Posted on: Wednesday, 23 May 2018

A little while back,we received an email asking for our views on the use of Kevlar-knuckled gloves by door security staff.

We think it raised some interesting and timely issues for security personnel, and we’d like to share the discussion.

With a bit of paraphrasing, here’s the email, and the detailed response from our own Sandra Williams.

The question

I’ve just had a debate about the use of gloves with Kevlar knuckles whilst working as a Door Supervisor.

Opinions were been thrown around about their use being cowardly, illegal, unnecessary or going against the SIA rules of conduct etc. But there were also other opinions about how great they are.

A search online doesn’t really shed any light on the question about whether or not DS staff/security personnel can use Kevlar-knuckled gloves or not. However, there are many sites advertising them with the specific aim of selling them to security personnel, members of the police and armed forces.

What do you think about the wearing of gloves with Kevlar knuckles when working the doors or any other security related work? More specifically what does the SIA say about their use?

Sandra’s answer…

What a great question! I will answer and then put on our website as a blog for others to share.

In my many years as a Health and Safety Rep, it isn’t the first time I’ve been asked a question like this. It’s one that usually gets the same basic answer:

It’s all down to the Risk Assessment.

Let’s break this down a bit. Before you make the decision to take your Kevlar gloves off, or put them on, we need to consider several factors:

  1.  Are they being worn for a workplace activity?
  2. Is there a suitable and sufficient risk assessment in place for this activity?
  3. If PPE is issued as a ‘control measure’ to reduce the risk in the workplace for this activity, what are the CE (standards), if required?
  4. Do security staff have to wear gloves as PPE?
  5. Could you be prosecuted if you were wearing Kevlar gloves working the door and you hurt someone? (The question we all want answering!)
  6. What do the SIA say?

A look through the issues.

Firstly, are the gloves being worn for a workplace activity?

For security staff, it’s a ‘yes.’ We need to be clear about the use of the gloves. Their use in the workplace is different to their use for domestic and pleasure purposes (e.g. for riding your own motorbike for personal transportation purposes).

‎Secondly, is there a risk assessment?

If there is, it should refer to the hazards in the workplace (e.g. hazards from working in cold, or dealing with violent persons). If there isn’t currently a risk assessment, then there needs to be one. Under the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations, it should be shared with staff. It’s an employer’s responsibility to assess the risks to staff and others i.e. customers who could be affected by their ‘acts or omissions’ (Health and Safety at Work Act 1974).

Any sort of safety equipment or PPE should be used, worn or issued as a result of a ‘thorough and sufficient risk assessment’ undertaken by a competent person. This is an assessment of work hazards as far as can be foreseen at the time, which reduces any risks ‘as far as is reasonably practicable’.

The issue of ‘risk vs cost’, and whether something is reasonably practicable, is a big debate in implementing health and safety legislation. It was further  clarified in the updated MHSAWA in 2006. Following the Grenfell Tower disaster last year — where lower grade external cladding was chosen over higher fire resistance but more expensive options — I am sure it will be reviewed further!

Therefore, staff should wear PPE issued to them as a result of any thorough, suitable and sufficient risk assessment, if that assessment deems it as a ‘control measure’.

However, remember that PPE should only be used as a last resort: under the hierarchy of control, wherever possible, you would remove the hazard in the first place — which would remove the requirement for the safety equipment. But in some cases, it’s not possible to remove those hazards.

For example, you could get cold and wet standing on a door in the rain. In this case, you can’t remove the hazard by making staff stand inside, if their job requires them to‎ stand outside. So in this case, the risk assessment should advise ‘control measures’ to prevent the door staff from getting cold (considering risks of them developing hypothermia etc.).  Thus gloves in the workplace can be used for a similar purpose: to be worn in order to keep hands warm when standing outside.

At this point, I believe we have agreed that gloves can be worn in the workplace…yes?

What sort of gloves?

In a work environment, the type of gloves worn should be fit for the purpose for which they are intended, that is, for the purpose identified in the risk assessment.

For example, a gardener needs gloves in order to protect her hands from thorns. A first aider needs gloves to guard against cross-contamination and exposure to body fluids.

So as a door supervisor, the question revolves around ‘what am I wearing my gloves for?’   To protect my hands from the cold? Or from needles or sharp objects when searching? Or from body fluids when administering first aid?  In any of these cases, the hazards need to be identified in a risk assessment and the use of appropriate gloves identified. The assessment might reference vinyl non-latex gloves or it might just say ‘suitable PPE should be worn’ but not specify the make, colour, model or safety or CE standards.

