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Don’t be Penny Wise and Pound-Foolish When It Comes to Safety Gloves


A simple change in the way gloves are purchased and used has reduced hand injuries at a lime and stone producer’s operation by 50 percent, lowered workers compensation costs, reduced reportable accidents to MSHA and saved money every month on glove purchases.

Seeking ways to improve safety for 2,000 employees at Carmeuse Lime & Stone’s 28 plants in the U.S., the company looked at reportable accidents and realized that 1/4 of all workers comp claims and 1/3 of their MSHA reportable injuries involved cuts to the hands and fingers, along with serious abrasions, according to Joe Bourdage, director of health and safety for Carmeuse. Bourdage was one of the featured speakers at the January 2013 Missouri Mine Health and Safety Conference.

Further investigation showed that the simple act of wearing gloves would have prevented approximately 75 percent of the injuries that the company saw among its workers. An underlying problem discovered was employee use of “homemade” tools that increased the risk of hand tool accidents.

Action Plan

Putting together an action plan, Bourdage said the company started focusing in on MSHA’s program known as SLAM (Stop-Look-Analyze-Manage), and started an awareness campaign on hand safety with posters, PowerPoint presentations and took box talks. At the same time, the company conducted a “hand-tool blitz,” and removed all homemade tools. The new rule was to use the “right tool” for the job – including gloves.

But the company had to reconsider the way in which employees looked at gloves. While gloves were prevalent at Carmeuse’s operations, they were not considered part of standard PPE protocol. Gloves were everywhere, but they were not considered as important as hard hats, safety glasses or safety boots. They were cheap, disposable, uncomfortable, and not being worn.

The company made a glove “inventory” looking at the types of tasks done at the mines and in the plants, and how they needed the gloves to “perform.” Carmeuse discovered they needed gloves for wet tasks, gloves that were chemical or oil resistant, cut resistant, they needed both heavy and light duty gloves, gloves that offered dexterity, and gloves in different sizes.

Maintenance

In the pilot project, the company started by replacing a less expensive leather glove for maintenance employees, which cost $3.36 per pair, with a more expensive double leather palm drive glove made by Radnor at a cost of $6.74 per pair. The less expensive glove lasted employees an average of 3-4 days at a cost of $25.20 per employee per month. The more expensive glove lasted 13-14 days, with a cost of $14.44 per month – saving the company $10.76 per maintenance employee each month.

Industrial Sand

For employees working around wet processes in the industrial sand areas who replaced gloves every 2-3 days, the gloves were replaced with “Ringer’s Roughnecks” at a cost of $16.06 per employee. After six weeks, employees were still using the gloves offering a cost savings of $17.54 per employee per month.

Dry Process

Switching employees in the dry process areas to “Tillman’s Ultra TrueFit” gloves at cost of $10.59 per pair, saved $4.38 per month because the gloves have lasted more than 15 weeks. Similar results were found when switching glove use in other areas where employees worked around solvents, grease and oil. When the company then compared two of their lime plants and glove use – one plant that switched to seven different types of gloves and the other that continued to use the less expensive one-size-fits-all glove – they found that the plant that did not switch use had an annual glove cost of $5,622, while the plant that switched to the more expensive gloves had an annual glove cost of $2,985.

But more importantly, there were two reportable hand injuries at the plant that did not switch and zero injuries at the plant that switched, saving the company $14,000 in the cost of claims. MSHA reportable injuries also decreased by 50 percent. Bourdage said all Carmeuse sites now have a mandatory glove use policy. “These aren’t huge or life-altering changes,” he said. “We just found that we could eliminate two-thirds of our injuries by just getting the better gloves.”E

This article is excerpted from the presentation “Reducing Hand Injuries Through Use of Proper PPE (Gloves),”p resented by Joe Bourdage, CRSP, director of health & safety, Carmeuse Lime & Stone