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Glove regulations

December 1, 2011

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European Union countries require protective gloves to be marked with protection ratings. Why aren’t the same markings required in the United States?

Responding is Mike Carducci, product manager, high performance and cut-resistant fibers, Showa Best Glove Inc., Menlo, GA.

In general, the reason you do not see the ANSI/ASTM markings on gloves in the United States is that they are not required. This is a very good thing because today’s glove-testing procedures were developed as guides – not rules to be etched in stone. Additionally, this is not yet an exact science: Test results vary from lab to lab based on the material, operator and blade sharpness. For example, four main tests – plus a supplemental standard – are used to rate the cut resistance of a material. Each has its flaws:

  • EN388/2003 is the mandatory standard in European Union countries, Australia, South America and Canada. Gloves carry the “CE” appropriate pictogram and test scores. EN388/2003 measures the cut resistance of a material in relation to a cotton control sample. Concern for this test is twofold: The testing blade must be dulled to make sure it falls into a certain specification, and the test is not recommended for the very materials that are common in cut-resistant gloves: fiberglass, ceramic-based yarns and steel.
  • ISO 13997 is similar to ASTM D1790-05 except the force is measured in newtons, not grams. It is referenced by EN388 as a supplemental test for higher (EN388 Level 4 and 5) cut-resistance materials. It is not uncommon to see a glove scoring Level 5 on the EN388 to cut at 10-12 newtons using the ISO method, which would be equivalent to an ANSI Cut Level 3.
  • ASTM F1790-97 measures the force in grams to cut through a cut-resistant material using a reference blade travel of 25 mm. The concern with this test is that the microscopic sharpness of the blade may vary from lot to lot. In addition, with two-sided mounting tape securing the material to the mandrel, the end result shows the combined cut resistance of the material and the mounting tape.
  • ASTM F1790-05 is an updated version of the 97 test using a TDM 100 machine. Here, the blade is placed in a different position, a copper strip has been added to the mandrel that goes over the two-sided tape to eliminate having to cut through the tape, and the reference blade travel has been reduced to 20 mm.

The supplemental standard that comes into play is ANSI/ISEA 105. This standard assigns the guideline cut “levels” for the industry in the United States based on results from the ASTM test method.

No wonder there is so much confusion. The CE markings are big steps forward in helping safety professionals compare gloves for use, but we are not ready to make markings or labeling mandatory until the tests are fine-tuned and made more accurate and the standard deviations are reduced.

Use these “levels” as your guide and ask what “test method” was used in testing the glove to be sure you are making an accurate comparison. Consult manufacturer representatives from reputable companies at the distributor level and the manufacturing level to ensure you have the hand protection your workers need.

Editor’s Note: This article represents the independent views of the author and should not be construed as National Safety Council endorsements.

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