The Matter at Hand: Welding Gloves and Hand Protection
January 25, 2014
Welding gloves are evolving after decades of the status quo; end users benefit from specialized designs, comfort and longer-lasting products.
Before striking your next arc, take a minute to think about what’s protecting your hands or the hands of your employees. Shockingly enough, little thought is given to welding gloves. After all, a glove is merely a commodity item that should be purchased solely based on cost, right? Unfortunately, this common perception could not be farther from the truth. Recent innovations have further separated welding gloves by their intended application, material composition and design.
A Brief History Lesson
The basic design of welding gloves has remained the same, year in year out, since the dawn of arc welding. A standard glove template was created by sewing together two pieces of leather from one base material and possibly adding a thin layer of padding. This design was mass produced and marketed as the welding glove. Due to the fact that gloves were viewed as a commodity item, the cheapest glove that provided an adequate amount of protection was chosen and purchased in bulk. Discomfort, fatigue, and lack of dexterity were often acceptable in the name of cost and durability. Companies have been known to buy one or two styles of welding gloves, giving welders a choice between a glove that either does not provide enough protection for the intended application or one that provides the necessary protection, but is too bulky and restrictive.
Historically welding gloves have suffered from a major design flaw: the fit. A human hand is not flat but rather is composed of a multitude of unique contours. Yet welding gloves, for years, have been designed around a flat form. Welders are expected to perform a skill that requires precise dexterity while wearing a glove that does not fit the contours of the hand, but rather fits like an oven mitt. This restriction can impair welders’ abilities to produce quality work, decrease productivity and most importantly, jeopardize their safety.
It is not uncommon to see welders work without proper hand protection due to traditional poor fitting glove designs. However, increased welding safety awareness has challenged glove manufacturers to rethink the design and composition of welding gloves, taking into consideration the full scope of a welder’s daily tasks and related safety requirements. After all, who said that being safe meant sacrificing comfort and fit?
It’s Time for a Change
The welding industry is beginning to evolve from its “one size fits all” mentality. Welding glove manufacturers are taking design cues from welders, fashion trends, and sporting industries to re-engineer the traditional welding glove designs.
New welding gloves feature a three-dimensional pattern designed to fit the natural contours of the human hand. Multiple types and grades of leather are strategically selected and placed to maximize the benefits of each material. There is an array of leathers available, each providing its own level of protection and comfort. Contrary to traditional gloves that use only a top and bottom piece of leather, new gloves utilize multiple pieces of quality leather, intricately cut and sewn, to form the shell. An assortment of patches and padding can then be added for additional protection based upon the specific need or application.
Manufacturers are also redesigning the interior of welding gloves. A variety of linings — such as moisture wicking fabrics, channeled foam and aluminized materials — are incorporated to provide heightened protection and enhance user comfort.
Together the design, materials, and lining allow the glove to conform to the natural shape of the hand resulting in a more favorable fit. Durability is still a very important component of welding gloves, but the focus has expanded to include comfort, fit and style into the mix.
How Do I Choose
Given the plethora of welding gloves available, choosing a solution for your welders or yourself can be overwhelming. First, consider the application or set of work tasks that need to be completed. Many new glove styles can provide protection for welding applications but also have features making them suitable for other material handling or metal fabrication tasks. After a glove style is chosen, put the finalists to a test in regard to comfort, fit, performance, and durability to see firsthand which products meet the needs of your organization.
Employees are known to take better care of their personal protective equipment (PPE) if it is something they value. It has been proven that when employees find a comfortable welding glove they are more likely to keep the gloves on their hands throughout their shift, rather than removing them between welding tasks. Keeping gloves on your welders will decrease the chance of hand injuries in the workplace, ultimately increasing productivity, morale, and overall safety of the welder.