Construction Glove Research

A major personal protective equipment (PPE) manufacturer asked our research team to help them better understand how construction workers obtain and use safety gloves, and to discover possible areas for innovation. After extensively surveying both client and competitive safety glove products, we interviewed over 40 workers and supervisors from many construction industries including: landscape, carpentry, commercial glass, concrete, masonry, iron working, HVAC, plumbing, electrical, roofing, and demolition trades. We also interviewed 8 construction company safety directors, 2 distributors specializing in construction PPE, and 15 of our client’s internal stakeholders. In addition, we observed 7 different construction sites in various climates.

We learned that on large job sites, safety directors provide gloves to employees of the construction company but not to subcontractors who must provide their own PPE. We also learned that unlike hardhats and fall protection, gloves are usually (with a few exceptions) only recommended – not mandated – as part of a construction company’s safety rules, so workers wear gloves – or don’t – by choice.

Workers prefer maximum dexterity and most feel that existing gloves do not meet their needs. When workers do wear gloves, they find themselves donning and doffing them many times a day as necessary for fine tasks, such as when working with nails, screws, pencils, chalk lines, etc. The result is that most workers choose to wear gloves only when a task absolutely requires them or when the weather is uncomfortably cold. Further, having rough, worn hands seems to be a badge of honor, so few workers wear gloves continuously simply for skin and hand protection. Those who do are new to the trades with hands not yet used to the work or men trying to appease wives or families who had complained about the roughness of their hands.

We observed the use of many different types of gloves in construction trades including brown jersey, leather drivers, cotton dotted, dipped styles, cotton mill gloves, mechanics style gloves, and PVC coated gloves. When workers were asked why they selected certain gloves, cost seemed to be the main driving factor, however, a few admitted that they pay more for comfort and performance and tended to purchase mechanics style gloves – a stylish and fitted glove with sewn on embellishments such as knuckle guards, etc.

As a result of our research, many areas for improvement in the design of construction gloves were identified, and a glove redesign effort began. However, the highest hurdle for the construction industry in regards to hand safety continues to be convincing workers that safety gloves should be worn even when no safety mandates are in place.

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