The 7th World Conference on Injury Prevention and Safety Promotion, Vienna, Austria, June 6th-9th 2004. Vienna, Austria: Kuratorium für Schutz und Sicherheit/Institut Sicher Leben, 2004 Jun; :752-753
Problem under study: The leading occupational injury treated in United States (U.S.) hospital emergency departments in 1996 was an acute hand injury. Hand injuries annually affect 30% of workers. Firefighters are one of the high risk occupational groups for hand injury because of their mechanical, thermal, chemical and electrical exposures. Appropriate glove fit and use at work is important as glove use has been shown to both increase the risk of hand injury and reduce the risk of hand injury depending on specific work place hazards and activities. Gloves used by firefighters are typically designed based on best available hand-size data collected from military personnel 20-30 years ago. This measurement data may be inadequate and out of date for firefighter glove design. Objectives: This study is conducted to determine the current level of accommodation provided by two popular glove-sizing schemes, using two of the most updated U.S. and European civilian anthropometry databases. It also describes the design process required to establish glove sizing schemes. The discussion should be beneficial for glove manufacturers and in general for personal protective equipment and other product designers. Methodology: Hand size measurements were compared to specific manufacturing specifications required for the certification of firefighting gloves used to control structural fires in the U.S. and Europe. Civilian anthropometric data sets included the 3rd National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES III, 1988-94) and the Civilian American and European Surface Anthropometry Resource (CAESAR, 2002). Glove sizing schemes were taken from consensus standards developed for the design of firefighting gloves use in both the U.S. and the European Economic Community (ECC). The voluntary consensus standards included: U.S. National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), NFPA Standard 1971 (2000). Standard on Protective Ensemble for Structural Fire Fighting; and International Standards Organization, ECC European Glove Standards, EN 420-1994 Protective Gloves; and EN 659-1996 Protective Gloves for Firefighters. Results: Average U.S. male hand length has grown approximately ½ inch (1.3cm) over last 50 years, while glove sizing schemes have remained static on both continents. Firefighters are generally taller and heavier compared with other occupational groups. Glove schemes are now accommodating a smaller percentage of firefighters. Hand size varies by gender, race/ethnicity and occupational status. An estimated one third of male and female firefighters are poorly accommodated by the current sizing schemes. Firefighter's with a stature taller than 6 feet (183cm) or shorter than 5 feet 6 inches (168cm) have the worst fit accommodation risk. Different coverage strategies were applied in the two standards. Their limitations are discussed. Conclusion: Firefighters and other workers whose gloves fit poorly will opt to wear no gloves, or poorly fitted gloves, which may increase hand injury risks. Hand length/width continues to increase, resulting in poorer glove fit over time. The degree of accommodation depends on factors such as gender, race, and even occupational status as a career or volunteer firefighter. An adequate glove sizing scheme will promote better fit for more workers. By using appropriate measurements a sizing scheme can be designed to accommodate 98% of the variation represented in hand size dimensions. Because human dimensions change over time, sizing schemes should be periodically evaluated for changes in the workplace end-user population. Occupationally-focused anthropometric methods can be used to design better sizing schemes and improve end-user compliance and safety in gloves and other type of personal protective equipment and clothing.