Protective gloves represent one of the most common and frequently used personal protective equipment (PPE). Their role is to protect hands against various hazards, including, among others, thermal, mechanical, chemical, biological and electric ones, often combined, thus creating a multiple protection requirement of gloves.
Another important set of requirements takes account of the usability features of protective gloves. Their use is always associated with a certain limitation of finger and hand movements and one should not expect that dexterity will be as high as when working with unprotected hands.
Nevertheless, in situations where hands are exposed to effects of dangerous factors or media, while the application of other solutions does not eliminate the hazards, the use of protective gloves becomes a necessity. At present, however, the manufacturers of PPE, considering the expectations of glove users and implementing state-of-the-art technological advances, design their products to conform with ergonomic principles, ensuring possibly the highest level of comfort for gloved hands with as little as possible limitation to movement.
The selection of gloves with a broad spectrum of protective properties and at the highest quality is not always an optimal solution. When the risk of hand injury is lower, gloves may be selected with a more compromised effectiveness of certain protective properties, but with better manual functionality.
Depending on the type of materials used for glove design and manufacturing, various gloves demonstrate different protection and use features and, in consequence, different ranges of application.
The gloves, which protect hands against mechanical injuries, including protection against cuts and punctures, make a fairly large group among the protective gloves available on the EU’s market. It should, however, be emphasised that not every type of glove protecting against cuts and punctures will be appropriate for all types of tasks and associated hazards.
Exposure to hand injury hazards, such as the risks of direct contact with sharp, rough or pointed elements, mandrels, objects or tools affects employees in many industrial fields, including the food industry, plastics manufacturing, forestry, glass manufacturing, automotive, machine building or electronic. This is why cut and puncture resistant gloves find such a broad range of users.
Cut and puncture resistant gloves as PPE
Protective gloves, as well as any other PPE, should conform to the basic requirements of the European Community Council Directive No. 89/686/ECC of December 21, 1989 (with later amendments). All protective gloves, which are launched onto the EU’s market, should – regardless of their category – be subject of conformity assessment and marked with the CE mark of conformity. A potential user of protective gloves should therefore only select brands which fulfil the criteria of the above-mentioned Directive and which carry the CE mark.
There are different conformity assessment procedures, depending on which category of hazard level applies to studied gloves. Gloves, protecting against mild mechanical injuries with superficial, slow and gradual occurrence of side effects, easily identifiable in time by the user of gloves, are assigned to simple design PPE, e.g., to Category I. Gardening gloves, which protect against mechanical hazards with superficial effects, are a good example.
In case of protective gloves in Category I, taking into consideration the conformity assessment procedure, the manufacturer ensures conformity of the gloves with the general requirements of the Directive, prepares technical documentation, including the user’s manual, issues the declaration of conformity with the provisions of the Directive and, finally, marks the product with the CE mark of conformity. Protective gloves against mechanical hazards which may result in injuries more extensive than superficial changes, including gloves, which protect against cuts and punctures, are assigned to Category II of PPE. Following the conformity assessment procedure, these gloves are the subject of an EC-type examination, performed by a notified body, which issues a certificate of EC type examination. Only then may the manufacturer issue the declaration of conformity and mark the gloves with the CE mark. Protective gloves, assigned to Category II of personal protective equipment, are marked with appropriate pictograms, designating the type of hazard against which the gloves protect.
These pictograms are not used for marking gloves in Category I. In order to provide evidence of product conformity, the gloves are submitted to tests and evaluations, according to directive-harmonised standards. Depending on the type of gloves and, in particular, their application, various European standards are referenced to verify the product conformity with the requirements of the Directive. The harmonised standards, defining the testing methods and requirements for glove resistance to cuts and punctures, include the following European standards: EN 388:2003, EN ISO 13997:1999, EN 1082- 1:1996, EN 1082-2:2000, EN 1082-3:2002, EN 14328:2005, EN 381-7:1999, EN 381-4:1999. The reference to harmonised standards is not obligatory but it is a tool which enables verification of product conformity with Directive requirements. Therefore, the requirements defined in those standards are the base of reference both for product manufacturers and for notified bodies.
Cut resistant gloves
Hand injuries resulting from cuts may occur from direct contact with various sharp, rough objects or surfaces, a chainsaw, hand knives, as well as powered knives. The gloves which are to protect hands against cuts should therefore be selected according to their protective properties, confirmed by appropriate test and evaluation methods and adjusted to a given type of hazard. Resistance to cuts is tested by various testing facilities with cutting elements, which cut a tested material under a certain force. Resistance to cuts is characterised by means of various indices, depending on the applied testing method.
In case of testing resistance to cuts acc. to EN 388:2003 standard, the tested specimen is cut with a round blade with normalised parameters. The blade moves with horizontal, alternate shifts under load of 5 ± 0,05 N, making complete turns in the direction opposite to its movement. Taking into account the number of blade cycles, e.g. the number of its rotations, causing specimen cutting (both of tested specimen and the specimen of reference material), the “I” index is calculated and provided without any units; the index is the result of cutting resistance test. This index is taken into consideration when glove performance level is determined, regarding cut resistance and with reference to EN 388:2003 standard.
