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Which Gloves Are Best For The Job?

Published: 01st May 2011

It’s worth noting that two job titles on an oil rig involve the word ‘hand’ - a Derrickhand and a Motorhand. In this context ‘hand’ may simply mean worker, in the same way as a farmhand does.

And it’s true to say some people call these positions Derrickman or Motorman. But for the purposes of this article, where we’re discussing gloves, we’ll go with the word hand in the job title being no mere coincidence. And let’s face it, even the name Toolpusher, or rig manager, implies the use of hands.

Your hands are likely to be an important tool whatever job you’re in, but since many HSME readers work in the oil and gas industries in the Middle East, we’re looking at appropriate hand protection for particular tasks, and the kinds of testing various gloves undergo to ensure they’re fit for purpose.

If a Derrickhand handles the uppermost section of the drilling string as it is brought from or lowered into the wellbore or drill hole, and a Motorhand is charged to keep the engines that power the drilling equipment working smoothly, they’ll evidently be making very different movements with their hands, and need protection from different hazards.

But whether your workforce is in need of chemical protection, slip resistance, puncture or heat resistance, there are numerous ranges of gloves manufactured in a huge selection of styles, materials, weights, and cuffs, and made with a wide array of finishes.

To maintain safety standards, all are subject to stringent tests with a view to keeping your workers’ hands safe from the hazards they encounter. We’ll also be looking at the details of such testing.

Making the correct choice

The development of hand protection has moved at a fast pace in the last ten to fifteen years. New styles and types of gloves have become available at prices that make the wearing of work gloves more appealing both to the user and the employer.

It doesn’t seem all that long ago that most customers were buying cheap standard riggers and cotton chrome type gloves. While these gloves offered some protection, most weren’t tested to any standard and it was a lucky dip what quality of glove you would get.

All work gloves sold in Europe must now carry the CE symbol as a minimum and last year Emirates Float Glass became the first glass manufacturer in the Middle East to receive CE Mark certification for its products.

This would indicate a move in this region towards wanting the qualityreassurance holding such a certificate brings - whether that’s for the purposes of manufacturing products to export to Europe, or simply to be sure what you purchase for your employees is up to scratch in terms of safeguarding their health.

This CE certification has, among other things, enabled the same glove to be sold throughout Europe. The introduction of CE certification and EN testing has gone a long way to improve the standards of gloves in the workplace.

Today we have a vast array of work gloves available to us, in different sizes, different materials, and for different applications. The problem now seems to be ‘which glove should I buy’?

It became evident when we were taking on, and training new sales staff, that they needed to have a good knowledge of the gloves on offer and what duties they were suitable for, so they would be able to help customers choose the right glove for the given application.

At the same time, we felt it right that the customer should have easy access to this information. The use of the web enabled us to publish this information, so the customer could have the knowledge to help them choose the right glove, and to be able to compare gloves from different manufacturers - effectively enabling them to compare apples with apples.

This article hopefully will go some way to helping you better understand what the symbols and numbers mean, as this can be a little bewildering, and also explain to you how gloves are tested.

Then with this information you will be able to choose your hand protection with a clearer understanding, and buy the right glove for the job.

Glove size

‘Fits like a glove’ - how many of your workers would agree with this when they don theirs?

There is no longer any excuse for gloves not to fit, as a large range of gloves is now available in different sizes, ranging from size 6, extra small to 11, XXlarge.

To work out which glove size you need, the sizes stated have to be made to given measurements.

A correctly fitting glove performs better. If it is too tight it will restrict circulation and your hands will ache. If it is too loose, you lose the dexterity and also increase the risk of the glove snagging and being trapped in moving parts.

So you have decided what size gloves you need. After you have assessed the application and the risks involved you can then decide on what qualities your hand protection should offer.

We are going to cover some of the European Standards tests which may, in time, be adopted in the Middle East. We’ll look at what they mean and how they relate to your gloves.

Each test has its own symbol and usually numbers which give you the ‘test’ score.

The first test we will look at is probably the most useful for most applications - it is EN388 Mechanical Hazards.

There are four numbers which appear below this symbol. They always appear in the order of:

Resistance to Abrasion, scored 0-4

Cut Resistance, scored 0-5

Tear Resistance, scored 0-4

Puncture Resistance, scored 0-4

If there is a score of ‘0’ this means the glove has failed that test.

If you see ‘X’ that denotes that the test was not carried out.

The higher the number the better the glove scores - so a glove with an EN388 score of 4544 is the highest that can be achieved.

Common sense must prevail though, as the tests carried out may not be exactly the same as the risks the glove will encounter.

