By Sean Sweeney Senior Market Development Manager with Ansell
Hand injuries resulting from cuts and puncture cost the construction industry a whopping $382 million each year, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The cost per injured worker averages $17,000, which includes medical costs, lost time (approximately five days), downtime, clean up and indemnity costs.
Injuries are more frequent in this industry because 58 percent of workers perform tasks barehanded -- often because they cannot find the comfort, dexterity and protection they require in a single hand protection product. Among the 42 percent who do wear gloves or have gloves provided, more than half remove their gloves at some point during the day so they can complete certain tasks. This means that more than 79 percent of workers in the construction/DIY industry do not wear gloves some time during the day.
Why workers labor barehanded
Why are construction workers reluctant to wear gloves? And, if they do wear them, why do they usually remove them before the end of the shift?
Lack of comfort is the main reason cited, with workers indicating that most gloves are not comfortable enough to wear all day. In addition, many gloves do not provide the dexterity workers need to perform a variety of jobs. As a result, workers remove their gloves to complete certain tasks and find it faster and easier to continue working without them than to take the time to don the gloves again.
The construction and do-it-yourself (DIY) environments are similar to the industrial segment, with workers requiring gloves that provide the high levels of comfort, dexterity and protection they need to complete their jobs. Glove needs, however, may vary from one job site to another based on the many different materials, applications and types of tasks at each location.
Hand protection for the application
In the past, many construction companies provided workers with cotton or leather gloves to protect them from cuts, puncture and abrasion. If construction workers were required to provide their own gloves, they usually purchased them from various types of stores that may not offer products with the high levels of comfort, dexterity and protection needed in one type of glove. Users also struggled when determining what glove to wear for which applications.
Today, advanced technology has resulted in hand protection products that meet specific needs while enhancing worker comfort, dexterity and productivity. Hand protection products are available, for example, that offer up to 300 percent more abrasion and cut resistance than leather gloves. Gloves are also offered that are form fitted with an ergonomic design that enhances comfort and allows workers to wear gloves and keep them on throughout the day.
Approximately 33 percent of injuries within the construction environment involve the hands and/or arms, with 89 percent of these injuries resulting from workers handling rough or sharp materials such as sharp or jagged metal, wood, wires and cement.
Many construction workers, such as general laborers, carpenters, cement finishers, HVAC workers, masonry workers and stone tile handlers, need a high level of protection from cut, puncture and abrasion, depending on the application. Carpenters, for example, face the threat of cut and puncture from splintered and jagged pieces of wood. Cement finishers need products that will protect them from abrasions and dermatitis issues that may occur while handling concrete.
Most workers—including general material handlers, electricians, carpenters, equipment operators and plumbers—also require high levels of comfort, dexterity and dry and/or wet grip. Individuals such as painters and plumbers may also need protection from a range of chemicals, and workers who labor outdoors may require products that promote a high level of visibility and/or keep their hands warm in cold environments.