With many construction sites operating on renewed public health restrictions, nearly every site now requires a pair of gloves to be worn as part of occupational health and safety guidelines, and the demand for PPE gloves in the workforce has seen a sharp uptick. But is one pair of gloves as good as the next? Blackwoods Workplace Safety experts say no — in fact, there are many criteria to consider when selecting the right gloves for the job to ensure they are providing optimal protection.
Under the Occupational Health and Safety Act 2004 (OHS Act), every employer has the responsibility to implement controlled safety measures to the most practical level possible on their operation. The Hierarchy of Controls is a tiered system of control measures designed to protect workers from risk of injury and it also serves as a useful guideline for managing and controlling potential hazards in the workplace.
On the Hierarchy of Controls pyramid, PPE falls under the lowest tier of control because the effectiveness of PPE depends largely on human behaviour and supervision.
Because it is difficult to supervise every individual on site at any given time, Brendan Ryan, Technical Safety Specialist at Blackwoods, explains that employers are better off making adequate PPE standard practice on the job and taking steps to make sure supply is readily available on site.
“PPE gloves in particular, can easily be encouraged as a daily habit by being made available on site through vending machines at entrances and other common areas on a site,” he says. “The dangers of hazardous chemicals do not discriminate, and PPE gloves are often the last line of defence against a workplace injury, which is why it is important to have a comprehensive understanding of how simple PPE items like gloves can mitigate the risk of incidental exposure to chemicals.”
But how does one judge the quality of a pair of gloves protection against certain chemicals, and mitigate risk of incidental exposure in the workplace?
According to Brendan: “Not all PPE gloves are created equally.”
“There are more than 60 million registered chemicals used across industries,” he expounds. “With that in mind, selecting the right pair of safety gloves for a job requires a comprehensive understanding of materials versus chemical permeation, or the time it takes for a chemical to seep through.”
“Every worksite should be properly assessed by PPE experts before deciding on the most effective PPE safety measures,” says Brendan. “Which is why we partner with our suppliers to provide a tailored selection process for our customers that draws on a bank of data from case-by-case assessments.”
One example of this is Blackwoods partnership with Ansell to promote their Chemical Guardian Program. The program is available to customers through two channels: As an app interface or as a hands-on site assessment by a PPE expert.
From the app, users can retrieve quick information on estimated permeation times for single and mixed chemicals and access a comprehensive range of PPE to suit different industries and applications. As a simple and intuitive interface, users can perform a quick search for PPE gloves from their desktops, tablets, or mobile devices.
However, if customers are looking for a more detailed consultation, Blackwoods and Ansell respectively offer phone consults and on-site assessments.
The results, says Brendan, have been significant in terms of reducing overall risk of injury.
“The Chemical Guardian Program has seen more than 15,000 risk assessments and compiled research into how 4500 chemicals and compounds are likely to interact with PPE materials,” he explains. “As a result, Ansell has developed a database of more than 20,000 PPE scenarios, based on this data, which we can access to better assist customers in their PPE decisions.”
The Ansell Chemical Guardian Program website estimates an average of 65K in savings on every operation after implementing the program’s recommendations which can be a sizable contribution to a company’s bottom line.
“In addition to the cost savings gained from entering customers in the Chemical Guardian Program, we also supply the Ansell AlphaTec glove range which is the product of their extensive research and development into glove materials,” Brendan notes. “The AlphaTec range features the innovative ANSELL GRIP tech which combines liquid proof chemical resistance and highly controlled grip.”
He concludes, “The flexibility and dexterity gained with advanced glove technology can in some cases actually make the job easier once concerns about chemical permeation are eliminated.”
It would be fair to say that PPE gloves are a necessity for every tradesperson’s wardrobe. And much like site safety in general, they will certainly never go out of style. Even more importantly, gloves provide tradespeople with necessary protection against potential harmful exposure to chemicals on a job.
Leading the way on PPE technology, Blackwoods continues to partner with leading PPE safety manufacturers to better determine how the process for selecting and procuring PPE-related products can be optimised.