We are in the midst of a wonderful Fall in Alberta. Daytime temperatures have been consistently above 10° C, making outdoor work more comfortable than is typical of October in Alberta. However, it is inevitable that we will be treated to cold Northern Canadian temperatures in the coming months, and our outdoor workers will continue to work in these conditions.
Several weeks ago, we reviewed cold-induced Raynaud’s phenomenon. This condition affects many who work in construction and trades, and can be painful and debilitating to work performance. Rewarming of the hands is noted to be an effective intervention, but mechanisms to allow rewarming can present problems in the field. Availability of heating units is not always an option, and taking time away from the work to warm the hands on a heater creates logistic and production issues. Furthermore, rewarming the hands will only provide short periods of relief, as the cold-induced symptoms will return within several minutes of exposure.
The key to effective intervention may be maintenance of hand and finger temperature during work operations. However, hand actions and the use of specialized safety gloves, which have limited insulation, are likely to result in constant heat loss from the hands. A method to provide heat energy for the hands and fingers might be a more effective intervention.
Heated gloves have been commercially available for a long time, but in most instances these gloves are inappropriate for industrial work. They are often too bulky, or they have wiring that restricts movement and can create performance/safety issues. Furthermore, commercial models have the heating units in the palms of the gloves, and have limited mechanisms to heat or warm the fingers – which is of primary importance to prevention/abatement of symptoms.
Fortunately, there is a locally-available product that has overcome these issues. Power In Motion is a company based in Calgary, AB. While their core business is in urban electric transport, owner Ken Cheung has also been developing a heated glove/liner, the MotionHeat, which is powered by rechargeable lithium batteries. These thin glove liners can be worn under any prescribed glove for safe procedures, and they have 3 heating levels. The liners provide heat to the back of the hand and fingers, and do not restrict typical activities or hand actions. Users of the glove can maintain heating of the hands and fingers for 3-8 hours on a set of batteries, depending on the desired heating level. Changing to another battery pack during the day is efficient and simple, and each battery pack can be recharged at the end of the day. The positioning of the battery packs along the forearms allow for hand movements without restriction, and this avoids the need to support and manage cables on the body. If required, though, an extension “stickman” cable to allow the batteries to be placed in a jacket pocket is available. The stickman wire can also be connected to 4, 6, or 8 batteries to extend available heating time during outdoor work operations.
EWI Works has trialed these gloves in a controlled setting, and the distribution of the heat appears to meet requirements for mitigating hand and finger symptoms. Furthermore, the level of heating and distribution is evenly spread throughout the glove, avoiding localized over-heating, or sweating of the hands. The gloves also allowed for use of hand tools with in the same way as typical gloves includes in personal protective equipment kits.
Ken and his team at Power In Motion are also working on the next-generation of the liners and gloves. This includes stronger materials, and designs in the fingers and tips of the gloves to improve dexterity and precision for various actions.
In the coming weeks, the MotionHeat gloves will be trialed by an outdoor construction employee experiencing Raynaud’s symptoms. The effectiveness of the gloves in prevention and mitigation of the symptoms will be tracked, as well as his satisfaction with the product to maintain production activities. EWI Works and Power In Motion will then provide a follow-up to this blog detailing the outcomes.
We look forward to reporting back on the applicability and effectiveness of the gloves in this applied setting.
Check out Power in Motion at: