The Personal Protective Equipment at Work Regulations (SI1992/2966) require employers to provide their employees with appropriate Personal Protective Equipment (PPE). Protective gloves which are classified as PPE must be CE marked.
To assist in the selection of PPE, the Personal Protective Equipment Directive (89/686/EEC) is written such that safety equipment is categorised. This categorisation enables Safety Personnel to select the appropriate PPE to match the hazards and risks identified during Health and Safety Audits. In addition, the properties of protective gloves are described by a range of European Standards, and gloves must comply with relevant standards.
GENERAL REQUIREMENTS OF EN420
EN420 defines the general requirements for most types of protective gloves:
Product and packaging information and marking
Design and construction
Fitness for the purpose
Comfort and efficiency
SUMMARY OF TESTS INVOVED IN EN388 -2003
EN388 is a European standard designed to assess the performance of a fabric or layers of fabric for their ability to resist heavy rubbing, cutting by a blade or sharp object, tearing, and puncture by a pointed object. The test procedure includes a separate test for each of these properties, and a performance level is awarded according to each test result, for example a material with an abrasion resistance of between 100 and 500 cycles would be awarded level 1.
The minimum test results required to achieve the various performance levels are listed in the table below. On labels showing that when a garment has been approved for CE marking to EN388 standard these test levels are quoted as four numbers below the EN388 pictogram, the numbers are always shown in the order in which the tests are described below.
Please note the geometric progression between the minimum results required to meet the increasing performance levels. This means, for example, that the increase in test performance required to improve from blade cut index level 4 to index level 5 is eight times that needed to improve from level 1 to level 2. Please also note that where multiple layer materials are involved the abrasion and tear resistance levels are derived form the most resistant of the individual layers, not the combined assembly. Blade cut resistance is the only parameter where a performance level 5 is awarded.
Blade Cut Resistance-cut index
EN388, 6.1 – ABRASION RESISTANCE
This test is carried out using an instrument known as a Martindale tester in which the material to be tested is placed on a bed and a rubbing head of fixed size and weight, covered with a standard abrasive material, is moved in a circular motion over the test specimen. Four samples of the material are tested and the test result is the number of cycles required to rub through the material. The standard abrasive material used in this test is severe in action, it is unusual for textile materials to withstand the 2000 cycles required to meet performance level 3.
The performance level of a single material is decided by the lowest result of the four tests in accordance with the table above. For multiple layer materials each layer is tested separately, the performance level is based on the lowest individual result of the most resistant material.
EN388, 6.2 – BLADE CUT RESISTANCE
The instrument used for this test consists of a circular, free rotating blade, under pressure from a standard weight, which is moved backwards and forwards over the surface of the test material over a fixed stroke length. The test result is the number of cycles taken for the blade to cut through the material. To take the sharpness of the blade into account the test is performed using a standard material before and after testing the sample, the mean of these two tests on the standard material is defined as blade cut index 1. The test result is the ratio of the number of cycles required to cut through the sample to the number of cycles required to give blade cut index 1.
Where multiple layer materials are involved the layers are assembled and tested as they would be in the garment. Two test samples are selected, each sample is tested five times and a mean blade cut index calculated from the five tests. The performance level is awarded in accordance with the lower mean blade cut index of the two samples.
EN388, 6.3 – TEAR RESISTANCE
In this test a sample of material to be tested is prepared in a standard way and clamped in the jaws of a strength testing machine. The jaws are moved apart at constant speed and the force needed to tear the material measured. For single materials the performance level is given by the lowest result of four tests. For multiple layer items each layer is tested separately, four tests carried out on each material. The performance level is based on the lowest individual result of the most tear resistant material.
EN388, 6.4 – PUNCTURE RESISTANCE
This test uses a standard, rounded point which is pushed through the material at a fixed speed and the force required for the point to penetrate through the material is measured. Where multiple layer materials are involved the layers are assembled and tested as they would be in the garment. Performance levels are awarded in accordance with the lowest of four test results.
Since 2003 all items that are submitted for CE marking as personal protection equipment must also be examined in accordance with this general standard as well as the specific standard required. EN340 defines toxic, carcinogenic and other materials prohibited from use, or which are allowed to be present only below set levels, in products sold in the European Union. The standard specifies tests that must be carried out on different categories of material. The two main tests for textile materials are for the pH value (highly acid or alkaline) and the presence of banned Azo dyes.
