Friday, December 17, 2010

Extrication Glove - Saving Fingers while Saving Lives

A City of Calgary employee has co-designed a pair of gloves intended to prevent hand injuries to those who rescue people trapped in crushed vehicles, speeding up the extrication process.

Over the past three years, Randy Schmitz, a renowned vehicle extrication expert and 20-year member of the Calgary Fire Department, has been refining a glove that affords front line workers the dexterity and safety needed to work with specialty tools to cut people free from crashed vehicles.

“There are lots of sharp objects at an extrication scene like glass and metal - we have to navigate these materials to gain access to our patient,” says Schmitz. "A major consideration during extrication is protection, especially that of your hands.”

Another consideration with an extrication glove is that they need to be conducive to delicate tasks like changing a saw blade or bracing a victim.

"Regular gloves can be quite bulky," he says.

This is where the VCII extrication gloves come in, or as those in firefighting circles refer to them as: "Schmitz mitts", after their designer, who learned about one of the most important protective elements of the glove quite fortuitously.

Three years ago, Schmitz found himself chatting about hand safety with a butcher on an airplane (yes, this sounds like the beginning of a bad joke). It was during this conversation that Schmitz learned of a thin, light-weight, slash-resistant glove made, in-part, with stainless steel and fibreglass.

“I thought, ‘Why couldn’t we use this as an inner-liner for our gloves?’” Schmitz asked.

His research led him to Dan Hobbs, co-owner of Whitmore & Hobbs, an emergency equipment manufacturer.

“I gave Dan a list of 15 criteria for the glove - I wanted cut and crush injury protection as well as blood-borne pathogen protection,” says Schmitz.

Over the past three years, the two have refined the gloves, often after of an unforeseen accident in the field. For example, one of Schmitz' colleagues lost a finger at the knuckle while trying save a person trapped after a violent car-on-bus crash. Today, the gloves feature an extremely strong carbon-fibre casing over the knuckles and back of the hand in case it gets pinched between heavy metal or banged.

Hobbs says that not only are the gloves built to protect the wearer, but they're durable and long lasting.

“We get about 300 hours extrication use with these gloves,” says Hobbs, which is a bonus element to the safety component. “What make the VXII glove different is that there are two separate layers of slash resistance and pathogen protection - the glove is water proof plus has flame resistant palms.”

The gloves, or "Schmitz Mitts," will soon be featured on the CBC entrepreneurial show Dragon's Den. We’ll give you an update once the episode airs!

Please note: This article highlights employee innovation and is not an endorsement of the product by the Calgary Fire Department or The City of Calgary.

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