Without a formal, written risk assessment or guidelines from an employer, things become confusing for a door person or security officer. If door staff haven’t got the right policies in place, or risk assessment to refer to, everyone makes their own decisions. This type of question about what is suitable continues to arise until perhaps the employer reviews it, and makes sure there is a risk assessment in place, or the current one is reviewed to ensure it is ‘adequate and sufficient and updated regularly to reflect current working practices’.

By now, I think we have now decided that whether gloves are needed or worn is all down to the risk assessment? Great!

Whether you can wear Kevlar gloves, or ones with Kevlar knuckles, or even woollen ones that your granny knitted…all of this depends on the purpose for which they’re intended, doesn’t it?  And that purpose is defined by the clearly identified hazard which the gloves are being used to deal with. We would also need to refer to the PPE regulations.

The Personal Protective Equipment Regulations (2002) state that such equipment should be used as a “last resort”. It should also be:

  1. Properly assessed before us to make sure it’s fit for purpose
  2. Maintained and stored properly
  3. Provided with instructions on how to use it safely
  4. Used correctly by employees.

In short, PPE should be selected for the appropriateness for the activity.

So…Kevlar or not Kevlar?

All of the above leads us back to whether Kevlar knuckles are appropriate on gloves? Why should they be worn, or why not?

Consider why Kevlar gloves are worn when we ride a motorbike. It’s because Kevlar makes them tough and hard wearing. The gloves are waterproof and they would protect your hands from stone chips or damage should you fall off. They aren’t worn to protect your hands in case you get into a fight with ten Harley-riding Angels at the Ace Cafe!

We don’t wear gloves of any sort on the door to protect our hands in case we get into a fight. We can agree that we don’t wear them to pre-emptively strike someone when we are faced with an imminent life-threatening danger.

In which case, all of us remember that we can use Reasonable Force; that is, force which is ‘necessary’ and ‘proportionate’. That’s the same whether I have got my knitted granny’s gloves on or the ones I buy from a retailer who tells me they’re specially designed for ‘security staff’ (and charges me £80 of my hard earned wages for the pleasure!)

Wear your Kevlar knuckle gloves, so long as they are fit for purpose. Personally, I can’t see that I’d want to wear them as I never train with gloves on. I don’t recommend their use for any PI activity. If it’s cold outside, I’ll put gloves on, but I don’t fancy Kevlar gloves much in a boiling hot nightclub, or in the tent at a festival. They would look out of place, my hands would get all sweaty and I’d be liable to conk out from heat exhaustion!

Hope this answers your central question about whether they can be worn? If not let me know.

Those other comments on Kevlar-knuckled gloves

As for the other comments about their use:

  • Are they cowardly?  No one who has any idea of the law would say this!  It’s not about emotional reactions, it’s about the law.
  • Unnecessary? Perhaps. Good man who said this!  See my comments about risk assessment
  • Illegal? If they are used as PPE and genuinely fit for purpose, then they are not illegal.
  • As for the SIA’s reaction…the SIA don’t make the law. They would refer would refer back to the law that’s already in place. It’s the HSE who enforce legislation and the statute laws in place already have a framework in place for health and safety matters. It’s not what the SIA say that matters but what the HSE would say when they prosecuted. The same goes for matters to do with the use of force matter — use of PPE is supposed to be the last resort.

This is a long reply, but I hope it reassures anyone who reads this that, in my professional opinion, there are appropriate uses of PPE. Whether it’s hats, gloves or safety shoes, the above answer stands.

To summarise…

  • Do the risk assessment.
  • Remove the hazards.
  • If you can’t, control the risks with control measures, whether these are gloves or hats or trolleys.‎
  • Make sure you record it all.
  • Challenge anyone over Use Of Force issues.

Finally, don’t take my word for it. Do your own research on the HSE website. Check out the PPE regulations. Do your own diligence. Check with the PPE supplier and ask if they have risk assessments for their product, as many of them do.

Any more questions, give me a shout.

Sandra Williams

IBA UK Ltd run a wide range of training courses for security personnel. These include door supervision, door supervisor upskilling, physical restraint training and security guard training. To find out how we can help you, please get in touch.



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