What are Glove Standards?


Why are glove standards important?

The development and maintenance of the highest hand protection standards are crucial as they help to improve workplace health and safety for all workers.


The International Organisation for Standardisation (IOS) and the Australian/New Zealand Standards (AS/NZS) are used to help classify specific product attributes and communicate protection levels of personal protection equipment (PPE). The purpose of these standards is to assist managers and employees in the implementation and maintenance of workplace safety levels.


Understanding EN Standards:

The elimination of health and safety hazards within the workplace is mandated by government legislation. In instances where these hazards cannot be eliminated, employers and employees are responsible for reducing hazards as much as is reasonably possible. It is because of this that the Australian government has implemented a number of identical standards to those used in Europe. Many countries across the Asia-Pacific region have now adopted the established European Union (EN) standards for their own use.


Although the requirements for Australian standards and EN standards are similar, the two standards use different testing methodologies.


Below is a guide of all the pictograms used on different safety gloves to represent the various EN standards.

If you or your workers are required to wear safety gloves, it is crucial to know EN standards as it tells you which glove works best for which application. It is also is important to understand the codes and symbols that are used in the standards as these are used to specify different protection levels. Each requirement is represented by a pictogram (as shown above) and a number that is stamped on the glove. The higher this number is, the higher the level of protection the glove provides. These numbers are awarded as a result of specific tests for certain attributes.

These test results should not be interpreted as meaning the glove is definitely suitable or not for a specific application. To determine if a glove is fit for purpose, practical trials are recommended. Testing and evaluation is critical to any risk assessment process when selecting safety gloves.


The three risk categories under EN standards:

The PPE directive (which is regulation for PPE) 89/686/EEC specifics two classes of glove meeting two levels of risk: ‘minimal’ and ‘mortal’/‘irreversible’ risk. A risk that falls within these two categories can be defined as ‘intermediate’. A system of marking has been developed under the EN standards to identify the level of risk to help in the selection of gloves of the appropriate class.


Risk Category I: Gloves of Simple Design for Minimal Risk Only

This category is for gloves that have a simple design, offering protection from low levels of risk. Manufacturers are able to test and certify these gloves internally as there is no requirement for testing and certification of these gloves by an independent body.

An example of this would be gloves for janitorial use.


Risk Category II: Gloves of Intermediate Design for Intermediate Risk

These gloves are designed to provide protection against intermediate risk. Gloves in this category must undergo independent testing and certification by a notified body. Only approved gloves may be issued with a CE mark (as shown below), enabling the gloves to be sold. If gloves do not receive this mark, they cannot be sold.

The instructions for use of the gloves will specify the name and address of the notified body that certified the product. Each notified body has its own identification mark.

An example of this category would be gloves requiring good cut, puncture and abrasion performance.


Risk Category III: Gloves of Complex Design for Irreversible or Mortal Risk

Gloves within this category are designed to protect the user against the highest levels of risk. These gloves must be tested and certified by a notified body. As well as this, the quality assurance system used by the manufacturer to guarantee consistency throughout production must be independently checked. The notified body performing the evaluation will be identified by their number which must appear next to the CE mark on the gloves (as shown below).

Gloves providing protection against chemicals would be an example of this risk category.


EN Glove Standards


EN420 (AS/NZS 2161.2:1998)

General Requirements for Protective Gloves


This standard outlines general requirements that enable a safety glove to be sold. These requirements include glove design and construction, comfort and efficiency, innocuousness (must not cause any harm to the user), as well as the marking and information relevant to all protective gloves.


EN374 (ANS/NZS 2161.10:2005)

Gloves Giving Protection from Chemicals and Micro-Organisms


This standard outlines the capability of gloves to protect the user against chemicals and/or micro-organisms. The below pictogram is used to represent this standard and it must be accompanied by a minimum three digit code.

This code refers to the letter that is used to represent that chemical (from a list of 18 standard defined chemicals), for which a breakthrough time of at least 30 minutes must be achieved. If the pictogram is not accompanied by this code it means it can only withstand 1 chemical for only a short period of time.


The micro-organism pictogram shown below is used when the glove conforms to at least a performance level 2 for the penetration test. The specific micro-organism that the glove provides protection against (if any) will be listed below the biohazard symbol shown below.

EN388 (AS/NZS 2161.3:1998)

Gloves Giving Protection from Mechanical Risks


This standard is used for protective gloves in regards to physical and mechanical aggressions caused by abrasion, blade cut, puncture and tearing. Protection against mechanical hazards is expressed on the glove by the below pictogram. This pictogram should then be followed by four numbers (relating to performance levels). Each number represents the test performed against a specific hazard.

The letters for each test are:

A = Abrasion Resistance

B = Blade Cut Resistance

C = Tear Resistance

D = Puncture Resistance


EN407 (ANS/NZS 2161.4:1999)

Gloves Giving Protection from Heat


This standard applies to gloves for thermal performance or protection against heat and/or fire. This is expressed using the below pictogram. Below the pictogram will be a series of 6 digits (relating to performance levels) which represent specific protective qualities.

The letters for protective quality are:

A = Flammability Resistance

B = Contact Heat Resistance

C = Convective Heat Resistance

D = Radiant Heat Resistance

E = Resistance to Small Splashes of Molten Metal

F = Resistance to Large Quantities of Molten Metal

The performance level for each test is from a scale of 0 to 4, with 4 being the highest level of protection.


EN511 (AS/NZS 2161.5:1998)

Gloves Giving Protection from Cold


This standard applies to gloves that provide protection to the hands against convective and contact cold down to -50 °C. This is communicated on the glove using the below pictogram. The letters that are below the pictogram relate to the performance level achieved for specific protective qualities.

The letters for these protective qualities are:

A = Resistance to Convective Cold (performance level on a scale of 0-4)

B = Resistance to Contact Cold (performance level on a scale of 0-4)

C = Penetration by Water (performance level of 0 or 1)


EN421 (AS/NZS 2161.1:2005)

Gloves Giving Protection from Radioactive Contamination & Ionising Radiation


As defined in this standard, a glove has to be liquid proof and is required to pass the penetration test in order to qualify as providing protection from radioactive contamination. This standard is expressed using the below pictogram.

For a glove to provide protection from ionising radiation under this standard, it must contain a certain amount of lead (or an equivalent metal that is quoted as lead equivalence). The lead equivalence must be marked on each glove. The below pictogram is used on gloves that meet this requirement.

Safety gloves are an essential form of PPE to protect hands from hazards. It is therefore important to understand each standard and what protection is provided to ensure you are using the right glove for the right purpose.


If you are not sure what gloves are required to protect your team at your workplace, contact the ATOM Safety team for expert advice and assistance.

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