In the world of protective gloves, especially when it comes to vibration control, all materials are not created equally. OSHA, the agency that determines what does and does not qualify as “protective wear,” warns that certain gloves, frequently labeled as “protective” by the manufacturer, do not meet its minimum standard for protection against excessive vibration and may not afford any type of protection for a condition known as “white finger syndrome”. Those gloves tend to be made of cotton, leather or a combination of the two and do not decrease vibration at all. In addition, there are a number of types of vibration damping gloves that are also deemed ineffective against this condition, which can range from mild to debilitating and may be either temporary or permanent in the case of long term exposure to excessive vibration.
White Finger Syndrome: Symptoms and Other Relevant Facts
The condition commonly referred to as white finger syndrome is also known by other names as well. Medically, it is called Secondary Raynaud’s Syndrome because it mimics the disease by that same name. It is known industrially as segmental occupational vibration, which affects portions of the body, most commonly the hands and arms. About two million people in the US suffer from some form of this condition during their working lifetime, and it can quickly go from a temporary condition to a permanent disability, especially when working with certain types of industrial tools known for their vibration.
Symptoms of the condition can range from a mild discoloration of the finger tips to more serious problems. In some people, the fingers or the entire hand can be numb, tingling or alternate between the two. The fingers may turn white (blanching) and then suddenly turn red (flushing) when exposed to a temperature change. The faster this happens, the more painful it can be. The tingling can elevate to throbbing and can last anywhere from a few minutes to the whole day. This can also lead to a loss of sensation and manual dexterity, preventing sufferers from using their fingers for fine motor skills including picking small items up. As the syndrome progresses, they may lose the ability to use their fingers for larger movements as well.
In stage two and beyond, the symptoms can become even more serious and may even lead to gangrene in the affected fingers. Once gangrene sets in, there is an increased chance that the person will lose the use of the affected parts completely and may have to have them removed so that it does not spread further. This condition is not a new one, however. White finger syndrome was first described in Italy as far back as 1911. In 1918, a doctor made the discovery that certain types of tools, which involved vibration, increased the risk of this condition.
Anti-Vibration Gloves May Not Be Enough Protection Against the Syndrome
Regular work style gloves are not designed as protection against vibration. According to a number of industry experts, there are very few gloves that actually meet that standard, and even with those, there are some warnings that should be followed to maximize their effectiveness and protection. Be warned that some gloves are not giving you any of the protection that you need, even from the weather let alone from vibration. It is still important to heed other safety warnings to protect yourself, including taking frequent breaks and knowing your limits while working with these high-powered, hand-held tools.
How Sorbothane® Can Help to Protect Against Segmental Occupational Vibration
A specially designed glove called the Ergotech glove is made with a leather covered, Sorbothane palm, where most of the vibration is introduced to the hand and arms. As you hold a tool, you do so with your hand gripping the handle. In other words, the palm of your hand could be defined as the gateway for the vibration generated by the tool to spread to the rest of the arm. By providing a method of vibration damping at that port of entry, you reduce the overall effect of vibration and reduce the accumulated risk of injury. These gloves are meant to provide protection from some of the effects of vibration but are not designed as protection from the elements such as cold or wet weather. Because they are finger less, they may also allow more dexterity but reduce some of their overall protectiveness. To make them as effective as possible, these gloves should be worn in combination with other work gloves to protect the entire hand, including the sensitive fingertip region.
Another consideration when choosing the right anti-vibration glove is the way that they fit. A glove that is too tight will cut off the circulation and become too uncomfortable to wear. A glove that is too loose can become a danger by keeping the wearer from having a firm grip on the tool they are using or could become tangled in the moving parts of a machine. The Sorbothane glove is made of other materials including nylon, spandex and lycra, which help to improve the way that it fits and comes in sizes which range from small to extra-large.
In addition to being a great vibration dampener and protecting against the weather, gloves do play an important role in protecting against cuts and abrasions especially when handling sharp or jagged stones, glass and other newly cut materials.
Choosing to Include Sorbothane as Your Protection of Choice
If the Sorbothane palm gloves are not suitable for your needs, other options are available with Sorbothane. You can discuss your ideas with a design team member or find your solution by downloading our Standard Products Guide. Our engineering team can help you determine the product that meets your needs for safety, comfort and protection.
Want to learn more about how Sorbothane can be used in your industrial application? Contact us today or request a quote to learn more.