EN421 Glove Standards


What's EN421?

EN421 is a European Standard that is also utilised in Australia to specify the test methods and requirements for gloves that claim to provide protection against ionising radiation and radioactive contamination. EN421 PPE glove standards don’t only apply to gloves that provide hand protection, but also gloves that provide protection for arms and shoulders, are mounted in permanent containment enclosures, or intermediary sleeves used between gloves and permanent containment enclosures. It should be noted, the requirements of this Standard don’t apply to protective gloves against x-ray radiation.


There are different pictograms relating to the glove’s specific protective qualities. These pictograms are used on the gloves to show the nature of the protection the glove provides.


Protection from Radioactive Contamination

Radioactive contamination is essentially the presence of a radioactive substance on surfaces or objects where their presence is either unintentional or unwanted. For a glove to provide protection from radioactive contamination, it has to pass the penetration test outlined in EN374 and be liquid proof.


For gloves used in containment enclosures, the glove must also pass a specific air pressure test.

Gloves that pass the tests for protection from radioactive contamination (also known as radiation gloves) use the below pictogram.

Protection from Ionising Radiation

Ionising radiation is defined as any electromagnetic wave or type of particle that carries enough energy to remove electrons from an atom. When atoms in living cells become ionised, a few things that can happen include: 1) The cell dies 2) The cell repairs itself, or 3) The cell can mutate itself incorrectly which can then become cancerous.

Ionising radiation can affect cells differently and it is therefore important to wear appropriate PPE to protect users from any adverse impacts. The aim of protection against ionising radiation is to prevent, or dramatically reduce, the radiation damage to exposed individuals.


For a glove to provide protection from ionising radiation, the glove has to contain a certain amount of lead or an equivalent metal (lead equivalence). If a lead equivalent is used, the equivalent that was used must be marked on each glove with the measurement and a description of the test conditions.

The below pictogram is used on gloves that pass the tests for protection from ionising radiation.

EN421 Standards are put in place to ensure users are appropriately protected from radioactive substances and ionising radiation, which can be extremely harmful to users if they are not wearing appropriate protective equipment. If you are unsure of what radiation protection devices are required in your workplace, contact the ATOM Safety team for expert advice and assistance.

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