Volume 49, Issue 2 - February 2014


Do Your Glass Handlers Fight Your Safety Policy?

While we may tout the strength of today’s glass products, it is still obviously capable of breakage during every day handling, and the results of such breakage can be very dangerous for anyone in the vicinity. Although requirements for personal protective equipment (PPE) may be commonplace today among glass manufacturers, fabricators and installers, injuries still happen for any number of reasons.

One of those reasons is an employee’s decision to remove safety clothing.

“Comfort is a major contributor to lack of use with both safety glasses and clothing,” says Griff Hughes, president of Banom Inc. in Malvern, Pa. “In gloves it is usually poor fit. Choosing a glove with limited size availability will lead to bare hand injuries where an employee has to take off his gloves in order to perform a task. Poor glove design can also impede dexterity,” he adds.

Jeff Martin, technical director of National Safety Apparel in Cleveland, agrees that uncomfortable clothing can lead to PPE removal, as can the use of protection clothing that is not specifically engineered to the individual’s application. As he points out,
“If you’re simply shopping for ‘cut protection’ [you’ll find] more generic clothing, whereas for your specific application you might identify a high abrasion area on the certain part of your arm, for example, that standard items wouldn’t cover.”

If you can’t find the PPE that you believe will best protect your workforce, creating it is an option. As Martin advises, “The best thing that any company can do is work with the clothing manufacturer to develop custom garments for their application.” By way of example Martin mentions that some glass companies request coats where the collar is built into the coat as a permanent feature, while others request a separate piece that can be removed. “It really depends on their environment,” he says.

Both Hughes and Martin refer glass companies, and their employees, to ASTM E2875 Standard Guide for Personal Protective Equipment for the Handling of Flat Glass, to ensure their workforce is properly protected.

“Anyone handling glass can refer to this document,” Martin adds. He goes on to note, “When we say ‘cut’ there are specific [types] that [can cause injury]—cut, puncture or abrasion—so all three of those need to be addressed [by protective clothing].”

Hughes points out that E2875 is a recommendation, not a mandate. “However, it does set a legal exposure should an employee suffer a fatal laceration due to lack of protection in one of these areas,” he says.

Offering comfortable, effective clothing is a good way to ensure PPE compliance. However, enforcing a strict companywide policy for such compliance is another way that companies can protect their workers from injury.

“Many companies are now requiring full PPE compliance for anyone entering the production area with a zero tolerance,” Hughes says. “If the employer has a stated policy and it is violated, then the employee is formally notified of the violation. How many violations are tolerated before dismissal depends on the company’s policy.”

Hughes notes that enforcing such a policy should be done by getting the full support of the upper management, which has the added benefit of creating a culture in which safety is seen as a priority in every instance. While companies are policing their employees with these policies, Martin points out that OSHA is always watching companies for safety violations. “In general what OSHA says is … that you must identify a hazard and you must protect against the hazard. In the case of glass handling the hazards are cut, puncture and abrasion, so you should identify those and you should protect against them using the appropriate clothing. That’s if you can’t engineer your processes and systems to completely eliminate the possibility of harm.”

Your workers will willingly put themselves in harm’s way, those same employees may feel they’re only adjusting their gloves for a second or have done the job long enough that removing their safety glasses for a closer look won’t really hurt. However, it only takes a second for an accident to happen.

“Glass is deadly. It is a hard substance, so protecting against a glass edge is difficult. The danger is magnified if the glass should break. Not wearing full protective gear when handling glass is very dangerous—almost like playing Russian roulette with a fully loaded gun,” Hughes says.

—Megan Headley


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