Incident Investigation – Thinking Beyond Cut Level After an Injury
When a worker gets a hand laceration, it’s only natural to think about going to a higher cut level glove. But that alone might not address the issue. You may need to look a little deeper into the safety incident to find the right solution.
Find the Correct Cause
It seems counterintuitive, but not all cuts are caused by a cut hazard. As you perform your workplace accident investigation, make sure you know the real cause of the injury. For example, sometimes a laceration actually starts as a puncture. The worker’s instinctive reaction is to jerk their hand away, which can cause a longer, cut-like injury. In this case, moving to a higher cut level alone might not prevent future incidents. Reviewing the application and the hazard as well as interviewing the injured worker will help reveal the true cause of the problem.
Understand the Hazard
The dangers in an application might not always be easy to see. While a thin, sharp piece of metal is an obvious cut hazard, even what looks like dull or heavy-gauge metal may have burrs that will penetrate gloves with lower puncture resistance. Be sure you’re taking every hazard into account when you review an application.
Test a Variety of Protective Work Gloves
If you’ve determined that you need to increase your cut or puncture resistance, remember that not all gloves are created equal. Gloves with identical cut- or puncture-resistant ratings can still vary slightly and may not protect equally. The only way to know for sure is to test them in your environment before you start trusting them to protect human hands.
Factors to Consider:
Choose the right level without going overboard. Work gloves for extreme hazards have become more comfortable in recent years than ever before. But since studies have shown that over 70% of injured workers were not wearing gloves at the time of injury, it’s still important not to overprotect in ways that might be less comfortable and decrease compliance. Higher protection doesn’t always have to mean the highest.
Consider both what the hazard involves (glass, steel, aluminum, etc.) and what, if anything, makes up the core of the yarn in your glove. Certain yarn cores may perform better than others with certain types of edges such as glass or stainless steel. Our internal testing found that gloves with stainless steel core yarns performed well against steel edges. But remember that edge testing is the best way to determine what glove is best suited for your application.
Testing on the Application and in the Environment
It can be difficult to accurately simulate your application and environment, so it’s generally best to test under real conditions. Here too, interviewing the injured worker about what exactly happened in an incident can give you good information for testing a replacement glove. One company we spoke to chose a glove for their application, but a worker was injured when catching a part that fell from a shelf. The part penetrated his glove under a force that wasn’t present in the normal application but was clearly possible in the job environment. Workers should be warned to avoid actions like this, but the possibility should be considered as a possible factor when selecting cut-resistant gloves.
Since you obviously don’t want to test gloves by seeing whether your workers get injured in them, your best solution is having a safety expert perform edge testing. Edge testing is the process of using closed-cell foam or some other material to simulate a hand inside the glove. The tester then runs the filled glove over the hazardous item to see if the glove remains intact. Ideally, the tester will do this with more force than is expected in the application to be doubly-sure.
Above all, don’t go it alone! Particularly if you’ve had a workplace incident and investigation, it’s important to consult a safety expert who can guide you through testing in your environment and advise you on all your available options.