The Important Role of Hand Protection in Performance
How Impact Protection and Dexterity Improve Productivity
Working in cold conditions requires a combination of personal protective equipment: a jacket and pants/bib for warmth; boots that won’t slip on slick surfaces; base layers that wick away moisture; and gloves that protect your most important tools—your hands. Gloves play an important role in job performance, but are often not given the full consideration they deserve when being chosen.
Gloves with Impact Protection
From a cost analysis standpoint, accidents are expensive. Workers Comp, possible OSHA fines, shut down work areas and lost productivity all create a tremendous cost that could have been avoided with the proper personal protective equipment. Hand injuries caused by impacts can be small, such as bruising or small cuts. However, impact can also cause more serious injuries such as fractures and shattered bones.
Impact Protection comes in two forms: back of hand/finger protection and palm protection.
Back of hand and finger protection is an added feature to gloves that helps disperse the force of impact, helping to prevent or reduce injury. Rubber or other material is strategically placed over vulnerable points such as the knuckles, back of the hand and fingers. These impact protection pads are there to absorb and disperse force and protect the hand.
Palm and under finger protection comes from additional padding in the glove in these areas. It is there to absorb shocks and cushion pinches. This protects the hands from injury due to repeated movements like grabbing boxes, loading trucks, working with tools and other hand-intensive activities.
Impact protection is important in areas where drops are a risk, where machinery or other tools are frequently in use, or any job where the hands are in repeated contact with hard surfaces (such as constantly grabbing heavy boxes).
How Dexterity Can Suffer Due to Cold and the Wrong Gloves
Cold severely impacts hand dexterity, which negatively impacts performance and productivity.
In a study on cold’s impact on dexterity, it was discovered that skin temperature was the most consistent and best predictor for dexterity performance – the colder the skin temp, the poorer the performance.1
Without proper protection from the surrounding temperatures, hands lose tactile sensitivity – meaning the hands aren’t as aware of touch, which can lead to accidents. For example, if you can’t feel the grip you have on an object because of stiff hands and fingers, it can lead to drops, an inability to use tools and poor job performance. When performance drops, productivity does as well. Protecting your employees’ hands from the cold is vital to maintaining a high level of productivity and safety.
When choosing gloves to protect against cold and enhance dexterity, it is important not just to consider the air temperature but the job duties of the employee. Will their hands be coming in frequent contact with cold objects, leading to possible cold transfer? Will they be on a fork lift, creating wind chill from constant movement? Both of these factors can mean you need gloves comfort rated for temperatures lower than the air temperature. Alternatively, if it is a position with a lot of physical movement, body heat is generated more, and a glove rated for higher temperatures would likely suffice.
Another aspect of dexterity is the flexibility and freedom of movement provided by the glove itself. If a glove provides warmth but is made of stiff or bulky material that doesn’t allow employees to grip or work with their hands, you may be trading one dexterity problem for another. If your employees are removing their gloves to do their work because they don’t offer the dexterity they need, they are exposing themselves to risk from impact and temperature. Look for gloves that are pre-curved for ergonomic fit, made with materials that will bend well in your conditions, and stretch to accommodate movement in multiple directions.
Though they don’t seem related on the surface, dexterity and impact protection work together to provide the best protection for your employees. Preventing costly accidents and keeping productivity high are just two of the many benefits that come from choosing the right gloves for your employees.
- Budnick, Peter. “Effect of Cold Temperatures on Dexterity.” https://ergoweb.com/effect-of-cold-temperatures-on-dexterity/