Canadian Occupational Safety

January/February 2020

Canadian Occupational Safety (COS) magazine is the premier workplace health and safety publication in Canada. We cover a wide range of topics ranging from office to heavy industry, and from general safety management to specific workplace hazards.

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21 2020 JANUARY/FEBRUARY "But, most times, about 90 per cent of the time, if workers are using a cut- resistant glove, they're going to use a sleeve as well. Or if they're moving around in a very high-paced atmo- sphere, like an automotive plant, then generally everyone will take sleeves. It's mandatory." CHOOSING A MATERIAL Sleeves should be selected on the basis of their performance (their effectiveness in protecting against risks identified in the hazard assessment), fit and comfort. For performance, the most important factor will be mate- rial. The materials used to make sleeves range widely, from reinforced polyester to PVC (polyvinyl chloride) — a readily available and cheap plastic — to highly specialized fabrics. Sleeves made of Tyvek (a polyeth- ylene material that resists penetration of small-sized particles and splashes) are suitable for workers handling toxic substances. Sleeves made of Tychem (Tyvek fabric coated with polyethylene) are designed to prevent permeation of chemicals and are used for light splash protection in indus- trial environments. Kevlar and Dyneema are two commonly used materials in the manufacture of cut-resistant gloves and sleeves. Dyneema, made from HPPE (high-performance polyethyl- ene), generally feels cooler on the skin and provides better protection from abrasion than Kevlar, says Coughlin. Dyneema, SuperFabric, nitrile, metal- mesh, woven Kevlar and leather provide good puncture resistance. Kevlar and Nomex (used widely in firefighter suits) provide effective protection against flame and heat hazards. Dyneema melts at a lower temperature than Kevlar, so it is not good in instances where flame resis- tance is required. Materials vary in durability. Some, such as Kevlar, can be reused and washed with regular work clothes without losing their protective qualities, unless contaminated with substances more difficult to remove. Others, such as Tyvek, are designed to be single use and disposable, which prevents workers inadvertently trans- ferring toxic materials to other work areas or taking them home. When selecting materials, it is important for safety managers to con- sult product manufacturers, which best understand the limitations and ideal applications of the different materials. "Typically, employers will work with PPE suppliers in working out what the appropriate protection level and types of protection are. There are numerous products out in the indus- try," Charuk says, adding that, with chemical hazards, a manager should check the chemical protection rating assigned to various chemical-resis- tant materials and also look at the manufacturer's specifications and follow the requirements identified for personal protection. Once the risk profile has been ana- lyzed and is understood, the safety manager needs to ensure the sleeves will fit workers properly and be com- fortable, Sweeney says. Protective sleeves are made in a variety of arm length and width sizes. A key consider- ation when selecting the length of the sleeve will be where the potential risk is, while the width should be chosen according to workers' arm and body sizes. Sleeve materials can also be selected for greater breathability. "The ultimate goal is to keep the [worker] protected and also able to perform the given task and be com- fortable for a majority of the day," Sweeney says. To improve fit and increase com- fort, many sleeves today are tapered. Non-tapered sleeves often fit prop- erly around the wrist but have to be stretched tightly around the upper arm. "Comfort is key with sleeves. A lot of sleeves get pushed down to the wrist because they're binding on workers' biceps or they're too hot. The tapered sleeve alleviates all that," Coughlin says. "If it's the proper fit and cool on the arms, you'll have a much easier time getting employees to wear them properly. And safety is increased because the sleeve stays up." Where both gloves and sleeves are required, the safety manager may choose to combine arm and hand protection in one item by selecting a gauntlet, a style of glove that extends up the forearm. Welders often wear dura- ble gauntlets, while rubber gauntlets are used for chemical handling and in food processing to handle hot objects. However, in many situations, there is a distinct advantage to providing sleeves and gloves separately. If work- ers often need to remove their gloves, they can do so without having to pull off the long gauntlet every time. There are many ways sleeves can be customized for a work task or envi- ronment. For example, they can be reinforced in areas, such as the elbow crotch, where the material will wear over time due to the nature of the task. Sleeves also come in a variety of colours. High-visibility sleeves are used in many workplaces, particularly in the construction industry. Choos- ing different colours is also useful for companies that want to clearly dis- tinguish visitors from workers: They might have guests wear orange, where everyone else wears grey. CUT RESISTANCE For safety managers who need to select cut-resistant sleeves, it's gener- ally recommended that they match the cut resistance of the sleeve to the resistance of the gloves worn for the same work task, Coughlin says. The right level for the glove is identified by following ANSI/ISEA 105-2016, a standard for hand protection classifi- cation. The cut levels in that standard range from A1 to A9 (lowest to highest resistance). The cut level is indicated by a label on the sleeve. The higher the glove's required cut level, the more important it is to get the same cut level in the sleeve, Coughlin says. "If you're using a low-cut glove, such as A2 or A3, then you're good with an A2-cut sleeve. But if you're using an A4 or higher glove, then we always try to match the sleeve cut to the glove cut. If the hazard on the hand is an A4, then you need the same cut protection on the sleeve," he says. "With the glove, the main concern about cuts is the wrist because that's where the main artery is. So having a sleeve under a glove will double the material that an object has to cut through. That double protection on your wrist is another reason a person will wear a sleeve with a glove on top." The task of balancing comfort, pro- tection and performance is often far from straightforward, Sweeney says. The level of protection needed — with cut resistance, for example — may vary from application to application. "It's important to get an industry expert in place to analyze the applica- tion itself, the risk profile and make an optimal recommendation with regards to your glove and sleeve com- bination," he says. Protective sleeves tend to be the forgotten item of PPE, Sweeney adds. Workplaces often neglect to provide workers with sleeves even when there is a clear need for them. "Sleeves are something that is often overlooked. Safety directors, employ- ers and even employees — because safety consciousness has improved — will very quickly nowadays think about the optimal hand protection solution," he says. "But they won't think about taking that protection up the arm." COS Linda Johnson is a Toronto-based free- lance journalist who has been writing for COS for eight years. ARMING safety

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