Welding Glove Upgrades Fight the Burn

Professional and amateur welders alike demand high-quality personal protective equipment (PPE) and gloves — and for good reason.

AWS Publications | June 28, 2021 | Processes
Welding Digest ►  Welding Glove Upgrades Fight the Burn

Professional and amateur welders alike demand high-quality personal protective equipment (PPE) and gloves — and for good reason.

Lead photo — Mechanix Wear’s Regulator gloves in action.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, more than a third of welding- and heating-tool-related injuries requiring days away from work in 2018 were thermal or heat burns (Ref. 1). While it’s an unfortunate statistic, it’s not all that surprising considering welders — depending on the job and method — are managing heat anywhere between 5000°–36,000°F and sometimes even higher.

Welders work in some of the most demanding conditions, yet for years, they’ve battled the same deficiencies when it comes to hand and glove protection, including a short lifespan, an uncomfortable fit, and dated material technology. There are hundreds of different welding gloves available that meet the guidelines of the American National Standard Institute (ANSI) for welding glove PPE, but many of the gloves do not address the concerns the welding community continues to struggle with when it comes to durability and dexterity.

 

Innovations Heat Up the Industry

As with all fields, innovations have opened new approaches for product development and design. And this is true for glove and PPE manufacturers. Thanks to developments in textile technology and innovations in leather, welding gloves are finally being updated to increase glove safety in a number of ways, including increased dexterity to material strength and design.

When Mechanix Wear launched the Torch™ Welding Series gloves earlier this year, it came after years of research and design as well as field testing with fabricators across different disciplines. The company found there were several aspects of glove technology and safety that hadn’t been addressed in years.

Fig 2 Mechanix Wear - Torch Welding SeriesThe Torch Series welding gloves and accessories were developed with Paul “Torch” Le Sage.

 

What follows are three of the key innovations and safety features the company built upon based on the research it gathered from welders. 

 

Seam Strength

Not all, but a large number of welding gloves in the market lack the stitch strength in the fingertips to withstand high-temperature environments. This weakness causes the gloves to wear and eventually blow out in the fingers, especially in the left pinky finger, which is often exposed to an enormous amount of radiant and direct heat. Without other viable options, welders have turned to internet hacks to reinforce popped stitches and put temporary Band-Aids over the problem area. In an industry that involves extreme heat conditions and requires incredible precision, temporary fixes open wearers up to other potentially dangerous situations.

Over the past few years, welted seams and, in some cases, reinforced stitching have been incorporated into gloves to help address this problem by providing a stronger seam that can stand up for hours. However, given glove construction, even reinforced seams are still vulnerable to wear due to their location across the top of a glove’s fingertip.

Through testing, the company discovered a better way to address popped seams while increasing the structural and safety design by changing the fingertip seam design completely. It did this by developing a rollover fingertip design that repositions the seams away from direct heat areas while reinforcing it with DuPont™ Kevlar® to improve seam durability and overall dexterity.   

 

Dexterity

The first major component of any glove is the cut. Existing welding products tend to be cut so large that it’s tough for welders to get the appropriate level of dexterity in their fingertips. Manufacturers are faced with the challenge of building a glove that allows welders to move their hands, wrists, and fingers freely. Oftentimes, that translates into a bulky glove that does not provide the wearer with a good grip, and it certainly doesn’t accommodate the necessary finger work, such as adjusting screws on a vise grip.

The search for a glove that fits like a glove can feel like a needle in a haystack for welders. There are two key elements to this: sizing and leather quality (more on the latter below). For size, welders should look for a glove that fits their hand, one that truly allows for full range of motion. Look for gloves that offer a full range of sizes — from small to extra-large to ensure a proper fit — as well as an insulated liner, which can provide extra heat protection. 

 

Leather Quality

Most manufacturers use split or top leather in their gloves, which is derived from the hide of various livestock. Each leather type offers a different degree of comfort and, generally, the most comfortable gloves sacrifice durability. While cow, goat, and pig leather have become standards, new innovations in leather tanning and development are changing the game in what’s possible.

The introduction of bonded and synthetic leathers is redefining the durability of welding gloves by offering a stronger and, in some cases, a more heat-resistant material. However, manufacturers are also revolutionizing the fit and comfort of welding gloves by offering a desired broken-in feel, which usually takes weeks to achieve with other gloves and provides users with maximum performance off the rack.

The company has developed DuraHide™ leathers, which blend natural leather with technology infused during the tanning process. This provides a super soft feel and fire resistance while also being machine washable, which is why the leather is used in the new glove line. This helps keep gloves up to ANSI standards by keeping them clean of cutting fluids, chemicals, and perspiration “hard spots” that break down gloves and leave hands vulnerable to heat-related injury.

 

What’s Next for Glove Safety

The challenge in manufacturing the welding gloves series was to solve many of the same issues that have plagued the welding community for years. As textile innovation continues to progress, manufacturers should be striving to push glove and welding PPE forward, too. Gloves should be longer-lasting — staying intact with high performance for multiple sessions of intense work — and they should not only meet but exceed safety standards to protect welders everywhere.

 

Reference

1. Ferguson, A. The many hazards of welding work. Safety and Health Magazine. (safetyandhealthmagazine.com/articles/print/19334-the-many-hazards-of-welding-work#:~:text=According%20to%20the%20Bureau%20of,key%20step%20to%20preventing%20burns)

This article was written by Paul Harris (vice president of research and development for Mechanix Wear) and Paul “Torch” Le Sage (commercial sales resident welder and product developer at Mechanix Wear) for the American Welding Society.