In the case of safety gloves, cut resistance is a function of the material composition and, to some extent, thickness. Ensuring that workers wear the proper cut-resistant gloves or sleeves is the first step in lowering the number of cut injuries in the workplace.
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Through an abundance of moisture, oils, and fats, food-processing operations can get pretty messy. Most importantly, these substances can make it difficult to handle materials and food particles, thus creating major challenges for hand protection and productivity. In this case, proprietary material blends and surfacing methods can offer a solution for wet, dry, and oily conditions. Each surface pattern or webbing is specifically intended for a certain kind of food processing application. For example, a fish scale pattern could offer a good suction grip for working with wet or fatty food, such as poultry and fish processing, while a sand patch design channels fats and greases away from the surface of the glove and makes handling beef or lamb a lot easier.
Apart from surface and grip, cuffs greatly impact the functionality of a liquid-resistant glove as well. The design of the cuff is applied to a specific type of glove to solve problems associated with the environment and applications for which the glove is used. For instance, most disposable or single-use gloves are used in applications that are wet or oily, thus making a beaded cuff design (which catches droplets of liquids, oils, and chemicals) the most logical solution.
Other variables of importance include material, liners, abrasion, length, and thickness. In materials, natural rubber latex (NRL) and nitrile are the two most common options. NRL is most frequently used in poultry and fish operations, while nitrile is recommended when working with the types of fats inherent in meats like beef, lamb, and pork. When making a choice, keep in mind potential latex allergies as well.
Lined gloves have an internal knitted or woven liner. They are also a good choice for a liquid-resistant glove when worn over cut protection gloves. That adds increased protection and improved sweat management. Flock-lined means the gloves have an internal coating of short cotton fibers that promote easier donning of gloves as well as improved comfort. Not only do lined gloves offer a higher degree of dexterity and tactility than unlined gloves, depending on what type of coverage you are seeking, glove length is also something to consider. Essentially, the longer the glove, the more protection it offers the wearer.
In many food processing operations, workers choose to wear a liner for warmth or moisture management under a cut-resistant glove with a liquid-resistant glove on top. Depending on the type of operation, the reverse (a cut resistant over a liquid-resistant glove), is also possible. In PPE, manufacturers are constantly conducting research to develop a glove that combines the functionalities of several different products.
Closely linked to liquid protection is chemical resistance; an application that’s not too common in food processing but still worth considering when working with harmful chemicals to sanitize food processing operations. Protecting workers’ hands is vital to a successful sanitation program.
When looking at gloves for the food processing market, there’s a relatively even mix of both high performance gloves for interacting directly with raw food products and commoditized single-use gloves. In this heavily regulated industry, it is hardly surprising that disposable gloves take up such a big part of the market as they significantly diminish the risk of contamination. Some of the most commonly used materials are NRL, PVC, and nitrile. Each has its own advantages. For instance, NRL is known for its elasticity, sensitivity, and liquid resistance, while vinyl feels less restricting, and nitrile contains no organic proteins that can cause allergic reactions.