The European standard EN 388:2016+A1:2018 – ‘Protective gloves against mechanical risks’ has now been published to supersede EN 388:2003. General-purpose protective gloves account for the largest market share of all personal protective equipment (PPE) sold and protect wearers from a wide range of hazards. To assist wearers with the selection of appropriate gloves, several European safety standards – including EN 388:2016+A1:2018 – have been developed, enabling levels of protection against different risks to be defined. These defined levels of protection enable appropriate gloves to be selected, based on the hazards and risks identified for a specific work activity.
The EN 388:2016+A1:2018 standard is intended to be used in conjunction with EN 420:2003+A1:2009 – ‘Protective gloves. General requirements and test methods’, which is designed to ensure that the gloves themselves do not cause harm to the wearer and are comfortable to wear. EN 420 is currently under revision and will become EN ISO 21420 once the standard has been updated (anticipated to be in 2018 or 2019).
EN 388:2016+A1:2018 specifies requirements, test methods, marking and information to be supplied for protective gloves against the mechanical risks of abrasion, blade cut, tear, puncture and, if applicable, impact. The test procedures include a separate test for each of these properties. A performance level is determined according to each test result – the higher the number or ascending letter, the greater the level of protection. Results are displayed using a pictogram (figure 1), permitting clear understanding of the capability of the glove.
Figure 1: The pictogram for mechanical risks
When compared with EN 388:2003, there is a major technical change to the abrasion resistance method, relating to the choice of abrasive paper. The abrasion resistance test is undertaken on a Martindale abrasion machine, in which specimens of the material (cut from the palm of the glove) are fitted to a rubbing head of fixed size and weight. This head is then moved in an elliptical motion over a table covered with 180 grit abrasive material (a change from the 2003 version, in which 100 grit is specified).
Four specimens of the material are tested, with the test result being the number of cycles required to abrade through (‘hole’) the material. For knitted gloves, the test is completed when one thread is broken or, for woven fabrics, when two separate threads are broken.. The performance level of a single material is decided by the lowest result of the four tests. For multiple layer materials (where the test specimen is made of several unbonded layers), each layer is tested separately and the performance level is based on the sum of the number of cycles.
Four levels of performance are defined within EN 388, ranging from ‘level 1’, (which is equivalent to holing between 100 and 499 cycles) to ‘level 4’, where holing does not occur before 8,000 cycles, as shown by table 1.
TABLE 1: LEVELS OF PERFORMANCE
Blade Cut Resistance-cut index
CIRCULAR AND STRAIGHT BLADE CUT RESISTANCE
The 2003 version of the standard contained the test procedure for a circular blade cut test, also known as the ‘coupe test’, with reference also made to a straight blade cut test for materials with a higher cut resistance. The circular blade cut test is carried out on the SATRA STM 611 circular blade cut resistance tester, which consists of a counter rotating blade (under a standard 5N contact force) which tracks backwards and forwards over the flat surface of the test material within a fixed stroke length (figure 2). Where multiple layer materials are present, the layers are assembled and tested as they would be in the glove. The test stops when cut-through of the blade is detected (via electrical contact with the underlying surface) or when 60 cycles is reached, and the number of strokes completed by the blade is recorded. To take the sharpness of the blade into account, the test is performed using a standard canvas control material both before and after testing the specimen. A ‘blade cut index value’ is calculated from the number of cycles required to cut through the specimen and the mean number of cycles required to cut through the control material.
A specimen is taken from two separate gloves and five test cuts are made on each, which allows for any variation across gloves. A mean blade cut index is calculated for each specimen tested. The performance level is based on the lower mean blade cut index of the two specimens, ranging from a level 1 cut resistance index of greater than 1.2, up to level 5, with a cut resistance index greater than 20, as shown in table 1. It is also worth noting that EN 388:2016+A1:2018 has introduced several improvements to the controls on the blades.
Using the circular blade cut test for composite fibre-based materials (including advanced technology aramids) and other specialised materials has its limitations. For all these products, which are designed to achieve high levels of cut resistance, the dulling of the blades during the extended testing means that results for the second control specimen can be meaningless. Glass fibre and abrasive surfaces may also give variable results between individual cuts, due to local variations in the specimen. Steel fibres risk creating an electrical contact with the specimen holder, thus indicating a false reading in the cut-through point.
