Historically, hand injuries make up nearly 50% of incidents in the oil and gas industry. Further more, a great number of those injuries are “struck by” incidents, which contribute the most to claims, costs, and workdays lost. Today, personal protective equipment is the worker’s first line of defense. Major oil and gas drilling companies are already adopting hand protection guidelines in an effort to reduce employee and contractor hand injuries. The old cotton glove days are over and high performance task-specific work gloves are required in this growing industry.
PPE isn’t just a safe insurance policy; it improves overall worker performance and efficiency. No matter the industry, utilizing the proper hand protection can improve the safety and productivity of your workforce. The primary objective is to eliminate hand exposure to pinch points, crush zones, and impact hazards. Derrick hands, Floor hands, Drillers, Tool Pushers, and Production Operators are susceptible to many of these injuries on a daily basis. Time is money and according to the latest data from the National Safety Council, the average cost of a single hand injury is $21,918 (indemnity + Medical). Major oil producers have already outlawed dotted and non-dotted cotton gloves and quickly adopting, what many safety operation managers refer to as the “Global Glove Guideline” for drilling and service contracts to ensure PPE meets industry standards.
Such standards include:
1. For medium to heavy-duty work on-site (hand tool use, pipe handling, valve operation) gloves must be worn and dotted and non-dotted cotton gloves are NOT acceptable.
2. Thermoplastic Rubber (TPR) impact protection to the hand and full length of the fingers (pinch point) especially on the rig floor is required.
3. High visibility palm and dorsal areas of the hands providing enhanced visibility in low light and varied weather conditions (ANSI-107 hi-viz compliant PPE may be required).
4. Adequate grip; good dexterity; anti-fatigue properties are required for safe and proficient hand tool operation in slick conditions e.g. drilling fluids (water based mud), hydraulic oil, diesel, grease, gear oil, dirt.
5. In some cases penetration/cut protection is desired for handling abrasive materials with sharp edges, throwing chain, pipe handling, structural assembly etc.
6. Hot/cold weather environmental protection predominately insulation and waterproof/water-resistant gloves (where applicable).
Visible hands are safe hands. The need to be seen is critical for hand safety. Heavy equipment bears heavy costs when underestimated. High-visibility garments are designed to draw attention to the worker to prevent injuries and fatalities from struck-by hazards and heavy machinery in complex environments. ANSI 107-2010 approved high-visibility garments from the American National Standards Institute include three components: background material, retro reflective material, and combined-performance material. Combined performance materials can either be fluorescent yellow or fluorescent orange with retro reflective material designed to reflect light back to the source. Simply put, high-visibility clothing is intended to clearly distinguish its wearer from his or her environment. Testing supports that contrasting, high-visibility base material combined with a reflective panel or strip is critical for user safety in low light work environments. What better place to bring attention than your always-working and always-moving hands? Although there isn’t official testing standard for gloves, some hand protection manufacturers are beginning to use high-visibility ANSI 107 compliant materials for complete integration with other PPE garments.
Crush Zones. “Roughnecks” will often tell you that rig work separates the men from the boys, and they are certainly right. Historically, “struck-by” incidents have carried heavy weight in claims for major oil and gas producers. The referred “Global Glove Guideline” mandates crush resistant gloves to help absorb and disperse blunt force impact and heavy abrasion type injuries. Varied densities of injection molded Thermoplastic Rubber is anatomically shaped and either sewn or sonic welded to the shell of the glove. In many cases, the Thermoplastic Rubber buys the user critical seconds during an incident to free them of the situation. Thermoplastic Rubber is light in weight, flexible in low temperatures, weather resistant, good tear strength, and impact resistant. Improved manufacturing processes have provided designers with the means to design a Thermoplastic Rubber exoskeleton that safeguards the user’s metacarpals and knuckles all the way to the tip of each finger without hindering mobility. In an industry with high “struck by” risk, Thermoplastic Rubber is one of the most important features in reducing serious injury on the rig.
Cut Resistance. Severe abrasions and lacerations to the hand from prolonged hand tool operation on and off the rig floor has lead to the development of cut-resistant hand protection specially designed to safeguard rig hands. Dyneema®, Kevlar®, steelfibre and fiberglass yarns are commonly used to build cut-resistant gloves that can withstand abuse and perform in high stress environments. Composite yarn made with multiple components (for example Kevlar® and steel) delivers the most effective forms of cut-resistant materials without sacrificing fit, feel and overall dexterity, whether it’s cut and sew or seamless knitted work gloves. Such materials also yield high abrasion and tear resistance improving durability and extending the life of the gloves.
The Elements. Hot, cold, dry, wet, on land or offshore. The elements present challenges for workers and increase the risk of incident and injury on site. Cold conditions have a major impact on the hands. The body will fight to preserve heat thus reducing blood flow to the hands making it critical for workers in cold environments to have the proper insulation. Effective insulating technology like 3M’s Thinsulate™ traps air molecules between the wearer and the outside. According to 3M, “the more air a material traps in a given space, the better it insulates you from the cold outside air.” The finer Thinsulate™ fibers trap more air in less space improving the fit, feel, and overall functionality of a cold weather work glove. Where there’s cold weather there’s also the challenge of water. Although, drilling personal generally aren’t afraid to get a little dirty. Drilling fluids, hydraulic oil, diesel, and grease are all a part of the job. Improvements to waterproofing processes enable workers to protect their hands and remain free from the elements. Processes such as OutDry®’s lamination process, in which a breathable waterproof membrane is directly bonded to the external layer of the glove. This process seals water entry points more efficiently than a traditional waterproof bag, improving the overall fit and feel of a waterproof glove.