Cut-Resistant Gloves

William H. Kincaid
in safety

It used to be the case that cut-resistant gloves were bulky, stainless steel contraptions used mainly on meat-packing lines.   Now, light cut-resistant gloves made of Kevlar, Aramax or other tough materials are used in jobs where dexterity and feel are more important, but there’s a need to prevent cuts to hands while working with sharp tools.   They’ve also become of increasing acceptance as the standard by OSHA and insurance loss control specialists, to the point where OSHA tells its compliance staff to write citations if gloves aren’t used where appropriate.   You won’t see it spelled out anywhere in the OSHA regulations manual but that lack of clarity doesn’t matter to OSHA.   They’ve mentioned these gloves numerous times in the letters of interpretation and other information posted on the OSHA website. 

In the food trades, OSHA now generally expects to see these gloves worn on the “free” hand when knives are used for repetitive cutting.   OSHA also expects to see cut-resistant gloves worn on both hands when employees are dismantling and cleaning meat slicers and other cutting equipment, cleaning or changing bandsaw blades, and anything else involving lots of hand contact with sharp items.  

Note this only means unpowered hand tools, or parts of machines that have been shut down and locked out.   Use of any fabric gloves, cut-resistant or not, when operating machines like meat slicers or bandsaws is expressly discouraged by both OSHA and equipment makers!  But where sharp, unpowered items are involved, and cut-resistant gloves AREN’T, OSHA will try to write citations for a lack of proper personal protective equipment. 

Another point that deserves mention is what cut-resistant gloves can do, and what they can’t.   Yes, they resist cuts, but aren’t cut-proof.  Even super-tough Kevlar can be cut… if not, how could they make anything out of it?  Also, the typical fabric cut-resistant glove is not at all puncture-resistant.   A nail, needle, or even the tip of a knife blade will go right through.  If you need puncture-resistance for something, there are some specialized products out there, labeled as puncture-resistance.   

Through experience we’ve found cut-resistant gloves aren’t easy to work in and not always comfortable, so we’ve developed a list of basics to make it easier to get people to wear cut-resistant gloves.   

  1. Gloves are the thinnest, most flexible gloves we can find that still have good protection
  2. Clean gloves need to be ready when it’s time to wear them.   Employees need to know how to clean them, or gloves can be cleaned  by a uniform service
  3. There has to be a variety of sizes available and, even better, we help employees find the right size – a hand outline size chart helps
  4. Employees need to know when gloves are required
  5. Kitchen managers need to check on employees and promote glove use – this is usually the most critical missing part of the process

Some of this is basic use and care information we can post near where the gloves are used, and some of it is simple managerial responsibility.  It’s not always easy to get people to wear them where they need to be worn.   But the good news is the payoff is there, waiting to be collected – reduced laceration injuries.   Check with some glove vendors for samples and see how they can help.


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