Never Let Your Guard Down
Protective Gear Producers, Safety Managers,
Advise Fabricators on Safety Resources
by Megan Headley
Thomas Roche, a 16-year employee of Cardinal Glass Industries,
was disposing of glass at the Portage, Wis., plant. It was Christmas morning.
It was a task he’d done hundreds of times before in his career there,
yet this time something went wrong.
“We dispatched around 2:45 a.m., because the plant manager called 911
to say that the employee [had not been] seen for a couple of hours and
was later found in the yard area,” Detective Lt. Mark Hahn of the City
of Portage Police Department later told USGlass.
Police investigation revealed that the 55-year-old father of three was
working in a remote area of the outdoor yard, “disposing of large sheets
of glass when it appears that they had fallen on him,” according to a
December 27 Portage Police Department news release.
OSHA continues to investigate the fatality. “Since it’s an open case,
we can’t make any comments,” says Chad Greenwood, assistant area director
for OSHA’s Madison, Wis., area office.
Even with all the right training, the right protective gear at their disposal
and the incentive to stay safe, sometimes accidents happen, especially
when working with glass.
“Glass can be potentially dangerous if handled improperly,” says James
Morrow, Building Products North America health and safety manager for
the NSG Group in Toledo, Ohio. “There are many things that can happen
to cause a piece of glass to change, break, whatever you want to call
"We get comfortable and
forget the dangers we face when handling glass. Constant reminders and
zero tolerance can help."
—Mike Burk, Quanex Building Products
“In many of the news reports concerning injuries or deaths
while handling glass, we read or hear words and phrases like ‘routine
operation,’ ‘a job he has done for years’ and ‘properly trained,’” says
Mike Burk, product sales specialist for Houston-based Quanex Building
Products and chair of the Insulating Glass Manufacturers Alliance’s Glass
Safety Awareness Council. “We get comfortable and forget the dangers we
face when handling glass. Constant reminders and zero tolerance can help.”
Morrow adds, “The safety practices that people put in place through the
risk assessment process, it’s very, very important people are properly
trained and given the right tools to implement such practices and, of
course, that such practices are diligently carried out. Glass is heavy,
it is hard and it is sharp and, if it is not handled properly, those three
things are all significant hazards that can potentially lead to very serious
injury, or worse.”
Standardizing Best Practices
Morrow chairs the ASTM work item WK22587, New Guide for Personal Protective
Equipment for the Handling of Flat Glass. “The whole point of this document
is to try to put some framework to the personal protective equipment (PPE)
control,” he explains. “Basically the document is a guidance to be used
when operations that handle glass are considering what type of PPE needs
to be worn and where.” Morrow notes that the focus may be expanded in
future editions, but the group is focusing on the basics right now.
Personal protective equipment (PPE) suppliers point out that just
as a glass fabricator would never claim a product is, for example,
impact-proof but only impact-resistant, their products have inherent
“Any cut-resistant garment is ‘cut-resistant’ only ... not cut-proof,”
says Robert Kaiser, CEO of PPSS Group, a UK-based producer of PPE.
”Any cut-resistant garment can, of course, be penetrated or cut, depending
on sharpness of glass and force of pressure/impact.”
“There are limitations to all products,” agrees Griff Hughes of Banom
in Malvern, Pa. He adds that the PPE limitations “depends on the surface
of the glass, what type of lubricant you’re using to cut the glass,
whether it’s mineral spirit or if it’s water-based, and then you’ll
also have other additives like Lucor—that affects the grip.”
Maurice Blackhurst, vice president of Intertex Textiles in Oakville,
Ontario, adds, “All materials have a life span and, over time, cut
resistance will be affected. Factors that affect lifespan are cleaning/laundering,
UV damage, abrasion, frequency of use and general wear and tear. Other
factors to consider are cut level ratings of specific fabrics.”
“Limitations we might specify might be with regards to how to maintain
their garment over time,” says Jeff Martin, director of technology
for National Safety Apparel in Cleveland. “If you go for Kevlar material,
for example, you do not want to bleach it or wash it with bleach because
that will degrade the garment. If you go with a poly-blend fiber such
as a Dyneema, then high heat applications would be a limitation for
Martin adds, “The bottom line for us is we work with the customer
to design what they need.”
The guide has been under development by ASTM Committee E34.35 on Safe
Handling of Flat Glass for more than two years; just recently the committee
voted to approve the document, bringing it one step closer to publication.
After additional tweaking, the document is expected to go to a vote by
Committee E34 on Occupational Health and Safety before the end of March.
