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Take care—of your hands

My Take | May 10, 2021 | By:

by Janet Preus

An elderly woman I knew long ago once worked at a place she just called “Hands.” I know the workers didn’t make much money, but I think they were mostly elderly, female and enjoyed the socializing as much as anything. It was all “hand work,” and I’ve thought now and then about her busy hands and everything she must have put them through. She and her husband still lived on their farm, she got up early to bake, kept a small garden and, of course, cleaned the house, did laundry and all the cooking. 

She worked her hands pretty hard, but—except in the dead of winter—I never saw her in a pair of gloves. Back then, there were not so many choices, particularly in women’s sizes—and at a price that elderly folks on a small farm could afford. 

Farms are a dangerous place to live and work. Some people might be surprised to hear that, but The U.S. National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) reports that agriculture ranks among the most hazardous industries. Factory workers, oil and other energy industries, construction and healthcare are also work environments that pose specific dangers from extreme heat or cold, to pathogens, to cuts and punctures, to hazardous materials. We really need our hands to stay in good shape. Fortunately, there are gloves with a range of protective functionalities, and the technology is getting better all the time. 

We’ve talked about protective materials and end products many times in this publication, and we’ve covered any number of innovations in these products over the course of several years. However, we’ve never run a feature article specifically on protective gloves. Despite COVID-19 and our need to focus on protective products to fight the pandemic, I have been seeing more stories about developments in protective gloves, including advances in materials, soft robotic technologies and manufacturing processes. The time has come to take a closer look.

That’s what our writer, Marie O’Mahony, does in her feature, “Giving gloves their due: Specialty gloves offer protection for workers in a range of work environments.” This article covers developments in the biggest markets, which makes sense, of course, and I think you’ll find it both interesting and useful.

But I have to admit I’m still thinking about busy hands trimming brush, mowing the lawn and digging in the garden. That was my daughter’s great-grandmother, so, I sent my daughter a pair of Minnesota-made work gloves for her birthday. I know she’ll be planting flowers as soon as they move into their new house, hundreds of miles away from home. It’s something I can do to help her take care of herself. 

Janet Preus is senior editor of Advanced Textiles Source. She can be reached at

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