Anthony Gilin was working on a welding project at an underground mine in Timmins when a 150-pound bar came down on his hand, fracturing a finger and leaving him in pain for weeks.
The 34-year-old had already been brainstorming ways to make more effective industry apparel, but the incident affirmed his goal to resdesign the standard safety glove.
“I think if I had (better) gloves, I wouldn't have a fracture in my finger and it wouldn't have been sore for two weeks,” Gilin said.
After returning to school to earn a business marketing diploma at Northern College, Gilin launched Mine Safety Solutions, a company focused on creating better-designed safety products for the mining industry.
His first product? An improved safety glove.
Gilin’s gloves feature extra padding in the palm and fingers, to reduce impact and vibration, and the back of the glove is coated in a rubbery, honeycomb-like membrane, offering protection against punctures and cuts.
Neon-orange in colour, the gloves are highly visible and can be washed and dried repeatedly without deterioration.
The tight-fitting design means users retain their dexterity, making them more likely to keep wearing them, regardless of the task at hand.
Many gloves are bulky and cumbersome, making work clumsy and difficult, Gilin said, and workers would often discard them as soon as their supervisor was out of sight. His coworkers shared stories of injuries underground that he surmised could be prevented by a simple redesign.
“I wanted to make a difference, so I started looking at safety reports, and that's when I started coming out with these safety gloves,” he said.
Through research, Gilin learned that the demand for personal protective equipment (PPE) is growing: the Canadian market was worth $3 billion in 2015, and is estimated to grow to $5 billion by 2024, he said.
Gilin sketched out a rough idea of his glove and enlisted a Barrie-based design team to fine-tune his concept. A company in China is doing the manufacturing.
Three years after he embarked on this project, he’s reached the testing phase. He’s secured $1,500 in investment money from NEOnet to produce 50 pairs of the gloves, which will be tested at the Northern Centre for Advanced Technology (NORCAT).
After getting feedback from users, the gloves will be sent to a lab to be analyzed for strength and durability. Gilin is aiming for the gloves to have Level 5 puncture- and cut-resistance.
Once that testing is complete, he’ll approach Timmins-area mining companies about letting their staff test them in a real-world environment. He’s optimistic they’ll see the benefits of his product, not the least of which is fewer lost-time injuries as a result of accidents to the hands.
“I strongly suggest if a company is going to purchase a glove, to make a glove that is almost custom to their hand,” Gilin said. “And that's the thing: when you wear these gloves, eventually, they'll fit to your hands.”
In addition to his safety gloves, Gilin has other ideas percolating, and he’s also open to working with companies to help them design and commercialize their own ideas for safety apparel.
“I’m sure there are a lot of ideas out there that companies have, but they just don’t know the steps and the process of getting into it,” Gilin said.
He believes his safety gloves have applications beyond the mining industry: forestry, construction, manufacturing and even the military are on his radar.
He’s slated the official launch for his safety gloves for January, 2018.
Gilin is currently seeking the participation of mining companies interested in testing out the gloves and filling out a survey. His goal is to send out 500 pairs of gloves for people to try, to gain feedback on their experience.
In April, Gilin was one of three presenters pitching his idea to potential investors at an event hosted by the Productivity and Innovation Centre (PIC) and Northern Ontario Angels (NOA) in Timmins. He’s still open to hearing from investors who might be interested in backing his venture.