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Ambidextrous safety gloves: Deal or No Deal?

AMBIDEXTROUS protective safety gloves are seemingly easy to use and inexpensive, but could come at a high cost, especially when it comes to workplace health and safety.

A worker can grab any ambidextrous glove without worrying about a matching pair. But what is a worry is the detrimental effects such work gloves, designed to fit either hand only modestly well, can have on the user.

There is the danger of hand stress and fatigue due to the gloves’ poor fitting and the end result could be debilitating Cumulative Trauma Disorder (CTD) and other workplace injuries.

 

Anatomical v Ambidextrous: the difference is in the design

Ambidextrous safety gloves are designed for occasional and short-term wear in applications ranging from light-duty maintenance to intricate parts handling, lab work and food processing and preparation.

Their two-dimensional shape, designed mainly to increase production, ignores the ergonomic, natural curve of the hand and the bulbous “thumb ball” that’s typical of a hand in its natural, relaxed position.

 Ansell worked with renowned scientist David Narasimhan, Ph.D., to investigate the ergonomic impact of an ambidextrous glove against its anatomical counterpart, which is designed to individually fit the natural shape of both the right and left hand.

The anatomical work safety gloves win hands down

Ansell PowerFlex 80-813 safety gloves
The ambidextrous safety gloves when put on the hand immediately created a load on the thumb, pulling it back from its natural position. This strain occurs because the glove was manufactured on a flat, almost two-dimensional former with the aim of quick production.

The ambi glove also had a very baggy fit, with excess material sagging on the palm side of the hand. This extra material again reflects the poor fitting of the ambi glove and its inability to conform to the hand's natural shape. During normal use, the excess material could hinder a worker's dexterity, grip and tactile sensitivity, which could lead to injury.

Similar measurements were taken with the anatomical glove. The test subject reported this glove was easy to put on and there was no pull on the thumb.

 

Grasping small objects and picking up tools

Tests were conducted on how the ambi and anatomical gloves would react when the hand made a grasping motion.

The forefinger of the ambi glove hand had to extend more, resulting in increased stretch on the rubber. And there was greater overall stress on the hand because of the backward pull on the thumb.

 

Ambi glove doesn’t really fit the bill

The ambi glove had a poorer fit, pulling the fingers and especially the thumb backwards with significant force into an abnormal position.

This places considerable strain on the muscles and joints, and could result in stress-related injuries and reduce productivity for jobs requiring high levels of dexterity.

The ambi glove also created a load on the hand before any activity was even performed, confirming that a worker wearing an ambi glove is likely to feel discomfort after several minutes — even when the hands are idle.

The better fitting, more comfortable anatomical glove is best for almost any work environment currently using ambidextrous gloves. It will reduce hand and muscle fatigue and the threat of Cumulative Trauma Disorder.

- article written by Dr. Michael S. Zedalis, Senior Vice-President, Science & Technology; and Bill Bennett, Marketing Manager, Chemical & Disposable Products, Ansell Limited