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The importance of work gloves in construction

Don’t be one of the million construction workers who visit the ER this year due to hand injuries.

The construction site is riddled with hazards for your hands and wearing proper gloves might be the only thing between you and a trip to the emergency room. The stats on hand injuries in construction are staggering.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics reports:

  • Over 110,000 hand injury cases each year causing workers to miss work, this is second only to back strains.
  • Over 1,000,000 workers head to the ER each year due to hand injuries
  • 70 percent of those injuries were sustained by workers not wearing gloves, the other 30% were wearing ill fitting or inappropriate gloves

Vinnie detects worker not wearing gloves; Image courtesy of ENR

Vinnie detects worker not wearing gloves; Image courtesy of ENR

The National Safety Council offers the following as a guide to the cost of hand injuries:

  • Direct cost of a laceration: $10,000
  • Stitches: $2,000 plus indirect
  • Butterfly: $300
  • Severed Tendon: > $70,000

With numbers like these it is no surprise that over the last several years the increase in required hand protection on the job site by top ENR firms has grown substantially. Wearing gloves is only half of the challenge when it comes to protecting one of your most valuable assets, wearing the right gloves is the other half of the battle.

Choosing the right gloves for the right job

Construction worker’s hands are exposed to many different hazards on the job site. Whether it be a threat from chemicals, cuts, or burns there is a glove that can protect your hands while still allowing you to effectively do your job. Let’s take a look at some of the available types of gloves according to the National Safety Council;

  • Cotton and fabric gloves: The simplest glove that can keep your hands clean and protect against minor cuts and abrasions, might not be tough enough for the majority of construction work
  • Coated fabric gloves: Protection against some moderate chemicals and liquids.
  • Rubber, plastic or synthetic gloves: These types of glove can be used when cleaning or working with oils, solvents and other chemicals.
  • Leather gloves: One of the most versatile gloves, protects against heat, cuts and abrasions, perfect for welding and general construction
  • Kevlar gloves: These have a wide variety of industrial applications. They are cut- and abrasion-resistant and provide protection against both heat and cold.
  • Chemical/liquid-resistant gloves: There are several types of gloves used to protect against specific chemicals. It is best to refer to MSDS sheets and glove manufacturer recommendations when selecting a glove which is right for the chemical or liquid you are dealing with.

With the proper threat or threats identified it may be necessary to have multiple sets of gloves in your tool box. While it may seem like overkill it is better to have them and not need them than to need them and not have them.

The saying “Fits like a glove” exists for a reason

Once you have selected the appropriate type of glove for the task it is important to make sure that they fit properly. Poor fitting gloves account for 30% of hand injuries and can provide an even greater hazard than wearing none at all. Gloves should fit snugly and allow for full range of motion of the hand and fingers as if it is not even being worn at all. Poorly fitting gloves can cause the hand to cramp or blister, ultimately impairing a worker from doing their job safely. The proper fit of gloves can greatly affect if a job can be done safely and efficiently.

There is no doubt that once the proper glove is identified and the proper fit is attained work gloves can be an incredible asset to any construction worker. Ensuring that workers are wearing their new found PPE is the next biggest challenge. Learn how Newmetrix (formerly Smartvid.io) and some of ENR’s top contractors are working together to increase glove compliance and provide an additional set of eyes on the job site with the help of Vinnie.


Written by Tim Gattie

Tim is VP of Industry Strategy at Newmetrix. He has 20 years of construction industry experience working for regional, national and international general contractors in roles ranging from Field Engineer to Project Director. Tim is passionate about using technology as a tool to improve the way construction projects are delivered and is eager to share his story with others in the industry. Gattie graduated from the University of Pittsburgh with a Bachelors of Science in Civil and Environmental Engineering and is a Registered Professional Engineer in Arizona, California and Utah. When not at work, Tim enjoys golfing, traveling and being a great dad to his two boys.

View more posts by Tim Gattie.

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