the glove more uncomfortable for its wearer, as the stitches will tend to rub on the skin at pressure points. In addition, stitching thread can break in use, so it may not make for a particularly long-lasting glove. When the material is directly bonded to the liner, the glove is usually more dexterous and comfortable. However, the bond strength can be weak and difficult to spot until the moment of failure, as well as the fact that it can also reduce the ability of the glove liner to stretch. This is the same with stitching too however, so the decision of how to attach the impact resistant material to the glove is down to weighing up the benefits and disadvantages of the options.
How are safety gloves tested for impact?
Not all safety gloves are impact tested – only the ones that claim to have impact protection must undergo the process. This is how the test is done:
- The glove in question is cut, opened flat and placed over a domed anvil that has sensors underneath it.
- A flat faced striker is used to hit the glove from a height that provides an impact with 5J (joules) of energy.
- The peak force is recorded (from the detectors under the anvil).
- The test is carried out 4 times on 4 different gloves
- Gloves must meet the minimum requirement of level 1, meaning that the average transmitted force must be either less than or equal to 7kN (kilonewtons).
- If the average transmitted force is higher than 9kN, the gloves fail the test.
- The gloves also fail the test if they crack or shatter (to produce sharp edges), tear or hole.
How important is impact protection?
For those looking to avoid lifelong damage to their hands or those who are aiming to hold onto all their fingers, we’d say that impact protection is very important. Whilst some industries require impact protection more than others, essentially the benefits extend across most industries. High impact work gloves need to be suitable for a range of industries, so they’re adapted to suit multiple environments. For example, they have a high level of grip on the palm so that they can be used in a range of industries.
We’ve said it before, and we’ll say it again: Don’t make the mistake of supplying your workers with the wrong gloves for the job. Injuries and sick pay will end up being far more costly to your business than merely purchasing quality hand protection in the first place! It’s also the employer’s responsibility to issue the correct PPE – you could be liable if you don’t. And really, who wants to be responsible for life-changing injuries to one of their staff? Not you. If you think there’s any chance of an impact related injury in your business, take precautions and arrange quality impact protection gloves for your workers to wear. It’s better to be safe than sorry!
Need help sorting your hand protection against impact related injuries? We’re here to help, and you can get your free sample here.