This performance level is provided in the code (by the second digit), placed on the glove next to the pictogram, designating resistance against mechanical factors according to the same standard. With regards to cut resistance, five performance levels are defined in the EN 388:2003 standard, where the higher the level, the higher the cut resistance of gloves. In the case of protective gloves with very high resistance to cuts, the method, as described in EN 388:2003 standard, is rather inadequate to determine cut resistance. For this reason, it has been allowed to test the cut resistance of protective gloves acc. to another method, described in the EN ISO 13997:1999
Material resistance to cuts acc. to EN ISO 13997:1999 standard, is determined by pulling a blade of known characteristics over the tested specimen with constant, normal force, applied at the blade-tested specimen contact point. The force is applied to the blade perpendicularly to the tested specimen. In the course of the test, the distance is measured, made by the blade until complete specimen cutting.The test result is material resistance to cuts, expressed by the force which is necessary to cut a specimen by the blade on the length of 20 mm. The higher the force to cut the specimen on this length, the higher material cut resistance.
Following the guidelines, as defined in EN 388:2003 standard, performance level No 4, regarding cut resistance, measured by the method described in this standard, reflects force level of ≥ 13N, necessary to cut the specimen by the method, conforming with EN ISO 13997:1999. Analogically – performance level No 5 reflects the cutting force ≥ 22 N.
Glove types and their construction
Protective gloves of high and very high cut resistance are most often manufactured as knitted products, made of various aramid fibre yarns (e.g. Kevlar®, Kevlar®KleenTM, Kevlar®PlusTM, Kevlar®Armor technology, Twaron®, Twaron®Premium Line), PE fibre yarns, including Dyneema®, Spectra®, Spektra®GuardTM, Spektra®GuardTMCX, Spektra®CX and Vectran®, yarns with metal elements (stainless steel), glass fibres of twisted or core structure. Also often used are mixed yarns, made of the previously mentioned types. Cut resistance of knitted fabrics may vary. Some knitted gloves made of yarns with very high resistance to cuts, are additionally coated – entirely or with dots in the glove palm – with a layer of appropriate polymer.
Point coating is to provide gloves with an antislip grip. The glove palm coating is also provided to increase protective parameters of the gloves. The unquestionable advantage of knitted gloves, either uncoated or point-coated, is their good fit to a user’s hand, therefore, gloves of this type are especially recommended for works, where finger dexterity is a priority. Besides this, knitted gloves provide air circulation between hand and environment that supports moisture elimination and optimises the quality values of the products. Metal elements, e.g. metal plates, are also applied in the design of protective gloves, providing high resistance to cuts.
These are also made of cow leather with internal lining, configured either as a knitted glove or made of knitted fabric from yarns very highly resistant to cuts. The gloves evaluated acc. to EN 388:2003 standard, are appropriate to protect hands from cuts by sharp or rough surfaces, but they will not guarantee protection in the case of using hand knives, chainsaws or powered knives.
These applications and hazards require gloves of a different design and cut resistance, the latter to be confirmed by appropriate test methods. Regarding hand-held chainsaw operations, appropriate protective gloves should demonstrate protective properties which have been assessed according to EN 381-7:1999 standard. According to this standard, two glove designs can be distinguished: namely, design A and design B. Five-finger gloves of A design have no anti-cut protection, either in the finger or thumb region, while the gloves of B design, being either one or five-fingered, are provided with special protection against chainsaw cuts, as in A design, with an additional protection in the glove finger back part, except the thumb. A design gloves are recommended when, beside the protection against chainsaw cuts, finger flexibility is also required.
Chainsaw protection tests
The gloves protecting against chainsaw cuts are tested by the method defined in EN 381-4:1999 standard. A tested glove is put on an artificial hand and submitted to cutting with a chainsaw, where the force applied to the chainsaw in the contact point with the cut specimen is 15 ± 0,5 N. Glove cuts are made in various positions (e.g. across back of metacarpus of left hand, across back of fingers of left hand). In the tests, different chain speeds are applied: 20, 24 and 28 m/s.
Depending on chain speeds, at which the tested material is not cut, the test result is classified to one of the three following classes: class 1: 20 m/s, class 2: 24 m/s, class 3: 28 m/s. The gloves to be used for hand protection against chainsaw cuts are marked with a pictogram, following EN 381-7:1999 standard. It should be emphasised that only one glove in the pair (left-hand glove) provides protection against cuts by hand-held chainsaw, while the second one protects against mechanical factors, according to the earlier mentioned EN 388:2003 standard. Therefore one glove in the pair is marked with a pictogram acc. to EN 381-7:1999 standard and the other, with a pictogram acc. to EN 388:2003 standard.
The gloves, protecting against chain saw cuts, are most often made from a material system, including leathers, fabrics and coated materials. The most important element in the design of the gloves is a protective layer in the glove back, inserted under the outer fabric and providing protection against cuts. This protective layer is often made of material system of high cut resistance. It should, however, be kept in mind that regardless of the applied design patterns and materials, there is no PPE which ensures 100% protection against chainsaw cuts.
