AGS explores glove failure rates

NEW ORLEANS—The rapidly expanding use of gloveboxes across a wide range of industries has brought to light a pressing issue for manufacturers and end-users alike: how to prevent glove failure and the resulting contamination of both users and products.

“We know that this is a very hot topic among users in the industry right now,” says Ken Rosenberg, president of the American Glovebox Society (AGS).

To address this, AGS sponsored a day-long symposium at its annual meeting here called, “Why good gloves go bad.” The purpose was to bring together both manufacturers and end-users of the gloves to find procedures that can significantly reduce the rate of glove failure across all industries.

“Ninety percent of our business used to be with the government and the Department of Energy for the handling of radioactive materials,” says W. Fred Seebode, manager of development for North Safety Products (Cranston, RI). “Now more and more companies are looking to bring these boxes in for the manufacturing of electronics and pharmaceuticals and the gloves are in contact with materials they hadn’t been in the past.”

Today, glove manufacturers are challenged to find the right combination of glove materials depending on the nature of the work. “So much more of the work today involves the use of substances that can seriously affect the strength and integrity of the glove,” says Richard Renehan, president of Renco Corp. (Manchester By The Sea, MA). Renehan says that in some instances, the rate for changing the gloves used in the gloveboxes and dry boxes is much shorter than expected due to the types of materials being handled.

“One simple step that can help reduce the failure rate is for the end-users
to change the gloves more frequently in applications where they know the glove wears faster,” says Renehan.

Other factors contributing to glove wear and failure rates are cuff sizes that don’t match the port sizes of the box and gloves that are too short for the application, requiring users to stretch the gloves to complete their tasks.

“The symposium’s intent is to provide manufacturers and end-users a chance to talk about the reasons for glove failure and how to better manage the use
of gloves for these applications,” says Rosenberg. Glove and cuff sizes are easily fixed problems and the information from the symposium on these issues should have an immediate impact.

Meanwhile, manufacturers continue to develop new gloves and new synthetic combinations to meet increasingly diverse uses. (See “Breathable films offer latex glove alternative,” p. 1) “We will continue to try to improve our gloves through the use of different materials and the layering of these materials,” says Renehan.

But improvements, including Renco’s recent use of polyurethane in its gloves, can only do so much. Most improvements are incremental using tried-and-true materials. “We’ll continue to look for ways to improve our gloves,” says Seebode. “But the best way to prevent failure is for end-users to have a good understanding of their own processes, then picking a regular replacement
schedule accordingly.”


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