Workplace Solutions Hand/arm protection Personal protective equipment Protective clothing

Cut-resistant sleeves

What are cut-resistant sleeves, and what type of workers should wear them?


Responding is Aaron Skemp, product specialist, Ergodyne, St. Paul, MN.

For most people, mention of “cut resistance” conjures up visions of safety gloves in all of their glorious levels – from A1 to A9 and all the nick, slice and gash protection in between. But sharp objects don’t play fair, so it’s not only hands that are at risk. A piece of jagged steel won’t be serendipitously removed from your path before it assails you above the wrist. Enter the cut-resistant sleeve, a magical wonder solution for protecting life and limb – literally.

Like gloves, cut-resistant sleeves are tested to ANSI/ISEA 105 and EN 388 standards – the two major global standards used to evaluate protection levels. Both standards test for abrasion, cut, tear and puncture resistance, with cut tests measuring the amount of force it takes for a blade to cut through the material.

To achieve high levels of cut resistance, many protective arm sleeves employ fiberglass or steel fibers that can be stiff, hot and irritating to the skin. But when something doesn’t feel good, it doesn’t get worn – leaving exposed skin at an increased risk of injury. Fortunately, comfortable cut resistance doesn’t have to be an oxymoron. Newer engineered polyester yarn technologies provide all the benefits of their predecessors and then some – such as cool-to-the-touch, moisture-wicking fabric for unmatched breathability in any environment.

The most effective sleeves feature a snug form fit that won’t decrease coverage by riding up or falling out. This not only saves you from the headache of twisting and tugging all day – it keeps you protected and safe. Features such as thumb holes and adjustment straps might seem minor, but they can be the difference between cruising through your workday and cruising to the emergency room.

At this point, you’re probably wondering if a cut-resistant sleeve is right for you and – if so – what level? If your job necessitates cut-resistant gloves, you would likely benefit from extending protection upward. Workers regularly tasked with material handling or confined space work are at constant risk of nicks, scrapes and cuts – particularly those in construction, demolition, automotive, glass handling and fabrication. The level of protection you need will largely depend on your specific environment. If your day-to-day tasks run the gamut, an ANSI cut-level A4 sleeve is a solid choice – covering you from low risk (automotive assembly) to high risk (sheet metal handling).

So go ahead and say goodbye to the nicks and scrapes of old. With innovative new technologies, you really can have it all – ANSI-grade cut protection that doesn’t compromise comfort, range of motion or dexterity.

Editor's note: This article represents the independent views of the author and should not be construed as a National Safety Council endorsement.

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