Latest glove technology and what’s important in gloves
Gone are the days when OSH is accompanied by monstrously bulky clothing and severely restricted movement. An example of this are protective gloves, which not only offer high standards of protection, but have also reached new levels in terms of comfort and dexterity – something that seemed unthinkable just a few years ago. One reason for this is the use of high-tech fibers and innovative manufacturing technology.
The most common accident, making up 34.5% of all injuries involve the hands, with the forearm and wrist among the most vulnerable parts of the body. 20% of injuries affecting the hand can be attributed to the thumb and 18% to the index finger. 58% of all accidents result in superficial injuries such as abrasions, lacerations, stab or cut wounds.
By wearing cut resistant gloves, the risk of many hazards can be minimized. Although the name cut resistant gloves is somewhat misleading, the term cut retardant gloves is more appropriate because it does not give the impression that a glove can prevent cuts completely. The point is rather to reduce the impact of cuts as far as possible by wearing protective gloves. Still, more than half of the hand and forearm injuries could have been prevented through the correct hand protection, as the standard of personal protective equipment has developed rapidly in recent years. New technologies ensure that work gloves are more comfortable, safe and fashionable than ever before. In the past the rule of thumb was that the higher the cut protection function, the thicker the material. This is why a high level of cut protection was long associated with impaired dexterity and limited ergonomics for the wearer. Those days are thankfully long gone. Thanks to new, high-tech fibers, the issue is resolved today. While cut retardant gloves were formerly made of leather, in many cases they are knitted today. Many fibers have properties which have proved to be extremely beneficial in practice.
Responsibility for comfort protection is primarily the role of high performance fibers such as Nomex® for good heat protection, KEVLAR® for protection against cuts and a GORE-TEX® membrane for durability, breathability and water resistance.
While other membranes like the PU membrane can be torn like a garbage bag, high-quality membranes are considerably durable. Each of these materials has its own features, which makes manufactured gloves more powerful than a glove made from natural materials like cotton or leather. By combining different materials, gloves can be produced, which in addition to their multifunctional property profile, ensure maximum comfort and dexterity.
Thanks to the latest production methods, it is possible to combine fabric from different fibers and to process these into multilayer protective gloves, without compromising dexterity. It is always recommended to provide two pairs of gloves, one pair for firefighting and one pair for rescue. Only then can the various tasks of a firefighter be optimally managed. If the protective properties of a fire fighting glove are not required, then the use of the second glove is recommended.
Textile vs. leather
Over 20 years ago the first textile firefighting glove was invented, and has since set out on its triumphant march all around the world, although in some countries, pure leather gloves are still favored. Undoubtedly, leather palm gloves provide a pleasant-to-wear sensation and the gloves are soft and grippy. Grip is essential when working with gloves as this ensures that the item being held doesn’t fall out of the hand – even if it is smeared with oil and therefore slippery. For this reason, textile protective gloves are provided with a special anti-slip palm. There are endless variations of materials and processes, from Silicon-Carbon coatings up to ribbed anti slip coating, modern high-performance materials which provide the necessary grip – these are no less effective than leather.
The biggest drawback of leather is shrinkage in heat, a property which is nowhere more fatal than in firefighter’s protective gloves. Full leather shrinks from 180 degrees Celsius, split leather from 250 degrees and the insufficient abrasion resistance and decreased washability does not make leather well placed for this function.
Only a few manufacturers mix leather with modern textile materials that stop the shrinkage and rely on temperature-resistant split leather, which begins to shrink at 350 degrees due to a special tanning process employed. Full leather cannot be provided with a higher temperature resistance by the special tanning process, as additional mineral tanning would harden the soft scar leather.
Standards and Protection Levels
How can a cut retardant glove be recognized? Simple: a pictogram showing a hammer and a numeric reference to the relevant standard EN388 can be found on the label or on an attached data sheet. EN388 defines the mechanical risks and the second number of the four digit code under the icon represents the average level of cut protection. The scale is from one to five, the higher the number the more cut retardant the glove. Anything from Level 3 and higher is regarded as a cut retardant glove with this classification being sufficient for all conventional tasks involving sharp objects. Although people working in high risk environments, for example using cutting tools, require gloves with a Level 5 protection rating. Rescue gloves must be classified as EN388-3233.
Firefighting gloves should protect against mechanical damage (stab, cut, tear), radiant heat and flames, moisture and against splashing or falling, burning, glowing parts and sparks. They also provide reliable protection from rain, cold wind and chemical effects and must also comply with other specific conditions. Protective gloves for firefighters must be certified in accordance with EN659. Here, water resistance, breathability, abrasion resistance, cut, puncture and tear resistance, protection against contact heat, protection from radiant heat, chemical protection, washable at 60 degree and durability are important. Abrasion resistance must reach at least Level 3 out of 4 and cut resistance is Level 2. Also, a high tear strength to a minimum of Level 3 and stick strength to a minimum of Level 3 are also necessary. The burn behavior and behavior in radiation and contact heat is also evaluated with firefighters gloves. In extreme situations, the glove must be able to be removed from the hand in less than three seconds.
