Protective Gloves

What are protective  gloves, different types and how to choose the right protective gloves

Protective or safety gloves are gloves that protect the wearer from different hazards or injuries. The nature of these hazards can be different depending upon the work environment of the wearer. If you work in an environment where you have to deal with high temperatures, you need to protect your hands from burns. You need a heat resistant glove that can protect your skin from the risks associated with high temperatures. If you work in a manufacturing industry where you have to handle sharp objects, for example working with metals, knives, glasses or other sharp pointed objects, there is a potential to injure your hands with cuts. In this case wearing a cut resistant glove is the right choice for you to reduce the risk of cut injuries. Similarly risk of exposure to hazardous chemicals and infectious materials requires the use of safety gloves to avoid potential risks.

Protective gloves

The selection of the right type of gloves to get protection from a myriad of hazards (cut, chemical, burn, abrasion, cold, heat) is also of utmost importance which may not be so simple. Gloves designed to provide particular protection may not be suitable for another type of protection. In addition, varying levels of protection may be needed depending upon the level of severity of the danger. Various standards exist to help manufacturers design and manufacture gloves appropriate for a specific application as well as provide buyers necessary information about their selection criteria. The American National Standards Institute (ANSI) and International Safety Equipment Association (ISEA) have jointly developed ANSI/ISEA 105 in 1999 which has been revised in 2016. Compliance with this standard is voluntary but it is followed by organizations to ensure proper selection of safety equipment for their workers. The standard developed by European Union is EN 388-2016.

ANSI/ISEA 105 describes test methods to analyze the performance of safety gloves which include abrasion resistance, cut resistance, chemical resistance and puncture resistance. EN388 specifies the performance criteria for protection from mechanical risks which include abrasion, tear, cut and puncture resistance. These two standards are used globally: ANSI/ISEA 105 standard is mostly used in North America whereas EN388 standard is used in Europe, Mexico, South America, Canada and the US. Basic features of these standards are highlighted as follows:

EN 388-2016 standard:

Compliance with the European standard EN 388 is mandatory for the manufacturers to be able to sell their gloves in the European market. The manufactures have to obtain CE (Conformité Européene) marking for their products after validating the performance of their safety gloves through EN 388. This standard sets criteria to evaluate the resistance of the fabric used in gloves against rubbing, blade cut, tearing and puncture by a sharp object. Separate tests are carried for assigning protection levels against each of these properties. According to the revised standard (EN-288 2016), these protection levels are quoted as six numbers below the pictogram of EN 388 standard on the product label as shown in the figure below:

 pictogram of EN 388 standard

Abrasion Resistance:

The abrasion resistance of the gloves is tested by taking the sample of the fabric from the palm and subjecting it to an abrasion test by rubbing the sample against another surface using Martindale Abrasion Tester. The abrasion resistance is classified into four levels depending upon the number of rubbing cycles the sample takes to wear as shown in the table below:

 Level 1Level 2Level 3Level 4
Abrasion Resistance (Cycles)10050020008000

Cut Resistance of protective gloves:

The cut resistance of the gloves is rated on a scale of 1-5 whereas resistance to abrasion, tear and puncture is rated on a scale of 1-4. The older version of the standard used only the “Coup Test” to rate the cut resistance.  The newer version uses both the “Coup Test” as well as Tomodynamometer Test Method “TDM-100 Test” which is based on EN ISO 13997 and “ASTM F2992-15” to rate the cut resistance. In “Coup Test”, a circular blade is used to cut the fabric sample taken from the glove. The blade moves back and forth until the fabric is cut and the number of cycles of the circular blade required to cut the fabric is used to calculate the cut index as shown in the table below:

 Level 1Level 2Level 3Level 4Level 5
Cut Resistance (Index)

In the TDM-100 Test, a straight blade is used to cut the sample and the average load is recorded (and converted to Newton, N) to cut the sample to a distance of 20 mm. In this test method, the blade does not undergo blunting as may be the case with Coup Test because a single cut is made with one blade and a new blade is used for the new cut. The cut resistance is rated using letters A to F which indicate the increasing level of protection.  These cut resistance levels are shown in the table below:

 Level 1 (A)Level 2 (B)Level 3 (C)Level 4 (D)Level 5 (E)Level 6 (F)
Cut Resistance (N)2510152230

According to the revised standard, there is no correlation between the results of the Coup Test and the TDM-100 Test. The ISO based TDM-100 Test becomes mandatory when blunting of blades occurs in Coup Test.

Impact Resistance of protective gloves:

In the revised standard, a test has been included to evaluate the impact resistance of the gloves. The gloves which are not supposed to provide impact resistance are not subjected to this test. Three possible rankings can be assigned for the impact resistance of the gloves namely Passed (P), Failed (F) and not tested (X).

ANSI/ISEA 105-2016 Standard:

This standard was also revised in 2016. Earlier, it was revised in 2005 and 2011 after its introduction in 1999.