The puncture test, for example, is carried out using what is essentially a six inch nail which is slowly pushed through the palm, at a speed of 100mm per minute. The point will exert force until it punctures the material.

That’s not quite the same as picking up a hypodermic syringe which is designed to cut through with its angled tip.

There are specialist gloves available for such tasks; however, because of the design of the material and how it is made up of layers, they do not usually score well in the puncture test.

It is always advisable to sample a glove and put it through its intended use (safely), to see how it performs.

The blade cut test is done by placing a piece from the palm of the glove in a frame. A circular, counter-rotating blade is then used to slice through the material.

The number of cycles it takes to cut through compared to a standard reference sample gives the cutting index number.

There are gloves available which outscore level 5 - they could be classed as level 6 or 7. You should look for gloves which have been tested for EN ISO 13997. This is a different test which measures the force it takes to make a cut 20mm long through a sample, and is referred to as the ISO Cut Test.

The abrasion test is carried out by using a sample from the palm of the glove. It is basically rubbed against a standard piece of glass paper and the number of cycles it takes to rub through is used to assess the performance.

Tear resistance is measured by the amount of force in newtons it takes to pull a sample piece apart. The results and numbers given are listed below.

The fourth test for mechanical handling is the puncture resistance test. As mentioned earlier, this test is carried out by measuring the force in newtons that it takes for a stylus similar in shape to a six inch nail to penetrate the sample. The force required determines the performance level score.

Heat resistant or thermal hazard gloves are tested to EN 407: 2004

This series of tests gives the user information of the gloves' protective qualities against heat and/or fire.The level of protection is shown with the pictogram above and a series of six numbers underneath.

As with the mechanical handling test, each number represents a score achieved for each test. The higher the number, the better the glove performs.

They always appear in the following order.

Resistance to flammability, scored 0-4

A sample of the glove material is stretched and lit with a gas flame. The flame is held against the material for 15 seconds. The score is based on the length of time the material continues to burn or glow after the flame is removed. The seams of the glove should not come apart after the 15 seconds.

Contact heat resistance, scored 0-4

A sample of the glove material is exposed to temperatures of +100°C, +250°C, +350°C and +500°C.

The length of time is then measured for how long it takes the material on the inside of the glove to increase by 10°C from the starting temperature (approximately 25°C).

Fifteen seconds is the minimum accepted length of time for approval. For example: to be marked with class 2, the glove’s inside material must manage 250°C heat for 15 seconds before the material exceeds 35°C. For a glove to achieve level 3 in this test it must also score a level 3 in the flammability test.

If it does not, the highest score it will be given is 2.

Resistance to convective heat, scored 0-4

This test is the length of time for the heat from a gas flame (80Kw/kvm) to increase the temperature of the glove’s inside material by 24°C. A result for this test will only be published if the material also scores 3 or above in the flammability test.

Resistance to radiant heat, scored 0-4

A sample of the glove material is stretched in front of a radiant heat source with an effect of 20-40 kw/kvm. The average time is measured for heat penetration of 2.5 kw/kvm. Again, as with the previous test the glove material has to score a minimum of 3 in the flammability test for this result to stand.

Resistance to small splashes of molten metal, scored 0-4

The test is based on the total number of drops of molten metal required to increase the temperature by 40°C between the inside of the glove sample and the skin. As with the previous two tests, the sample must score above 3 for flammability for it to pass this test.

Resistance to large splashes of molten metal, scored 0-4

Simulated skin is attached to the inside of the glove material. Molten metal is then poured onto the glove material. The total number of grammes is measured of how much molten metal is required to cause smoothing or pinholing across the simulated skin sample. The glove material will fail if the molten metal droplets remain stuck to the sample, or if it ignites.

As a purchaser of PPE for your employees, your primary concern will be their wellbeing. Knowing the kinds of tests their gloves have been subjected to will play a part in both your peace of mind, and theirs.

While harmonised global standards have yet to be developed for manufacturers, testing houses such as SATRA and Intertek operate on a global scale. In that sense there is no reason why gloves purchased in the Middle East shouldn’t conform to standards enjoyed by European workers. Keeping your workforce safe is what they’re all about. ?


Paul Bowers is the Managing Director of Gloves n Stuff Ltd.

Gloves n Stuff is an online web based business supplying a full range of Personal Protective Equipment, with a wide range of hand protection befitting the company name. Based in the West Midlands in the UK, the business is ideally situated to supply all sizes of companies with their safety needs.

Due to the success of the business we are now looking to supply our products and service to overseas companies who want to deal with a friendly, helpful business.

For more information log on to:

Published: 01st May 2011 in Health and Safety Middle East

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