Let’s face it: Working on cars (and trucks) is not kind to technicians’ hands.
As recently as a decade ago, techs routinely exposed their most valuable commodity to cuts, bruises, burns, and dangerous chemicals on a daily basis.
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Steve Godziszewski, an auto-body repair veteran of four decades, tells Automotive News how he never wore disposable gloves—until one day he caught his left hand on a battery cable and tore off a fingernail. He bandaged it and went back to work, but soon it was infected and doctors eventually had to remove part of his finger.
Now, he says, he sees younger techs wearing gloves full time.
“When I started, nobody wore gloves. Nobody,” he says. “No one knew any better than to stick their hand into [lacquer] thinner.”
The liquids in cars—radiator coolant, motor oil, battery acid, brake, power steering, and transmission fluids—are poisonous. So are the chemicals most shops use for cleaning and for mixing paint.
Not wearing gloves leaves technicians’ hands exposed to dangerous chemicals and other potential hand injuries.
Choosing the right gloves for auto repair and body shops comes down to a few basic considerations:
- Make sure technicians know the risks involved with exposing unprotected skin to chemicals.
- Listen to workers’ objections to wearing gloves or other personal protective equipment (PPE) and do everything within reason to address their concerns.
- Know the basics of glove materials so workers always have the right gloves for the job.
Working with chemicals
It is important to educate employees about the damage that chemicals can do. Exposure to chemicals can result in serious and in some cases life-threatening health problems. Such exposure is a risk not only to workers but also potentially to their families if traces of chemicals are carried home on hands or clothing.
As many as 1 million hand injuries occur in workplaces each year, ranging from cuts and lacerations to amputations and fractures to chemical exposure. A hand safety policy, along with the use of appropriate hand protection, can reduce or eliminate many of those injuries from your workplace.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration dictates that employers make available personal protective equipment (PPE) to protect against hazards that can’t be completely eliminated through other measures. According to OSHA, chemical exposure is only one hand injury that employers need to protect against—others include burns, bruises, abrasions, cuts, punctures, fractures, and amputations.
While specialty work gloves are necessary to limit concussive damage, heavy-duty disposable gloves can protect against many abrasion- and puncture-related injuries—as well as being essential protection from chemical exposure. Employers can take the following steps to help prevent the injuries listed above:
- Evaluate job site risks. What engineering and work practice controls are needed? What tools and equipment will your workers use? Consult with a safety specialist, safety engineer, or product manager to help you evaluate risk factors.
- Teach & train. Role-play or simulate a hand injury. Tape up an employee’s dominant hand with gauze, then instruct him or her to perform a couple of simple work tasks and a personal task, such as texting. The simulation drives home how debilitating a hand injury can be, and it can help increase compliance.
- Use the right gloves. OSHA says, “It is essential that employees use gloves specifically designed for the hazards and tasks found in their workplace, because gloves designed for one function may not protect against a different function even though the glove may appear to be an appropriate protective device.”
The best way to encourage the use of disposable gloves is to make it mandatory.
Causes of non-compliance
Managers need to understand why some workers fail to use protective gloves. Assuming proper education, the most common cause of failure to comply is likely discomfort or limited dexterity.
Statistically, wearing gloves reduces the relative risk of hand injury by 60 percent—and yet, getting employees to consistently wear gloves is reported to be one of the most daunting challenges for safety officers. Employers must ensure that workers are not only aware of the dangers, but also that they provide the right gloves for the job. Good communication, effective consultation, better training, and reasonable adjustment can help head off objections.
Here is some basic information on what to look for when choosing hand protection:
- Nitrile is a synthetic material made to mimic natural rubber latex.
- Nitrile gloves can be made thinner than latex gloves—which improves feel and dexterity—without giving up protective properties.
- Nitrile is three times more puncture resistant than latex.
- A thickness of 6 mils or 8 mils provides excellent barrier protection while maintaining a high degree of dexterity.
- OSHA recommends nitrile gloves as part of its Personal Protective Equipment Standard because of their ability to provide protection from chemicals including acids, bases, oils, gasoline, solvents, esters, greases, caustics, and alcohols.
- Nitrile gloves have become the industry standard for automotive techs.
Natural rubber latex is the oldest and most universally recognized disposable glove material.
- Latex gloves protect hands from acetones, thinners, and most water-soluble acids, alkalis, salts, and ketones.
- The main concern associated with these gloves is latex allergies, which can develop over continued exposure.
- Latex offers superior comfort, fit, and feel, although it is not as puncture resistant as nitrile.
Which AMMEX glove is right for your customers?
Our Gloveworks® HD Orange Nitrile Gloves and HD Green Nitrile Gloves are more than twice as thick as standard nitrile gloves—they resist rips, tears, and punctures, as well as allowing extended-duration use.
For techs who prefer a slightly thinner glove, we recommend Gloveworks® HD Black Nitrile Gloves and HD Royal Blue Gloves.
What sets all of these gloves apart, however, is their raised diamond texture—by far our most aggressive, with 60 percent more surface area—which makes for an unbeatable grip.
For those who prefer latex, Gloveworks® HD Ivory Latex Industrial is more than twice as thick as standard latex gloves. It features more elasticity than nitrile as well as superb fit, feel, and comfort. A slightly thinner glove, the 5-mil Gloveworks® Ivory Latex Industrial, is another option.
AMMEX has other gloves that are extra-thick and extra-long for special applications. To find out which disposable gloves are best for your needs, sign up for an AMMEX account.