Puncture resistant gloves
Regarding hand protection against punctures, only two testing methods are available, applicable for protective gloves and defined in the standards harmonised with Directive 89/686/EEC. One of the test methods is the method of impact cut resistance, acc. to EN 1082- 1:1996 and EN 1082-3:2002 standards, which are applicable for protective gloves to be used for works with hand knives.
The testing method, described in these standards, combines the evaluation of resistance to cuts and of resistance to puncture with a knife point. The other method of glove resistance testing against punctures is the procedure acc. to EN 388:2003 standard. In this method, the main point is the determination of the force level necessary to puncture the tested specimen by a steel stylus of normalised dimensions. The stylus falls on a test specimen with speed of 100mm/min, making a distance of 50mm against the specimen. The endpoint of the test is the highest recorded force in N, even if it does not result in specimen puncture.
The gloves are evaluated with reference to the lowest of all the values recorded for all the tested specimens. On the basis of the recorded force values, glove performance level is determined which, according to the standard, may vary from 1 to 42. The higher the performance level, the higher the glove resistance to puncture. The gloves, which fulfil the requirements of EN 388:2003 standard include most often the glove types which are resistant to abrasion and cutting, as well as to tearing.
These are gloves made of leathers, leathers and fabrics, metal plates, knitted or made of fabric, coated on the back side with a polymer layer, most often nitrile rubber, poly vinyl chloride, polyurethane or natural latex. Knitted gloves without coating are not, however, recommended as hand protection against punctures. Certain knitted gloves, however, are evaluated with regards to puncture resistance and fulfil the standard requirements for this parameter. It depends on the type and thickness of yarn applied in glove design, the knitted fabric weave or the knitting needle configuration on the machine on which the gloves were produced. To increase the protection against punctures, knitted gloves are coated with a polymer layer in the palm part or the palm part is reinforced with leather. Resistance to puncture, tested acc. to EN 388:2003 standard, is different for the gloves made of different materials. See Table 2 for examples of test results, regarding puncture resistance of several glove types. The puncture resistance test method acc. to EN 388:2003 is not appropriate for glove puncture tests with needles, spikes or any other sharp pointed objects. No standard harmonised with the PPE directive has been developed so far, which would include a method of glove evaluation regarding its resistance to punctures with needles or nails, for example.
The large number of materials and design patterns used in cut protecting gloves gives the opportunity to select such gloves which will be characterised by their protective properties, appropriate for the actual work types and associated hazards. In the selection of gloves protecting against cuts and punctures, one should also take into consideration the size of selected gloves, which should be well fitted to the size of the user’s hand. Gloves with good protective parameters but which are the wrong size might provide expected protection, but they may also introduce additional risks of hand injuries. Regarding all types of protective gloves, pay attention to the detailed information concerning the application and use of gloves, including the specification of their protective features, the recommended cleaning and maintenance methods, as well as the storage conditions, all of which are contained in the manufacturer’s instruction manual, enclosed in the product.
This information should be carefully read prior to glove use, while strictly following all the manufacturer’s recommendations when using the product. References 1 Council Directive 89/686/EEC of 21 December 1989 on the approximation of the laws of the Member States relating to personal protective equipment, Official Journal of the European Communities, L. 399, 30.12.1989 with later amendments 2 European Committee for Standardization (CEN). (2003).
Protective gloves against mechanical risks (Standard No. EN 388:2003). Brussels, Belgium: Author 3 European Committee for Standardization (CEN). (1999). Protective clothing. Mechanical properties. Determination of resistance to cutting by sharp objects (Standard No. EN ISO 13997:1999, EN ISO 13997:1999/AC:2000). Brussels, Belgium: Author 4 European Committee for Standardization (CEN). (1996). Protective clothing. Gloves and arm guards protecting against cuts and stabs by hand knives. Part 1: Chain mail gloves and arm guards (Standard No. EN 1082-1:1996). Brussels, Belgium: Author 5 European Committee for Standardization (CEN). (2000). Protective clothing. Gloves and arm guards protecting against cuts and stabs by hand knives. Part 2: Gloves and arm guards made of material other than chain mail (Standard No. EN 1082-2:2000). Brussels, Belgium: Author 6. European Committee for Standardization (CEN). (2002). Protective clothing. Gloves and arm guards protecting against cuts and stabs by hand knives. Part 3: Impact cut test for fabric, leather and other materials (Standard No. EN 1082-3:2002) Brussels, Belgium: Author 7. European Committee for Standardization (CEN). (2005). Protective clothing. Gloves and arm guards protecting against cuts by powered knives. Requirements and test methods (Standard No. EN 14328:2005). Brussels, Belgium: Author 8. European Committee for Standardization (CEN). (1999). Protective clothing for users of hand-held chainsaws. Part 7: Requirements for chainsaw protective gloves (Standard No. EN 381-7:1999). Brussels, Belgium: Author 9. European Committee for Standardization (CEN). (1999). Protective clothing for users of hand-held chainsaws. Part 4: Test methods for chainsaw protective gloves (Standard No. EN 381-4:1999) Brussels, Belgium: Author
Published: 03rd Mar 2012 in Health and Safety Middle East