The use of gloves in Category 1 should be carefully considered as these gloves provide a low protective ability. They are regarded as simple PPE therefore only offer protection against minor risks. Gloves in Category 2 are suitable for rescuing and protect against intermediate risks. An instruction manual or an information sheet is supplied with the gloves and the manufacturer must establish the technical documentation and also conduct an EC-type examination. Protective gloves in Category 3 protect against so-called deadly dangers. Here, the manufacturer recognises that failure of the gloves will result in severe health implications to the wearer – this also includes PPE, where their failure will result in severe health implications to the wearer. In addition to the technical documentation and the EC declaration of conformity, the manufacturer must undertake an EC type-examination using a certified entity and ensures the quality of its products against the EC quality assurance system. Well-known manufacturers test the quality of their gloves annually on the basis of the applied certificate.
The proper handling of gloves
The correct sizing of gloves is the most important part of ensuring user safety. This may sound banal, but we always hear that firefighters do not like to wear their gloves because they are too large or too small. The size is fundamentally important for the protection function and therefore the gloves should be tested first to ensure they fit properly.
Another point that also sounds very banal is about removing the glove correctly as firefighters are not necessarily elfin beings and often tear down the glove from the cuff over the hand. This method may have proved effective when pulling off a sock but when taking off a glove, this is certainly not advisable. Rather, the glove should be held at the fingertips so the hand can slip out smoothly. Once removed the gloves require careful examination, to ascertain if they were damaged during use or are excessively dirty and require cleaning or maintenance. A highly contaminated glove should never be returned to the locker – the times when a firefighters credibility is measured by the amount of dirt on their helmets and gloves are long gone. Hygiene is paramount and gloves should be cleaned regularly and replaced where there is doubt about their usability.
The washability of gloves has always been rather difficult to perfect. The limited washability of leather gloves has already been mentioned, but there are other difficulties which are not immediately apparent and relate to the gloves membrane. Gloves with simple PU membranes leak in less than 10 washes whereas high quality gloves experience no disintegration even after 30 washes at 60 degrees. The membrane remains waterproof and protects the wearer – therefore, attention must be paid to the use of a high-quality branded membrane.
Fabric softeners and stain removers must never be used and velcro fasteners must be closed properly to ensure it doesn’t cause friction damage to other materials. After washing, the gloves must be properly dried and it is advisable to hang the gloves up by the fingertips and allow them to air dry naturally. Gloves should never be placed in the clothes dryer and never be greased or impregnated as this would cause them to become flammable.
The future of gloves
The future of glove technology goes beyond high-tech materials and progressive production, as it is now possible to combine technical equipment with hand protection and to upgrade a glove to warn the wearer of danger. Enter the SEIZ® Lasertemp – a world first.
SEIZ® Lasertemp is a patented measuring device that can be attached on the back of a firefighting glove. The worldwide innovation has been developed for fire departments around the globe to warn them of the dangers of heat at an early stage. Even today firefighters are still taught to measure the surface temperature of closed doors using the back of their bare hand – this means their hands are not being protected by the gloves. Lasertemp enables accurate temperature measurement from a safe distance.
The compact safety tool displays the temperature of a surface – which is measured by an infrared sensor (pyrometer). The measured temperature is indicated on two displays: one in degrees Celsius and on the other side using light-emitting diodes. In temperatures up to 60 degrees Celsius the green LEDs are illuminated and for temperatures up to 360 degrees Celsius red LED’s are illuminated. Furthermore, a built-in laser pointer enables non-verbal communication in the risk area. The Lasertemp is turned on by shaking the hand in a jerky movement and after one minute of no activity the electronic device automatically turns off to conserve the battery. The built-in rechargeable battery provides 800 hours of operation or one year on standby.
Following extensive practical tests, Lasertemp is now launched to the market
- The world’s first additive pyrometer tool for firefighting gloves
- Precise temperature measurement from a distance
- Accurate temperature measurement in degrees Celsius and signaling via LED display
- Freedom of movement and action by attachment to glove
- Explosion and splash protection IP67
- Sustainable by rechargeable battery
- Additive connection to protective gloves
- Ease of use and switch on by G-Sensor
- Perfect reading of temperature and signaling in case of danger
- Compact case with large radii to prevent snagging of dangerous points
- Shock resistant pyrometer and laser unit
The trend is certainly focusing towards quality products which are thinner and lighter whilst at the same time providing ever higher protective properties. The hand is the most universal tool of the human body and the one prone to the most injuries. The task of leading glove companies is to protect these in the best possible way at any time and in any situation, while ensuring an optimum freedom of action.
For more information, go to www.seiz.de