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Getting a Grip on Hand Protection

Published: 01st Sep 2012 in OSA Magazine

Pakistan is the sixth most populated country in Asia, with an estimated 160 million inhabitants. Gaining independence from the British Empire in 1947, Pakistan is a bouquet of diverse people and cultures. It is also rich in agrarian and mineral resources.

Interestingly, Pakistan is also part of the ‘Next Eleven’, a group of 11 countries with high economic potential in the 21st century. The economy of Pakistan is the 47th largest in the world in nominal terms and 27th largest in the world in terms of purchasing power parity.

Unfortunately, due to several reasons, Pakistan has gained a negative reputation. Terrorist attacks and extremist activities have caused people to overlook the potential it possesses for growth on the global stage. In addition, unfavorable regulatory policies along with rising inflation have made it difficult for Pakistani businesses to operate competitively in international markets. Despite these odds, however, Pakistan has a growing export base and the figures speak for themselves.

Surprising start - historical view

Glove making was started in Pakistan with the introduction of cricket to the country. When the sport was introduced the gloves for various roles in the game were produced. Gradually more and more types of gloves were brought into production and the city of Sialkot became a global centre for production of all kinds of gloves.

By 1978, Pakistan was exporting a few million dollars worth of gloves annually. Within three decades this figure exploded to just under three hundred million dollars. The Pakistani glove makers are now facing tough competition on the international market, but are holding their own where quality is concerned.
Pakistan has four main locations for glove trade. These are Sialkot, Karachi, Faisalabad and Lahore.

Sialkot is a small city of about half a million people located in Pakistan’s Punjab province. It is an ancient city with the earliest recorded mention being in Greek texts from 327 BC. Sialkot is a major manufacturer of sports goods and makes around 70% of the world’s hand-stitched footballs.

In addition, it is well known for its production of high quality surgical and dental instruments, which are used globally. You may also be surprised to know that Sialkot is a popular production centre for the world’s bagpipes, with more than 100 small and large manufacturers of the instrument and its accessories based here.

Regional influence

In terms of glove production, the city is mainly known for its production of leather gloves of all kinds.

Karachi is the industrial hub of Pakistan. For many years the city was the administrative capital of the country and even now it remains the financial centre of the country. Karachi is a particularly diverse city, given its strategic position. Here you will experience a variety of people and cultures from across Pakistan. Karachi produces all kinds of gloves in leather, rubber and cotton.

Faisalabad is the cotton and textile centre of the country. In fact, 65% of the country’s textile exports originate in Faisalabad. That is a huge percentage when taken in context with the fact that 58% of total exports from Pakistan are in the textile sector. It is home to a number of large industrial groups. Aside from this the district is rich in agriculture. With end-to-end textile activity happening in the region, it is natural that Faisalabad has developed into a major player in cotton products, including cotton glove production.

Personal Protective Equipment centre

Lahore is known as the cultural capital of Pakistan. Located in the Punjab province of Pakistan it is the second largest city in the country. With a rich history dating back more than a millennium, it plays a key role in the present and future development of the country.
hand protection
Lahore is at the centre of the country’s trading activity in safety and PPE items and along with Karachi, serves the entire country. Due to its central geographic location it functions well as a trading hub. This should not take away from the fact that Lahore is very active in manufacturing activity as well.
Almost all kinds of gloves are manufactured in Pakistan for a variety of applications. Apart from work gloves, sports, recreational and fashion gloves are also made in Pakistan in a large range of styles and designs.

Although personal protection is probably encompassed by most types of gloves, for the purposes of this article, I will focus on work gloves.

Hand protection at work

Cotton and leather are the primary materials being used in glove manufacturing in Pakistan. Leather gloves are being manufactured and exported globally from Karachi and Sialkot.

There are several categories of leather work gloves, the most common being general work gloves, welding gloves and drivers’ gloves. The varieties of gloves being produced in Pakistan, either through manufacturers’ specifications or based on buyers’ specifications is remarkable.

