Workplace Solutions Hand/arm protection

Understanding cut resistance

I have two glove samples for my cut hazard. One is an ASTM cut level 4 and the other is labeled EN cut level 5. Which glove is more cut-resistant?

Responding is Mike Carducci, product manager, Showa Best Glove Inc., Menlo, GA.

This is probably one of the most frequently asked questions and one of the more confusing for many customers. You need to compare “apples to apples” in the test procedures.

There is no correlation between the EN388 cut test and the ASTM F1790-97/05. Each test has its pros and cons. The EN388 is widely used in European Union countries, as well as in Australia and South America. The biggest concern is dulling of the blade during the test and variance from lab to lab. However, it is a mandatory requirement in the countries mentioned and, more important, is performed by a third-party test lab. The ASTM F1790 concerns center on the microscopic sharpness of blades that need to be calibrated into the formula for testing. This test also has shown a variance of up to 27 percent from lab to lab. The U.S. market has no requirement for this data (which is provided by the glove manufacturer – not a third-party test lab) to be published or printed on the glove.

When comparing the cut resistance of gloves, it is paramount that you compare data resulting from the same test method. How do the gloves compare/score when both are tested to the ASTM 1790-05 or ASTM F1790-97? These tests are very similar, but the original “97” version includes a two-sided tape that also must be cut through and will usually produce a slightly higher cut score. The EN388 will produce a cut index that can be used for comparison.

A third test – the ISO 13997 – is gaining acceptance in the countries that use the EN388 test. It is recommended for gloves that score a level 4 or 5 on the EN cut test (Couptest machine). This test is based on the ASTM F1790-05 procedure and can use the CPPT cut machine (1790-07) or the TDM 100 machine (1790-05). This test converts the gram score to newtons that will give you a very real comparison when considering the protection level of gloves you are considering.

Use these tests and the levels as a guide. As mentioned above, these tests show variability. They are not etched in stone and can be influenced by a variety of factors. The EN 388 test can be influenced by ceramic- and glass-based fibers, which dull the cutting blade. The ASTM test results are based on a “pure slicing” motion. Other factors may include the tension of the stitching or thickness of the coating on the glove.

Since the late 1990s, many customers have relied on these standards to predetermine their glove selection criteria. As safety professionals, it is a good thing for all involved – at the end of the day workers can go home safe because proper personal protective equipment was provided. However, we need to guard against relying only on the ratings rather than considering the other factors that solidify the proper hand protection program, such as grip, fit, feel and comfort.

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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