The mid-1970s were a time of product expansion for the STIHL Group, which, until then, had focused solely on making chain saws. In 1974, the company opened factories in Virginia Beach, VA, and Wil, Switzerland. The Virginia facility (which is ASSEMBLY’s 2014 Plant of the Year) currently produces more than 275 model variations of handheld outdoor power equipment. The Swiss plant, since day one, only makes saw chains.
In June 2013, managers there reviewed the safety gloves workers were using to protect themselves from accidental cuts during manufacturing. The managers determined that the gloves did not meet Level 3 of the European EN 388 standard, which requires the glove material be strong enough to withstand 2,000 cycles of sharp-object abrasion before puncturing.
After extensively testing 13 different gloves, Stihl selected the HyFlex 11-518 made by Ansell Healthcare LLC. The gloves are very thin (0.049 inch), but meet Level 3 while providing maximum dexterity and comfort.
“The previous gloves either didn’t offer enough protection or were too thick and heavy,” says Roland Zürcher, safety expert at STIHL Kettenwerk GmbH & Co. in Switzerland. “This was particularly true (for workers) when handling smaller parts, such as razor-sharp cutting teeth. Despite their high cut resistance, the (HyFlex) gloves provide a good grip on parts so work flows smoothly.”
The gloves’ outstanding cut resistance is attributed to DSM Dyneema fiber, which is half as thick, and weighs half as much, as the yarn used in traditional high-modulus polyethylene (HMPE) gloves. This fiber’s fine knitting structure enhances flexibility and grip without lessening cut, tear and abrasion resistance.
The fiber is breathable and has excellent heat conductivity so the worker’s hands stay cool.
Equally important, it provides the fingertip sensitivity of bare hands. A thin polyurethane coating on the palm side enhances tactility.
Gloves made of this fiber can be washed and reused multiple times without losing their cut-protection properties. The fiber also resists UV light and chemicals.
Zürcher says that, over the past year, there have been significantly fewer hand injuries at the plant, and this has lowered the cost of STIHL’s occupational safety insurance there. He also notes that workers in all aspects of manufacturing (injection molding, machining, stamping and final assembly) like the gloves.
Blue in color, HyFlex gloves come in sizes 6 to 11. They are 210 to 65 millimeters long and feature a knitwrist cuff style.
For more information on cut-resistant materials, call 800-883-7404 or visit www.dyneema.com.