Craftsmen can put together gloves with complex patterns with impressive speed and finishing. Also various types and grades of leather along with supporting threads and lining/backing materials are available here to produce products according to varying needs and budgets.

Leather work gloves are most commonly used in welding and heat/spark protection, driving, gardening, ranching, carpentry, masonry, material handling and construction.

You will find many Pakistani leather gloves’ manufacturers and exporters online with their own websites, or on trade portals. Many international glove distributors will have in their product ranges multiple goods made in Pakistan.

Cotton gloves are the second major type of glove produced in the country. This industry is dominated by certain large concerns making gloves for most major international brands; but there are a lot of small manufacturers making a significant contribution as well.

Due to the abundance of cotton yarn and fabric, the cotton glove industry naturally has developed here. Karachi and Faisalabad are the main centers for this type of glove. Cotton gloves are either stitched or knitted, and within these two types there is a whole range of styles and designs available for almost any imaginable application.

Cotton gloves can be made from almost pure cotton or blended fabric/yarn. Along with cotton gloves, polyester/nylon and other man made materials are also being utilised in glove production. Advanced machinery exists here to manufacture dotted or coated gloves on a large scale.

Special fibre yarns are increasingly being used in glove production here for enhanced cut protection and heat protection. Coating and dotting of gloves is being done so that gloves can be used more effectively for various tasks requiring a range of different glove properties. Materials other than or in conjunction with cotton or leather are being used in glove production to achieve various glove properties as well.

Selecting the glove for the task

Knitted gloves are commonly used in applications where a greater level of dexterity is required. Dotted or coated gloves are used to give various levels of grip. The appropriate combination of base material and coating or dotting can give high levels of cut protection, heat resistance or chemical resistance.

Stitched gloves generally take away some dexterity when compared to knitted gloves, but can provide an economic solution for abrasion resistance and can sometimes last longer as well, particularly in oily and greasy applications. Knitted and stitched gloves are commonly used in sand/dirt handling, light gardening, box/carton handling, glass handling, light construction, cleaning and other general applications.

Rubber gloves are also being produced in Pakistan but on a very small scale. As latex is not produced locally, this industry has not developed like the other glove industries. These gloves are mostly being made in small cottage industries, mainly in uncontrolled environments with manual processing. Due to cheap production costs, however, rubber gloves made in Pakistan are catering to local needs and some export is also happening within the region. PU and PVC are also alternative polymers which are used in the manufacture of gloves here, either in fully supported gloves or partially coated gloves.

Latex or natural rubber is most commonly used in general applications, but synthetic rubbers such as neoprene or nitrile generally provide higher levels of chemical resistance. Specially processed latex gloves are also commonly used in electrical applications.

Rubber gloves can be given a rough finish as well to provide better grip. They are made in various sizes and thicknesses and can be categorised as: disposable, household, industrial and special purpose. They are commonly used in the automotive industry, for painting, chemical handling, wet handling and in fisheries.

Glove construction

With so many kinds of gloves around it is difficult to go into too much detail about how gloves are made, but I will attempt to give a general overview. As a simplification, I will say there are basically three types of glove production processes: stitching, knitting or dipping.

All leather gloves are stitched and many cotton gloves are also produced through stitching. First, a pattern is decided for the glove and materials are chosen. Different patterns and materials are selected for different gloves based on intended use.

After the pattern is decided, the glove materials are cut into different parts, which are then sewn together to form the glove. The materials are sewn inside out so that their seams are not exposed. After the glove is stitched it is turned to reveal the final glove.

After this gloves are inspected for defects. Gloves that make the cut are then ironed, packed and shipped.

This is a simplified overview of the glove stitching process. Many more sub-processes may be applicable depending on the materials used. Some cotton gloves known as ‘shells’ or ‘liners’ are also produced which are not end products, and go through coating/dipping processes to reach the final product stage.

