How important is glove comfort?

Comfort is one of the most important factors when choosing hand protection to promote worker safety. If the gloves are uncomfortable and inappropriate for the application, workers are less likely to wear them and may prefer to work without gloves, which can leave them susceptible to injury.

Several factors contribute to glove comfort including fit, sweat management, dexterity, and cushioning.  For example, gloves that fit well are neither too big nor too small for the worker. Tight-fitting gloves increase perspiration and lead to hand fatigue resulting in injuries. They are also more vulnerable to tearing. Conversely, gloves that are too loose not only restrict the worker's dexterity but more likely to fall off the worker’s hands.

Can glove comfort be quantified?

Anyone you ask whether comfort can be scientifically quantified may answer that comfort is largely subjective and the best way to find out if a glove suits the wearer is to simply try it on. Whilst comfort is indeed something personal, there are other ways to measure comfort to assist in drawing up the short list of possible gloves for your workplace.

Measurement requirement tests and tests require pre-determined criteria to be assessed.  There are many tests outside the EN norms for gloves. One that is underutilized within EN420 is for sweat management/breathability.

Sweat Management

Industrial workers need their hands to stay cool and dry because their work environments can be hot and gloves that help prevent sweat buildup allow them to continue their tasks.  When hands perspire and become uncomfortably warm, a reasonable reaction is to remove the glove which then exposes the worker to injury.

Workers should try different gloves to decide which are the most comfortable and effective.  If the gloves are going to provide protection, the worker must want to wear the gloves and commit to keeping them on the hands.

Within EN420:2003, there is a test to measure the transmission of water vapour into and/or through the surface of a glove. This transmission of water through a surface is a good representation of a warm or sweating hand within a glove. The measurement is made in milligrams of water transmitted over a one-hour period.

This test involves a bottle with silica gel that absorbs humidity, placed in a climatic box where forced air circulates at 20°C and 65% humidity for 8 hours. The water vapour passing through the glove is absorbed in the silica gel pad. The end result represents the milligrams absorbed per hour per cm². The higher the result the better, given more vapour (sweat) passes through the glove surface.

Dexterity

The human hand can grip tightly, lift heavy objects and withstand rough handling. At the same time our hands are sensitive enough to detect even the slightest touch and pick up the smallest objects and other precision tasks of dexterity.  The challenge is to find an industrial glove that will not hamper this natural ability and ensure ongoing protection.

EN420:2003 outlines a measurement for determining the dexterity for a glove. It involves picking up a small pin with the glove with the result shown as a figure between 0 and 5.

There have been numerous anomalies with this test in that even heavyweight gloves have been able to achieve a level 5 by virtue of the pin sticking to the glove opposed to being picked up.

Most of the big suppliers of gloves today disregard this test and instead opt for a more real-life approach by timing the amount of nuts and bolts that can be assembled within a five-minute period. The importance of hands-on testing can never be overstated.

Cushioning

Some applications require protection from the hand delivered through cushioning. Many people believe that the mere thickness of a glove will offer more protection.

This is good reasoning but not entirely accurate. A glove’s cushioning also relates to the amount of memory the surface needs to return to its original form.  A micrometre can provide the thickness of a glove at its minimum thickness when put under pressure and they can be left to measure the glove thickness when at rest. The difference between the two readings provides the direction as to the level of cushioning afforded.

What does this all tell us?

Deciphering test results can be challenging enough, but along with the attempt to combine multiple criteria together, finding the most comfortable glove becomes highly frustrating and difficult.  Add to this the additional complexity of grip requirements, mechanical and heat performance, and it becomes a formidable task.

Radargloves.com can help make this decision easy and quick through our web-based glove selection.

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