Ansell - Durability: Will These Gloves Still Protect Me Over Time? Better Definitions, Tests and Standards Needed to Quantify Durability

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When is the last time you changed your gloves? How long did you wear them? Now ask a coworker the same questions. Chances are you may each have different answers. The reason: glove durability.

Glove durability has been a long standing concern within the glove industry. During a recent study conducted by Ansell, respondents ranked durability as the third most important factor influencing glove choice. Quality was the highest rated factor. Respondents were then asked, "What do you mean by quality?" Durability was the number one answer.

Can you define durability?

Glove durability generally relates to a glove's longevity - its wear life based on worker expectations up to the point at which the worker considers the product no longer suitable for the tasks at hand or "worn out."

Unfortunately, glove durability is difficult to determine, since no tests or standards exist for measurement, and a product's wear life is often determined by the specific applications in which the glove product is used. This problem is exacerbated by the fact that safety directors and others who select gloves typically look at measurable performance characteristics - such as cut protection, abrasion or chemical resistance - and seldom consider durability and how it relates to injury prevention, overall productivity and costs.

Wear life is often subjective

For years, the glove manufacturing industry has relied on various tests, such as ASTM F1790, to establish product standards and determine the specific levels and types of protection that gloves provide. Unfortunately, such commonly recognized tests and standards do not exist to measure durability. In their absence, glove replacement decisions often fall upon the workers who wear the products. These individuals frequently determine when a product is no longer serviceable and needs to be replaced so they can confidently perform tasks without fear of injury.

How do workers determine when a product has reached this point? Visual perceptions tend to play a major role in product replacement decisions. Workers, for example, often rely on color variations between the coating and liner, with some workers disposing of their gloves as soon as the coating wears through. Is this the right decision - does the glove product no longer "protect" when the coating wears out? Is this a safety or productivity issue at this point - or both?

Some workers may choose to discard their gloves when they are full of holes or the surface has abraded away. Again, product wear life will probably depend on the application. Without measurable characteristics, specific work standards or product training, workers are left to make product wear life decisions on their own.

The importance of training

Because durability is an unfamiliar topic for many, workers should be trained about glove serviceability features, the applications in which specific products will be used and their impact on job performance. Workers should learn to identify the signs of wear and when the gloves they are wearing no longer provide the right protection for the tasks they perform.

Training and education will be especially important as glove manufacturers develop new fabrics and technologies that increase product wear. Workers, for example, are likely to initially express skepticism about a glove that weighs half as much as the product they wore in the past yet offers a service life that is twice as long.

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