Performance Characteristics and Ratings for Gloves Used in the E&P Industry
About 1.5 million people are engaged in oil and gas exploration and production (E&P) activities all over the world. With constantly evolving standards, materials, equipment, training and processes, the occupational safety record in the industry has also seen significant improvements.
In 2016, global quality assurance and risk management company DNV GL analyzed data and reports to reveal a tenfold reduction in reportable incidents for every 200,000 man hours over the last two to three decades.
DNV noted that this decline could be attributed to the spike in the number of organizations assuming active roles in sharing trends and information that can help improve industry safety on a global scale. Industry bodies such as the International Regulators Forum, the American Petroleum Institute (API) and the International Association of Drilling Contractors (IADC) are some of the stakeholders that contribute to the development of safer spaces for those involved in E&P. The rollout of the 456 Recommended Practices by the OGP (International Association of Oil & Gas Producers), which tackles process safety, is another example of such collaborative efforts.
The best available training, equipment, clothing and accessories are critical for businesses looking to meet compliance goals, improve safety records and ultimately protect employees. This is a broad topic; for the purposes of this post, we'll focus on hand protection.
Focus on Hand Protection
Hand protection is a vital precaution that reduces the risk of work-related injuries. Guidelines set by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) mandate that employers require their employees to use appropriate hand protection if there’s any risk of potential exposure to hazards in the workplace.
As noted in the 29 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) 1910.138(a), hazards include absorption of harmful substances by the skin; severe abrasions, cuts, punctures or lacerations; thermal or chemical burns; and harmful temperatures. OSHA also mandates that when selecting hand protection, it must be based on an assessment of certain performance characteristics relative to the employee’s tasks.
The ANSI (American National Standards Institute) and ISEA (International Safety Equipment Association) have come up with standards for the levels achieved by hand protection according to a certain method.
ANSI/ISEA 105-2000: Created in 2000, this voluntary consensus standard provides guidelines on choosing the right gloves based on chemical permeation, cut resistance, abrasion, puncture, cold, heat and flame resistance.
ANSI/ISEA 105-2005: This is a revision to ANSI/ISEA 105-2000 to include two new guidelines involving vibration to the hand or wrists and addressing biohazards or radiation. This guideline also introduced a method that ranks gloves from 0 to 5 in terms of cut resistance. The test determines the amount of weight required for a straight blade traveling 25 millimeters (1 inch) to be able to cut through a material. As the required weight increases, so does the glove's rating.
The “good, fair or poor” rating standards used in the past stirred inconsistencies among glove manufacturers in the way they rated their gloves' ability to provide protection. ANSI/ISEA 105 provided a consistent, numeric-scale method that allows manufacturers to rate their gloves against specific elements including contaminants and exposures. The new scale enables users to make informed decisions when choosing gloves that will be suitable for their work.
ANSI/ISEA 105-2016: The ANSI/ISEA 105-2016 American National Standard for Hand Protection Classification is the latest revision of the standard. It covers the classification and testing of hand protection products according to certain performance properties that pertain to various chemical and industrial applications. It sets appropriate test methods that enable manufacturers to classify their products using a pass/fail criteria. This information is useful to end users who need to review the documentation provided by their glove supplier to verify whether the products meet their needs.
EN 388: The EN 388 refers to a European standard designed to evaluate gloves’ performance to resist tears, punctures, abrasions and cuts. Specific scientific methods were used to come up with these standards. For example, the number of cycles a rotating blade needs to cut through a tested material determines the fabric’s cut resistance on a numerical scale of 1 to 5. The more rotations needed, the higher the glove’s cut resistance rating. While this standard is not required in the United States, some gloves carry the EN 388 shield and ratings.
Here are the performance characteristics gloves are tested against, relative to anticipated hazards:
- Cut resistance refers to the function of the material composition and thickness of the glove. A glove’s cut rating is affected by its material’s weight as well as the coatings applied to its outside surface.
- Abrasion resistance measures the glove’s capacity to resist the loss of material after rubbing on rough surfaces. The higher the numbers of cycles, the greater the abrasion resistance.
- Puncture resistance (blunt probe) measures the force of the blade required before it cuts through the material. Puncture resistance testing measures the glove’s resistance to puncture by a blunt pointed object. The higher the puncture forces, the greater the resistance to puncture. When performed according to the European Standard EN 388.2016, the product’s puncture resistance from a blunt probe is expressed in Newton.
- Hypodermic needle puncture resistance gauges the glove’s resistance when punctured by a sharp-edged needle. The higher puncture forces go, the greater puncture resistance becomes.
- Heat and flame protection determines how easily the material will ignite, and once ignited, how it will continue to burn after the flame is removed.
- Heat degradation resistance measures the exposure temperature at which the material will show no significant degradation from heat.
- Conductive heat resistance refers to the insulation the gloves provide when exposed to and in contact with a hot surface.
- Chemical degradation determines the effects of a chemical on a glove, with the loss of puncture resistance as the basis. The lower the percentage changes in puncture resistance, the greater the chemical degradation in the gloves.
- Chemical permeation measures the rate by which a chemical passes through the material on a molecular level. Longer passing times indicate better resistance to chemical permeation.
- Vibration reduction is useful for workers regularly exposed to hand-arm vibration (HAV) when using hydraulic, electrical, pneumatic or gasoline-powered hand tools on the job. Vibration reduction may mitigate the occurrence of incurable, irreversible HAVS.
- Dexterity of a glove should be sufficient for a worker complete a given task. According to safety data, workers may violate policy and remove their gloves if they are not comfortable or if they don't allow enough dexterity.
Other Important Considerations
Before purchasing gloves, employers need to request documentation from the supplier to confirm that the gloves have gone through tests in accordance with standards relevant to the industry’s anticipated hazards. Gloves, as a protective measure, should meet various form, fit and function criteria for both specialty needs and multipurpose uses while optimizing protection, durability, comfort and dexterity.
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