Have you ever wondered what the little shield is with the numbers below it on your safety gloves? It's actually a European safety standard, EN388, Protective Gloves Against Mechanical Risks and is designed to asses the performance of a glove and its fabric/layers.
Although EN388 is not an Australian Standard, since its inception it has become the benchmark in performance ratings for the glove manufacturing and safety industry.
Specific test methods, marking and information must be supplied in order for gloves to comply with EN388. This includes information on the risk of:
Circular Blade Cut Resistance
Straight Blade Cut Resistance
Impact Resistance (if the glove has impact protection)
There is a performance level indicator for each risk indicator, the higher the number or letter, the greater the protection level. The gloves must achieve at least one level 1 or level A
The standard is only applicable if the gloves meet at least level 1 or level A for at least one of the EN388 protective categories.
In 2016, EN388:2003 received some important updates to become the new glove standard, EN388:2016. The updated standard included two new additional tests for gloves to pass. As glove manufacturers have been given five years (until 2021) to comply with the new standards, you will still see many gloves with the EN388:2003 shields with only four indicators instead of six.
A = Abrasion Resistance
A glove’s abrasion resistance refers to how many times it can withstand abrasive pressure
from sandpaper. Measured in revolutions, a glove with a low abrasive resistance may only survive 100 revolutions (level 1), whereas a glove with a high abrasive resistance can withstand over 8,000 (level 4). Abrasion resistance is especially important for handling rough materials such as bricks.
B = Circular Blade Cut Resistance
A glove’s blade cut resistance is determined by how many times a blade, at equal pressure, can pass the glove before it cuts through. Gloves with a high blade cut resistance are ideal for working with potential sharp materials such as sheet metals and glass. The highest circular blade cut resistance level a glove can receive is level 5, often referred to as cut 5 gloves.
Although blade cut resistance is a good measure, always take into account the straight blade cut resistance as well.
C = Tear Resistance
Tear resistance refers to how easily a glove can be torn. Gloves with a high tear resistance withstand greater pressure, and therefore are able to withstand tougher working conditions. Some gloves can withstand up to 77Nm. Tear resistance levels go up to level 4.
D = Puncture Resistance
Puncture resistance indicates a glove’s resistance to punctures. High puncture resistance is especially important what handling dangerous objects such as needles, syringes and thorns, making them ideal for waste work. Puncture resistance is determined by how much pressure is required to break through the glove. Level 4 is the highest puncture resistance level a glove can receive.
E = Straight Blade Cut Resistance
Cut resistant gloves can save hands from injuries caused by sharp objects. Even light duty jobs are susceptible to minor cuts or abrasions, so it is important to take into account a glove's cut rating.
The cut rating is determined by how much force, measured in Newtons, is required to cut through the glove fabric. The lower the rating, the lower the cut resistance offered by the glove. Low level cut rating gloves are suitable for regular parts assembly and material handling. High level ratings should be used wherever potentially sharp objects are handled.
Straight blade cut resistance is measured from level A (lowest) to level F (highest).
F = Impact Protection
In some working scenarios the back of the hand also requires protection. This is provided in the form of impact protection. Gloves with impact protection protect the hand from crushing, pinching and impact from above. These are usually identified by their durable outer shell, made up of solid rubbery material.
This test is only applicable to gloves that have impact protection and is recorded as a pass (P) or fail. The gloves are tested by being striked with 2.5kg with an impact energy of 5J, the peak force is then recorded. Gloves must meet a minimum requirement of a mean transmitted force less than or equal to 7.0kN with no individual result more than 9.0kN.
Need help deciding what gloves to use? Check out our Features of Safety Gloves post to help you decide.
To comply with EN 388 requirements, the mechanical properties of the gloves must be shown as the mechanical shield pictogram and printed on the packaging and on both gloves within a pair. The pictogram should only be used if the glove meets at least level 1 or level A for at least one of the EN388 protective categories.
You may see an X used instead of a number where a glove has not met a performance level of at least 1, it therefore would also not have a straight blade cut resistance rating. An X will also be used to note blade cut resistance where as a superior cut rating (straight blade cut resistance) has been achieved.
Other European (EN) Glove Ratings
Additional European glove ratings include EN374, protection against chemicals and/or micro organisms and EN421, protection against ionising radiation and radioactive contamination.
Not sure if the gloves you are using are correct? Contact the ATOM Safety team for advice.