Volume 47, Issue 2 - February 2012


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 it.”

"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.

Limited Wear
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 limitations.

“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 it.”

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 important …"
—Griff Hughes, Banom

Jeff Martin, director of technology for National Safety Apparel in Cleveland, likewise helps guide customers toward appropriate protection selection.

“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, PPE.

“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 this balance.”

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.

More Resources
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 or www.igmaonline.org

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.

Glazing Safely
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 mheadley@glass.com or follower her on Twitter @USGlass.


© Copyright 2012 Key Communications Inc. All rights reserved.
No reproduction of any type without expressed written permission.