Are EN standards sufficient when choosing gloves?

To answer this question, let’s examine European EN388. Established in 2003, it provides evaluation of a glove’s resistance to abrasion, cutting by a blade or other sharp object, tearing, and puncture.  The testing method (cut) is thorough.  It involves running a blade over a swatch of material taken from the palm of the glove. It runs, guided by a metal plate, until cut. This is done 4 times on the same swatch in different places.

The sum of the 4 cuts is averaged out to provide a cut index. The test is then done for a second time on a swatch taken from the other glove to produce a second index (average sum of the four cuts).

The average cut index from test 1 and 2 are added together and averaged. This provides a final cut index which is then translated into an EN cut level from 0 to 5.

People use the cut resistance result, primarily, in evaluating the gloves which is the weakest part of the standard.

The problem

While the standards are definitely a step in the right direction and can contribute to customer confidence, something isn’t quite right when you consider this sobering statistic:

7 out of 10 people are using the wrong safety glove

The issue is not with EN388’s testing process but the translation of these results into the EN388 cut level.
In the graph below, the blue line represents the cut level whereas the red line indicates the actual index.


EN388 Cut Level Graph


Let’s compare a level 4 cut level which has an index of 10 with a level 5 cut level with a cut index of 20. The difference between a cut level 4 and a cut level 5 is an index difference of 10 i.e. 20 (level 5) versus 10 (level 4).

In just one cut level, i.e. 4 versus 5, you could be getting a glove that is twice as cut resistant. Alternately, you could also be getting a glove with an index of 19 (cut level 4) versus an index of 20 (cut level 5) or an index of 11 (cut level 4) versus an index of 19 which is also a cut level 4.

It is essential to ask your glove supplier for the actual cut index for the product and to test the product independently in your work environments.

The intricacies of glove selection

Safety managers tend to rely heavily on the EN standards in their decision-making process. But it is apparent that the standards are only providing a fragment of the puzzle that is identifying the right glove for the right application.  The other pieces that contribute to the solution are perhaps the most important glove selection criteria of all:  comfort and grip.

Case in point:  A large automotive plant was upgrading the glove being used from a cut level 3 to a level 4 due to cut problems. They expected to see a reduction in cutting injury but they didn’t, so the next step was selecting cut level 5.

This made sense at the time…however, after examining the work application, it turned out that the issue was primarily related to grip and not cut resistance.  Given that the glove had a low level of oil grip, the conclusion was obvious: the wrong grip meant the pieces were slipping in the hand, cutting the glove and the wearer.

In addressing the oil grip factor, the safety officer was able to specify a cut level 3 product which was more suitable for the user and as an added bonus, less expensive for the company.

Clearly, selecting the right glove for the right application requires a more comprehensive approach by combining safety performance, grip and comfort. Radar Gloves’ unique and independent search engine provides you with a more holistic and efficient method towards achieving that balance.

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