“The main two points that we’re trying to help people with are the part
of the body that should be covered and what level of protection is recommended
based on the application,” Morrow says. “For example, one of the things
that the committee discovered in looking at the data in our industry is
a high number of injuries to the neck. Raw data alone does not reveal
whether such injuries are caused by improper PPE, improper handling or
some other cause or combination of causes. However, the committee is hopeful
that the guide will aid employers in making better informed decisions
about such matters.
“The other main point is what level of cut protection, depending on which
standard you’re using, is recommended for the different parts of the body
based on the potential severity. That part of our document is pretty clear
and I’m confident that if people are experienced in glass handling they’re
going to see it as okay. I think we’re pretty close to that. But one of
the things that may raise questions will probably be the neck protection
[guidance],” Morrow says.
Anecdotal data indicates that many lacerations result into two areas,
Burk says. “The first comes from attempts to prevent glass, pieces of
glass or IG units from falling. Employees must fight the natural urge
to stop the falling glass. It often weighs much more than they expect.
Workers must be instructed to move out of the way and let it fall. A second
cause of lacerations appears to be from lites that break during handling.
This can be caused by handling damaged glass or moving glass though tight
spaces where the glass contacts other objects, causing fractures. Employees
must be trained to inspect lites and assure a clear path prior to handling.”
Burk points to another danger in fabrication facilities.
“Another very alarming situation is the number of deaths or injuries caused
by crushing. Employees must be instructed on the correct methods of moving,
storing and handling glass lites. Removing one small lite of glass from
a storage rack or cart can cause the entire load to shift. Storage methods,
carts, racks, tie downs, cranes, lifting equipment and handling methods
should be regularly reviewed,” Burk says.
He notes that “there is also much to be learned from ‘near misses.’ These
are incidents where no one was injured, but were endangered. These incidents
should be analyzed much like actual accidents to improve safety.”
Using Good Gear
As Morrow notes, using PPE is one thing; having the right PPE for the
job and using it correctly is another.
Robert Kaiser, CEO of PPSS Group, a UK-based producer of PPE, advises
glass fabrication customers to ensure effective PPE is always provided
and worn, adding, “this should include cut-resistant aprons, gloves, upper
body garments and wrist protection.”
In guiding customers toward a safety plan, Maurice Blackhurst, vice president
of Intertex Textiles in Oakville, Ontario, recommends every customer do
a full risk assessment to determine the appropriate level of protection
for a given fabrication job. He advises, “Factor in not only hazards that
are inherent with routine daily tasks but also the threat of a catastrophic
event or major mishap.”
"If you can keep
an edge from moving you can keep it from cutting, so the grip is very
—Griff Hughes, Banom
Jeff Martin, director of technology for National Safety
Apparel in Cleveland, likewise helps guide customers toward appropriate
“In general we always say that high risk areas such as the neck, wrists
and inner thighs, where you’re exposed to life threatening injuries, should
be protected with a high level of cut protection,” Martin says. “We use
ANSI 105. The title is For Hand Protection [Selection Criteria], but within
there are specific levels for cut protection, so when we talk about levels
of cut protection we’re quoting from ANSI 105.”
How Your Gear Protects You
When designing their protective gear, Kaiser says, these companies take
into account such factors as the strength of the glass, type of tools
used, operational duties, the movement of the glass handler, customer
design requirements (e.g required protective area) and the temperature
of the working environment. Cut protection is far from the only factor
PPE manufacturers consider.
Blackhurst notes that it’s also important to look at details such as what
kind of glass the customer will be working with, whether the associate
will be lifting or carrying the glass, the weight and size of the glass,
and dexterity or grip for using specific tools. In addition, he says,
“We consider additional patches for added protection and durability for
those areas that are more prone to contact or more critical (wrists, neck
and waist areas).”
“The other thing that isn’t talked a lot about in the industry but we
do point it out to our customers is that puncture resistance is very important
as well,” Martin says. He adds, “There are very different physics behind
the two [cuts and punctures], so really the manufacturer needs to test
for both in order to be able to steer them in the right direction.”
Abrasion resistance is also an important factor in designing, and selecting,
“A lot of cases you’ll have an employee holding a glass plate against
something like an apron patch and over time that wears away so you’ll
want something with high abrasion resistance,” Martin continues. “Cut
is always the number one [factor]; puncture is very critical to safety;
abrasion is more for the longevity of the garment,” he says.
"n general we always say that
high risk areas such as the neck, wrists and inner thighs, where you’re
exposed to life threatening injuries, should be protected with a high
level of cut protection."
