There are two main reasons. Firstly, needs for the application / user has to be mapped out. There are five general areas which are listed below:
4. Heat protection
5. Chemical and liquids
Combining these key criteria creates a staggering number of possibilities, numbering in the billions, which have to be carefully considered before looking at what gloves are available.
Research can be conducted through the Internet, reviewing catalogues and visiting exhibitions. This can be exceedingly confusing. Why? Globally there are 11 key glove suppliers who collectively offer just in excess of 3,000 gloves. To look at it another way, that’s 272 gloves per manufacturer. It’s arguably too many gloves.
These product ranges have been developed more from tactical battles between manufacturers instead of developing product ranges around customer needs. Simply put, if one manufacturer develops and launches a product the other manufacturers follow suit with a similar product. It’s been a goal of the manufacturers to offer the most extensive product ranges in order to convince customers that they have a glove for each application.
Let’s add some more facts. Under the EU directive 89/686/EEC each and every glove has to, as a minimum; satisfy EN420 requirements before being tested to EN 388.
Once tested for abrasions, cuts, tears and punctures, these test results have to be published. Four test results on 3000 gloves makes 12,000 data points. In addition, each country will also have local manufacturers and numerous distributors in addition to the 11 key suppliers.
Easily within a country there will be 20,000 data points from test results that need to be considered. There are of course other tests for heat (EN407), chemical (EN374), cold (EN511) and protection from ionising radiation and radioactive contamination (EN421), which will add to the 20,000 data points.
Of the five general areas that a safety officer has to consider, three are well covered by this 89/686/EEC directive -mechanical and heat protection along with resistance to chemical and liquids. There are two key areas missing relating to grip and the most critical selection criteria, comfort.
If it’s not comfortable then people will find many creative reasons why the glove is unsuitable. Three thousand gloves plus local manufacturers / suppliers, 20,000 data points from EN test results and when defining the need thousands of possible combinations. Is it reasonable to ask safety officers to have expert knowledge on thousands of products?