In 2016, the EN388:2003 standard is due to introduce the additional ISO13997:1999 rating. This comes as injury statistics from a recent Labour Force report highlight the need for greater protection against mechanical hazards and suggest better tests are needed to determine protection. The new rating is a comprehensive test to improve the protective rating applied to hand protection.

The EN388:2003 standard, previously applied to safety gloves, relates to their resistance to physical and mechanical aggression caused by abrasion, blade cut, puncture and tearing. However, the actual performance of gloves that are considered highly cut-resistant varies greatly. Because of this, the standard is set to be revised. Today, the international standard ISO13997 is used where the safety rating of a glove is 4+. It's a more comprehensive test method and a standard that's to be applied to all existing EN388:2003 protective gloves.

There's little doubt there's a significant need to reduce the amount of handling injuries related to inadequate protection. According to a recent Labour Force survey, cuts or lacerations in the workplace resulted in nearly one million days lost due to accidents that could have been prevented with the right protection.

The current EN388:2003 standard

The EN388:2003 test has been in use since 1994. The test is carried out using a circular blade which counter-rotates as it tracks side-to-side across a flat sample with a light, fixed weight. The cutting pattern focuses on a single point between the blade and the sample. The number of strokes needed to cut through a sample is then counted. Five tests are conducted on two samples and the totals are averaged to account for variables between each sample.

This test doesn’t offer any variations in weight, pressure or sample positioning. Meanwhile, the test uses only one blade per sample - blades can dull depending on the sample material and distort the results of the cut test.

The forthcoming ISO13997:1999 standard

The ISO standard applies to the glove's resistance to cutting by sharp objects. This test assesses the load needed to penetrate a sample using a 20mm stroke and is currently used on hand protection products that have been given a high EN388:2003 rating (4+).

The test differs in that it offers a constant test speed. In addition, the sample is placed on a curved platform which is pressed up to the blade with varying weights using a leverage system. More cuts are needed than the EN388 system to establish the cutting weight. Each test requires a fresh blade to ensure consistent results while more strokes of the blade are applied to verify the 20mm cut-through load.

What does this mean?

This means that the standards against which hand protection products are tested for their resistance to mechanical hazards will be increased. This move aims to combat the figures highlighted in the Labour Force report and bring down the risk of hand injuries due to insufficient protection.

EN388 test methods will receive a mandatory ISO13997 rating. EN388 will add a new dimension to protection levels that's based on the EN388 Standard combined with the ISO13997 test. Results will be presented as:

EN ISO 13997:

 Level A  Level B  Level C  Level D  Level E  Level F  Level G  Level H  Level I
 (2)  (5)  (10)  (15)  (22)  (30)  (40)  (50)  (60)

These values are based on Newtons. (N)

For example, gloves that protect against mechanical hazards will be given the performance level of 1 or above for at least one of the following categorises: abrasion, blade cut, tears or punctures. This will require level A or above for the ISO cut resistance test, classified according to the minimum requirements for each level.

It's recommended that gloves with high cut protection - EN388 4+ - adopt the ISO13997 test. ISO13997 standards state this value must be expressed as the cutting load in Newtons (N). This test method evaluates the pressure applied to the fibres when risk of cuts is high.

This means that manufacturers of PPE will have to heighten their standards to remain compliant with these new changes. Improving quality and assurance of hand protection is likely to reduce workplace accidents relating to injury from mechanical hazards. It’ll be interesting to see if these new standards will meet the expectations of health and safety managers and their workforces.

It's very important to remember that neither test method is 100% reflective of actual performance, but they do provide a good indication of cut resistance. This message can be conveyed to wearers through training and education, ensuring that the correct glove is worn for each application.

If you have any questions or want to reduce the challenge of knowing what standards you'll need to comply with, or how to best communicate these changes to your workforce, why not get in touch? We are always on hand to help reduce your health and safety and PPE burden.