Cut Resistance:

For cut resistance, this Standard describes a test method that involves the use of a blade to cut the sample along a straight line under a certain load. The load to cut the sample to a distance of 20 mm is recorded in grams. The higher the load, the greater will be the cut resistance of the material under test. The cut resistance is expressed at different levels (A1 to A9) which are classified according to the increasing level of loads in grams as shown in the table below:

LevelLoad (Grams)
A1≥ 200
A2≥ 500
A3≥ 1000
A4≥ 1500
A5≥ 2200
A6≥ 3000
A7≥ 4000
A8≥ 5000
A9≥ 6000

Abrasion Resistance:

In addition to cut resistance, abrasion resistance of the fabric or material used in the glove is evaluated using test methods specified in ASTM D3389-10 and D3884-09. In this test method, the test specimen (4 inches in diameter) is placed under abrading wheel. The abrading wheel has an abrasive surface and load is applied on it during its sliding rotation on the test sample underneath. The number of rotations of the wheel the sample takes to wear is recorded and classified into different protection levels ranging from 0 to 6. For levels 0 to 3, a load of 500 grams is applied on the abrading wheel where a load of 1000 grams is applied for levels 4 to 6 as shown in the table below:

Weight (Grams)Protection LevelRevolutions
500 2>500
1000 5>10000

Puncture Resistance:

Resistance of the protective fabric or material against puncture is also very important and required where exposure to sharp objects is possible. In ANSI/ISEA 105-2016 two types of puncture tests are performed: (1) normal puncture test as is performed in EN388-2016 and an additional needle stick puncture test. The needle stick puncture test is important where exposure to the needle is usually common for example in health care, sanitation and recycling industries. The test probe (needle or stylus) used in EN388-2016 is very large. The test specimen is cut from the palm of the glove and is punctured with the stylus. The stylus is of specified sharpness and force required to puncture the specimen is recorded and is classified into five different protection levels as shown in the table below:

Puncture resistance (EN388-2016)
LevelsForce (N)

Other than the puncture test described above, a hypodermic needle test (according to ASTM F2878) is performed where protection from a smaller, very thin and sharp needle is required. In this test method a needle of 25 gauge is used to puncture the material and protection provided by the material is classified into different levels as shown in the table below:

Protection levels in Hypodermic Needle
LevelsForce (Newtons)

Chemical Permeation Test for protective gloves:

Protection against chemicals is evaluated in the Chemical Protection Test in which resistance of the material against chemical permeation and degradation is evaluated. Permeation test is performed according to ASTM F739-12. In this test method, the test specimen taken from the glove is used as a barrier in the test cell in which one side of the test specimen is exposed to the chemical and the other side is inspected for the presence of any chemical permeated through the test specimen (or fabric used in the gloves). The detection is carried using analytical techniques using Gas Chromatography and Flame Ionization Detector at different time intervals and protection against permeation is classified in different levels as shown in the table below:

Permeation resistance against
chemicals (ASTM F739-12)
LevelsPermeation Time (Minutes)

Flame Resistance of protective gloves:

The resistance of the fabric used in gloves against ignition and burning is tested according to ASTM F1358-16. The ignition time, as well as burn time after ignition, is noted and material is classified into different levels as shown in the table below:

LevelExposure time to flame
Burn Time after exposure
4No ignition

Heat Degradation Resistance:

The resistance of the fabric or material used in the gloves against heat degradation is tested following ISO 17493:2000. The temperature which material withstands without ignition, melting dripping and charring with shrinkage less than 5% is noted. The heat resistance levels are defined according to the degradation temperature as shown in the table below:

LevelDegradation temperature

Conductive Heat Resistance:

The conductive heat resistance of the glove is measured in terms of temperature at which the time to second degree burn is equal to or greater than 15 seconds and alarm time is greater than 4 seconds. The test is performed according to ASTM 1060-08 and protection levels are shown in the table below:

LevelConductive Heat Resistance Temperature

Vibration Reduction:

The vibration reduction ability of the gloves is evaluated either as pass or fail according to  ANSI S2.73-2002 (ISO 10819). The standard ISO 10819 describes vibration reduction criteria as overall transmissibility of vibration using medium frequency spectrum “M” (frequency range 31.5 Hz -200 Hz) denoted as TRM and overall transmissibility of vibration using high frequency spectrum “H” (frequency range 200 Hz – 1 kHz) denoted as TRH. According to the standard, the glove can be labeled as anti vibration glove if it fulfills the following TRM and TRH criteria:  TRM < 1.0 and TRH < 0.6.

Dexterity of protective gloves:

Dexterity means the ease with which a stainless steel pin of different diameters can be lifted while wearing the gloves. The test is performed according to EN 420:2009 standard. The dexterity level is classified according to the diameter of the pin that can be lifted with the gloves. The smaller the diameter of the pin, the higher will be the dexterity as shown in the table below:

LevelDexterity (smallest pin diameter
that can be picked by gloves)
111 mm
29.5 mm
38 mm
46.5 mm
55 mm

These standards do not only set criteria for manufacturers but also help users to select the right gloves for the protection required for their hands keeping in view the exposure to the possible hazard and its severity.

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