The alternative straight blade cut test method given in ISO 13997:1999 – ‘Protective clothing – Mechanical properties – Determination of resistance to cutting by sharp objects’ is fully included within EN 388:2016+A1:2018. If, during any individual circular blade cut test, the number of cycles to cut through the reference material increases by a factor greater than three, the ISO 13997:1999 cut resistance method becomes the reference test method for the assessment of cut protection. This test is alternatively known as the ‘TDM cut resistance test’ and can be carried out using a SATRA STM 610 cut resistance evaluator.
The test uses a straight blade drawn across a specimen until cut-through takes place (figure 3) and measures the contact load applied to the blade in order to make a cut-through over a 20mm stroke length. Because the blade only travels once over the specimen and each blade is only used once, the problem of blunting blades with repeated cycles is eliminated. A number of tests are carried out with different contact loads applied to the blade. Force and cut-through length are plotted on a scatter graph and a trend line is generated. This is used to estimate the average contact force necessary to cut through the glove material with a 20mm stroke length. Once determined, the identified force is applied to the specimen a further five times. If the results of the stroke length are within the defined tolerance levels, the test is then complete and the force has been determined. The performance levels range from ‘level A’ cut resistance with a contact force between 2N and 5N, up to ‘level F’, with a contact force greater than 30N, as shown in table 2. There is no correlation between the levels of performance obtained through either cut method.
TABLE 2: LEVELS OF PERFORMANCE FOR MATERIALS TESTED WITH EN ISO 13997
Straight blade cut resistance (N)
No major technical changes to the tear resistance method were made between the 2003 and the 2016+A1:2018 versions of EN 388. In this test, specimens of material from the palm of four gloves (two from the ‘longitudinal’ direction and two from the ‘transverse’ direction) are prepared and clamped in the jaws of a standard tensile strength testing machine. The jaws are moved apart at a constant speed (100mm/min), and the force needed to tear the material is measured. For single materials, the performance level is given by the lowest result of the four tests. For multiple, unbonded layers, each layer is tested individually. Four tests are carried out on each layer, and performance is based on the lowest individual result of the most tear-resistant material. EN 388:2016+A1:2018 defines the performance levels as ranging from level 1, whereby the specimen can resist a peak force between 10N and 25N, to level 4, where the tear strength is at least 75N.
There have been no major technical changes to the puncture resistance method between the standard’s 2003 and the 2016+A1:2018 versions. Once again, test specimens are taken from the palm of the glove and, in the case of multiple, unbonded layers, the layers are assembled and tested together as they would be in the glove. The test uses a standard, rounded stylus which is pushed 50mm into the specimen at a constant speed of 100mm/min using a compression test machine. The maximum resistance force is recorded. Performance levels are based on the lowest of four test results – defined in EN 388 as being from level 1 (with a puncture resistance force of between 20N and 60N) to level 4, which has a measured resistance of at least 150N. For gloves made from composite or specialised materials and intended for specialist applications (such as protection against hypodermic needles), the standard puncture test stylus is too thick. SATRA offers a test which uses a needle, as opposed to the wider stylus.
EN 388:2016+A1:2018 contains a test for impact resistance where testing is carried out in accordance with clause 6.9 of EN 13594:2015 – ‘Protective gloves for motorcycle riders. Requirements and test methods’. This is now a mandatory test that was not included in EN 388:2003, and is used for gloves which incorporate specific impact-resistant properties which may be added to the palm, back of the hand or the knuckles. In this test, gloves are cut, opened out flat, so that the area of impact protection can be tested independently, and secured over a domed anvil. The test area is impacted with a 2.5kg flat face striker from a sufficient height to provide impact energy of 5J. The peak force – detected by a load cell or sensor mounted beneath the anvil – is recorded. Four tests are carried out on specimens of each area of protection taken from four different gloves. Gloves must meet the requirement of level 1 of EN 13594:2015 – that is, the mean transmitted force shall be ≤7.0kN with no single results greater than ≤9.0kN. Other requirements include no part of the glove cracking or shattering to produce sharp edges, and chamois leather not tearing or holing.
