Personal protective equipment (PPE) is essential in many workplace environments. But what body parts are you not covering—that you should—when preparing to handle glass?
“We use PPE for every single employee who handles glass,” says Nathaniel Winkelmann, a certified safety professional and corporate safety director for Hartung Glass in Tukwila, Wash.
According to data Winkelmann has gathered, the primary body parts that should be protected but aren’t are the lower legs. He explains that PPE aprons extend to just below the knees, but glass can cause lacerations to the shins. Employees must be taught to understand they should wear full-length aprons. “No employee is going to automatically grab them,” Winkelmann says.
Safety officers like Winkelmann are needed at companies to determine which PPE is necessary and in what circumstances. Hartung historically has required employees to wear a Kevlar-lined heavy-duty apron. Current safety requirements now include chaps that cover the front of the legs to prevent glass and other sharp objects from cutting through the aprons to the legs. Winkelmann says cuts to the ears and face are not as common because wearing a hard hat creates a barrier for sharp objects. The most common injuries are to hands, forearms and shins.
Level of Protection
Magid, based in Romeoville, Ill., makes PPE products. Product manager Jen Walrich says most companies know what they need for basic protection. However, they may not understand what level of protection is necessary. For example, employees know to wear eye protection, but certain circumstances may require a higher degree of that protection. “We do a lot of safety assessments for companies,” Walrich says, adding that many companies don’t always know where to begin when it comes to PPE.
Magid’s director of marketing Jay Hubbard sees employees who are sometimes unaware they may need double gloves for specific jobs. For example, those who work with glass and window fabrication may have problems with their gloves sticking to butyl, which is used to seal gas in between lites of glass. To address this issue, they’ll wear a cut-resistant glove with another glove on top that will not stick to the butyl. However, the employee’s grip can be compromised and two gloves create more heat and less comfort.
Walrich says employees don’t know to ask, “do you have something [that does] what two gloves can do?” As a solution, Magid created a silicone glove that will not stick when installing the glass and can do the job of two gloves.
She adds that some employees who have worked in the glass industry the longest are the ones least informed about protective equipment. “I didn’t realize how unprotected I was,” they will say when they learn about the products.
When the Heat is On
Glass manufacturing and fabrication occur in hot work environments, and the facilities typically are not air-conditioned. Cooling towels, bandannas, neck gaiters/ face coverings and skullcaps help in these situations. Magid’s cooling gear, for example, is chemical-free and keeps employees cool for up to two hours when wet. New employees in glass plants are acclimated during a specific time period to the heat in a facility by working shorter hours until they are more comfortable with the heat in the work environment.
The information is excerpted from the feature titled, “What You Don’t Know Can Hurt You: The PPE You’re Overlooking.” To read the full article in the October 2021 issue of USGlass magazine, click here. To sign up to receive USGlass magazine free of charge, click here.