As you manage safety on your work floor, you no doubt keep a close eye on the cutting tools your employees use. Knowing which materials are right for the job is crucial to preventing injuries. But can the blade material itself prevent injuries? The answer is a little more complex than 'yes' or 'no'. If you look at ceramic knives vs steel, for example, there's a lot to learn about ceramic blades before you compare them with traditional steel ones. Not all ceramics are created equal, and even with the right ceramic material, blade and knife design play a major role in safety outcomes.
Aren't Ceramics Fragile?
When most of us think about ceramics, we picture pottery or porcelain. Glass is a ceramic too, technically. Ceramics are popular tile-flooring choices for heavy foot-traffic areas like bathrooms and entryways. That's because, inherently, ceramic is lightweight but extremely tough. It withstands staining, bacteria, and water, and is easy to clean and difficult to scratch. These properties are true for regular ceramics. But there's more to the story.
Not All Ceramics Are Created Equal
In addition to the ceramics most people are familiar with, there's a high-tech sub-category called "advanced ceramics." This same material (zirconium oxide) is also called fine, technical or engineered ceramics, depending on your industry or geographical location. All of these high-tech ceramics share properties that are useful to industrial safety. They're non-conducting, chemically inert, non-magnetic and can withstand heat up to 1600 degrees, Celcius. This means advanced ceramic blades vs. steel have specific advantages for working with electronics or in lab settings.
The star quality of zirconium oxide, though, is its hardness. The Mohs scale ranks materials according to their hardness, measured by how easily they scratch. At the lower end are talc, gypsum and calcite (these rate 1, 2, and 3 respectively). At 10, diamond is the hardest material. Close by is zirconium oxide, with a measure of 8.2, while stainless steel falls around 4.5.
Ceramic Knives or Steel Blades: Which is Safer?
Several companies make ceramic blades using zirconium oxide. You've likely seen ceramic kitchen knives, which are sharper and thinner than Slice blades. They work well for kitchen applications, but their thinner designs don't stand up in industrial settings, and their sharpness level doesn't create a finger-friendly tool in the way that Slice does.
Slice uses advanced ceramics, but adds innovative design to bring safety into the picture. This is done by leveraging the natural hardness of advanced ceramics. One reason that manufacturers sharpen stainless steel blades so aggressively is that the material is soft. Soft materials dull quickly, so in order to give them a useful lifespan, manufacturers sharpen the blades beyond what's necessary. This workaround sacrifices worker safety to extend the life of steel blades. Because zirconium oxide is so hard, no workaround is necessary. Slice blades dull slowly and last, on average, 11 times longer than steel.
Slice blades don't start as sharp as steel blades because they don't need to. They still outlast steel and feature a thicker profile and proprietary grind that put safety first. Some companies have even done away with safety gloves after switching to Slice's finger-friendly blades.
Keep the Bottom Line in Mind
According to the National Institutes of Health, knives cause more debilitating injuries than all other hand tools. So, any opportunity to reduce the risk of harm from lacerations is a welcome part of your safety strategy. Beyond safety considerations, it makes fiscal sense to reduce injuries.
With a single laceration, your company faces lost work time, training temporary replacements and workers compensation and insurance claims. OSHA estimates that each workplace laceration injury costs an average of $33,000 (and these are direct costs only).
Beyond the cost of potential injuries, the longevity of a reversible Slice blade means that a single Slice blade can do the work of up to 20 steel blades. This immediately reduces the cost of replacement blades.
So Are Ceramic Knives Better?
A simple comparison of ceramic knives vs stainless steel isn't possible until you consider the different types of ceramic blades and how they're designed. Ceramic kitchen blades are thinner, and therefore fragile and unsuited to industrial applications. Slice is the only brand that designs for safety and industry. Even so, ultra-sharp steel works better for some applications. If you need extreme sharpness to initiate a cut in your material, the only way to know whether a Slice blade can replace steel is a field test.