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Hand protection test standards

What type of hazards are gloves rated for? How have the EN388 and ANSI/ISEA 105 test standards evolved?

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Photo: Watson Gloves

Responding is Laura Whitlock, senior director of marketing and innovation, Watson Gloves, Burnaby, British Columbia.

Hand, finger and wrist injuries account for 46% of all industry recordable incidents, according to the International Association of Drilling Contractors.

When it comes to hand protection, what can be done to minimize hand injuries onsite?

Users need to assess specific onsite hazards to ensure the correct gloves – with the appropriate level of protection – are being used for the task at hand. Gloves are the last line of defense.

Two global standards evaluate the protection levels of work gloves: ANSI/ISEA 105 (recognized in North America) and EN388 (recognized in Europe). All tests must be conducted at accredited testing laboratories.

Under ANSI/ISEA 105, hand protection is tested for specific performance properties related to mechanical protection (cut, puncture and abrasion resistance), chemical protection (permeation and degradation resistance) and heat protection (ignition, heat degradation and conductive heat resistance).

EN388 tests for mechanical hazards: abrasion, cut, tear, puncture, impact resistance, cold and chemical resistance.

It’s important to note that gloves are tested in laboratory conditions and designed to meet criteria that only approximates real working conditions.

The purpose of these standards is to provide manufacturers a way to classify their products for specific performance qualities and help users select appropriate hand protection. Users can identify what standard a glove has been tested against by looking for the ANSI/ISEA 105 and/or EN388 pictogram on the glove.

In 2021, the International Safety Equipment Association’s hand protection committee worked to revise the ANSI 105 standard to include the adoption of a standardized product marking to indicate the classification for key mechanical properties (cut resistance, non-needlestick puncture resistance and abrasion resistance).

Moving forward, hand protection tested under the ANSI/ISEA 105 standard will now be marked with the new pictogram, as shown below.

The ANSI/ISEA 105 ratings represent the following protective properties:
A. Cut resistance (inside center) – Levels A1-A9
B. Abrasion resistance (inside left) – Level 0-6
C. Puncture resistance, non-hypodermic needle (inside right) – Level 0-5

The EN388 pictogram will still be marked in the following order:

  • Abrasion
  • Cut (sometimes shown as “X” – as coup test is now obsolete after 2016 changes)
  • Tear
  • Puncture
  • Cut rating (TDM score)
  • Impact resistance (pass/fail or “X” for not tested)

The best way to ensure workers are using the correct protective gloves is to work with your safety and health professionals and glove distributors to conduct onsite hazard assessments. Look for the ANSI/ISEA 105 and/or the EN388 pictograms when selecting hand protection to ensure the gloves have been tested to provide the appropriate performance qualities for the task at hand.

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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