—Jeff Martin, National Safety Apparel
Griff Hughes of Banom in Malvern, Pa., emphasizes the importance of grip
in glasswork. “If you can keep an edge from moving you can keep it from
cutting, so the grip is very important as well,” he says.
Comfort can’t be overlooked either for workers to wear their protective
gear at all times. “So, for example, if they’re in a high heat environment,
we’re not going to put them in something that melts,” Martin says.
“Consider ease and accuracy of donning and doffing PPE. Complicated or
ill-fitting PPE can give a false sense of safety,” Blackhurst says. He
adds, “There is always a balance between comfort (bulk, flexibility, breathability,
etc.) and protection that must be considered. The end-user must decide
where their comfort level lies. Our goal is to offer products that optimize
Comfort is important because the biggest danger comes in having gear that
isn’t worn. Burk suggests fabricators initiate a zero tolerance safety
policy when it comes to wearing safety gear. He recalls talking with fabricators
who described employees that “refused” to wear the proper PPE. “My immediate
response was ‘send them home,’” Burk says. “The safety policy must provide
enforcement procedures with a warning followed by time off and, finally,
dismissal. Employees that do not follow safety procedure not only endanger
themselves, but also the health and lives of their coworkers. There is
no gray area here—follow procedures or go home.”
The single biggest piece of advice that Morrow can offer when it comes
to safe handling of glass is to always remember that glass can break if
not handled properly. “Breakage is unexpected,” he says. He would also
remind fabricators, “Your company provides you with gear to protect you
and the only way it’s going to protect you is if you’re wearing it 100
percent of the time. Even the best glass handlers experience breakage
at times—no fault of theirs, but glass sometimes breaks. You don’t want
that to be the one time you don’t have your gear on and you suffer serious
injury. The hands and the wrists obviously are probably the most frequently
contacted body parts so protecting the hands and wrists is critical.”
Reminders to Stay Safe
While PPE is an important part of a fabrication facilities equipment,
it may be easy to overlook those suppliers as safety resource themselves.
As Hughes points out, an important resource PPE suppliers can provide
is answers to common safety questions. “Our big thing is to make sure
we answer the questions that [customers] have regarding safety,” he says.
Blackhurst notes that his company offers a PPE care and maintenance guideline
that should be among customers’ safety resources. “The guideline includes
some key principles of a company’s safety plan and PPE. These include
detailing how the clothing should be worn (donning and doffing) to maximize
protection, cleaning instructions, inspecting and determining when to
replace damaged heavily soiled and/or worn out safety clothing,” he says.
“Management and workers should familiarize themselves with the guide.
Read it, sign off and keep a record. Post the guide in a central area.”
Martin notes that once the New Guide for Personal Protective Equipment
for the Handling of Flat Glass is available, it will provide a much-needed
resource toward which suppliers like him can point their customers. Until
then, suppliers continue to tailor their products to the specific customer’s
needs, he says.
The Glass Association of North America and the Insulating Glass
Manufacturers Alliance offer a joint webinar that looks at injuries
and fatalities caused by mishandling of glass, or complacency when
handling glass. Presented by Mike Burk of Quanex Building Products,
it also ponders ways to make the jobsite safer. View the webinar
by scanning the QR code here or visiting www.glasswebsite.com
Burk points out that while employees might one day forget a critical piece
of PPE, they might be less likely to overlook a coworker’s omission. “Coworkers
can be a second source for increased safety. Coworkers must be charged
with watching out for their partners, warning them and management of missing
or damaged PPE and unsafe conditions or procedures. They must be permitted
to stop work until unsafe situations are addressed,” he says.
Blackhurst also suggests, “Post a pictorial overview in a central area
to identify the company’s required PPE so all associates are continually
reminded of their responsibility to be safe in the workplace.”
That continual and consistent reminder can be critical. All the training
in the world can be provided to employees but constant reminders may prevent
an employee from having just one “off” day that could end in disaster.
For safety tips for glazing contractors, see “No Excuses” on page
40 of the July 2011 USGlass.
“We tend to get comfortable and forget the danger of handling glass,”
Burk says. “Employees must constantly be reminded. Can you imagine if
everyone could relive the feeling they had on their first visit to a glass
facility? The extremely large lites of glass. The loud sound of breaking
glass alarms everyone during their first encounter. These feeling soon
diminish as we get accustomed to the environment.”
Megan Headley is the editor of USGlass. She can be reached at
or follower her on Twitter @USGlass.
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