Knitted gloves are made out of yarns of various materials; one of the most commonly used combinations is a blend of cotton with a small amount of polyester.

Knitted gloves can be made in various gauges. Gauge is the measurement of the number of stitches and rows per inch. Different machines produce different gauges of gloves.
glove construction
The highest gauge glove producedby machines today is 18g, but lower gauge gloves are more common and economical. Once the machine is configured, it takes in yarn and produces an unfinished knit glove. This glove needs to be over locked at the cuff so that the yarn does not come undone. Adding an elastic band at the cuff and locking it in with thread at the cuff completes the over locking process.

During this stage, a quality check is normally done to make sure improper gloves do not make it into the end product. Gloves are then packaged, commonly in bags of 10 or 12 pairs, and then master bundles or cartons as per requirements.

B-grade gloves sometimes make it into packaging but are removed at this stage as well, leaving the final product reasonably free of defects at shipping. Often, finished knit gloves are sent for further processing with coating or dotting machinery to enhance the functionality of the glove before proceeding to packaging.

Pakistan, being a producer for such a large part of the world’s gloves, has a relatively low consumption of these goods itself. With some exceptions, PPE usage and safety regulations hold a relatively low priority with employers and even workers in the face of larger issues.

There are also many cases where workers themselves do not wish to adopt PPE as they feel it hinders their performance.

There are a variety of factors that contribute to this kind of work environment including, but not limited to: lack of appropriate regulation, lack of priority from government, employers and workers alike, and lack of information or education on the subject.

It is difficult to drive home the importance of PPE by using the same arguments that are used in more developed nations. This is particularly true while economic conditions exist where people are just happy to have jobs, where employers need to manage costs in a troubled economy to continue to provide these jobs, and where the government already has its hands full combating much more basic economic, social and political issues. Nonetheless, this is an important issue on which discussion and action are crucial. 

Published: 01st Sep 2012 in OSA Magazine


Huzefa Lotia

Huzefa Lotia is the business manager at HSS Safety, which is a Pakistani business dealing in all kinds of personal protective equipment and safety products. After graduating from the University of Toronto with a double majors in Commerce and Computer Science, Huzefa gained valuable experience in sales and consulting before heading towards the family business dealing in PPE and industrial safety items. He plays a key role in the planning and execution of business strategy. Huzefa is solely responsible for local and international procurement and production outsourcing. Having a personal interest in the field of PPE and safety, Huzefa is always keen to share his knowledge and experience on the subject, and to gain new understanding and perspective. About HSS Safety HSS Safety is a safety products dealer based in Karachi, Pakistan. The business is primarily focused on head to toe protection for the local market. HSS Safety has gained more than a decade of experience dealing exclusively in all kinds of PPE and safety products. It is an offshoot of a large family owned trading house that enjoyed a position of excellence and pride in the country for many decades before restructuring into smaller independent units. HSS Safety is now driving on to the future with new zeal and vigor, with the aim of becoming a market leader. The product range includes both local and imported products, Local goods are mostly produced in collaboration with local manufacturers, while imported goods are primarily sourced in the Far East. A key part of operations includes trade in all kinds of leather, cotton and latex gloves. HSS Safety always endeavors to take a consultative approach with customers to fill their needs, rather than just sell products to them. HSS Safety currently seeks to venture into export of local products and are happy to work with foreign buyers in this regard, while growing in terms of knowledge and experience in the process. They are also keen to discuss ways to work together with foreign companies working on projects in Pakistan and the region to help them fill their safety needs, while gaining a fresh perspective from them. HSS Safety has so far been fortunate enough to work with companies and individuals from Turkey, China, Nigeria, Mozambique, Tanzania, Malaysia, Philippines and look forward to working with many more on its way to becoming a global entity.

Huzefa Lotia



+ 92 21 32425883

+ 92 21 32425883

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