MARKING OF GLOVES
For gloves satisfying the requirements of EN 388, the mechanical properties of the glove shall be shown in a pictogram, followed by the respective performance levels of each mechanical test (see figure 1). The first number corresponds to the abrasion resistance, the second to the circular blade cut resistance, the third to the tear resistance, the fourth to puncture resistance and the fifth character (a letter) to the straight cut test. If either the circular blade cut test or the straight blade cut test has not been performed, an ‘X’ should be used in place of an achieved level. In addition, a marking code ‘P’ may also be added for gloves meeting the impact-resistant requirements of EN 388:2016+A1:2018. For the first four tests, it is a common convention to indicate ‘0’ when level 1 cannot be attained. The pictogram shall not be used if the glove does not achieve at least level 1 or level A for at least one protective category.
When compared with EN 388:2003, EN 388:2016+A1:2018 has some additional requirements for the user instructions to be supplied with the gloves. If impact protection is claimed, the user instructions shall state the part of the glove for which the protection is claimed, and highlight that the protection does not apply to the fingers. For gloves with a tear performance of level 1 or greater, a warning must be included that these gloves should not be worn where there is a risk of entanglement with moving parts of machines. Finally, for products where performance levels are given for both cut tests, include the statement: ‘The circular blade cut test results are only indicative whilst the straight cut resistance test is the reference performance result’.
IMPACT OF NEW EUROPEAN PPE REGULATION (EU) 2016/425
Manufacturers and suppliers will be keen to offer gloves that are certified using the latest version of the standard. Indeed, due to the PPE Regulation (EU) 2016/425, since 21st April 2019 it has been illegal to place gloves for mechanical protection on the EU market that have not been certified against the state-of-the-art (that is, EN 388:2016+A1:2018). With the introduction of a second rating for cut resistance and an optional rating for impact protection, there will no doubt be some confusion for people involved in the selection of gloves and some explanation or support may be required. As a Notified Body and an ISO 17025-accredited laboratory, SATRA is well placed to help glove manufacturers and suppliers with this transition. SATRA also manufacturers many of the test machines used for these glove tests and can set up in-house, certified testing laboratories for customers carrying out ongoing quality control and product development.
The Difference Between the EN388:2003 and the EN388:2016 Safety Glove Standards
EN388:2003 Protective Gloves Against Mechanical Risk is the globally recognised standard for protective gloves against mechanical risks. AS/NZS 2161.3:2005 mirrors EN 388:2003 and has been reconfirmed in Australia in 2016 and remains current in New Zealand.
EN388:2016 released in November 2016 has replaced En388:2003 in Europe. Testings on resistance to abrasion, tear and puncture are carried out as they were before with minor clarifications to testing procedures and materials. The test results correspond the same way they did in the 2003 version with ratings of 0-4, with 4 being the highest performance level.
The main difference in the 2016 edition is in relation to cut resistance and impact protection. The new version now has two cut resistant methods:
CUT RESISTANCE TESTING
1. Existing Method – (Coup method)
Under the EN 388 glove standard, introduced in 2003, cut resistance is measured with a Coup test machine. A section of fabric is placed in a holder and a rotating circular blade is moved back and forth at a constant speed, pressing down with a force of 5 Newtons. When the blade cuts through, a performance rating from 1 to 5 is calculated from the total distance of travel. The blade gradually loses sharpness, so at the start and finish it is calibrated using cotton fabric. Therefore, the result can be less accurate for gloves with a higher cut-resistance. This test method remains in the 2016 version but is only to be used for materials that do not affect the sharpness of the blade.
2. New Method – EN ISO 13997 (TDM method)
TDM is an abbreviation for the equipment used to conduct this test, a tomodynamometer. This test involves a straight blade being drawn across the sample in one movement, with a new blade every time. The ‘stroke length’ before cut-through is recorded for a range of forces and graphs plotted to predict the force required to cut through the glove in 20mm of travel. This force is used to calculate a score from A to F, with F being the highest rating.
Impact verification has been added to EN 388: 2016. The test method is taken from the motor cycle standard EN 13594:2015. The area where the impact protection is claimed to be tested, but due to technical reasons, the area around the fingers cannot be tested.
With impact energy of 5 joules, the transmitted force should be equal to or less than 9kN for a single hit and average should be equal or less than 7kN. If the requirements are fulfilled, the glove will be marked with a P (Pass). If a fail, there will be no marking.
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