PPE – Protective Gloves against Mechanical Risks – EN388

The following equipment is used to assess the properties of gloves specified by the EN388 standard, which is symbolised by the pictogram.

A Martindale wear and abrasion tester is used to measure the abrasion resistance. The test involves rubbing samples, cut from the palms of gloves, against a standard glass paper until a hole is worn through one of the samples. The number of abrasion cycles is used to assess the performance.

EN388 Symbol

A Sodemat cut tester is used to measure the resistance to cutting. Samples are cut from gloves and placed in a frame which enables a circular, counter-rotating blade to slice through the glove material. The number of cycles required by the blade to cut through the glove are recorded. These are converted into a cutting index by comparison with the number of cycles required to cut through a standard reference material. The standard now allows for an alternative test method to be used for highly cut resistant products and this test is described in EN ISO 13997. It measures the force required to make a cut in the test sample 20mm long and is often referred to as the ISO Cut Test. Performance levels are established according to cutting index.

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Puncture and tear resistance are measured with a tensometer. Puncture resistance is measured as the force required to break through samples from gloves with a standard puncture needle (it should be noted that the design of this needle is comparable to that of a large nail, and the puncture strength from this test cannot be used to assess resistance to puncture by hypodermic needles). Tear resistance is measured as the force required to tear apart samples from the glove which are in the form of a pair of trousers (this test is also known as a trouser tear test). The legs of the trouser samples are pulled apart and the maximum force used to assess tearing resistance of the material.  Comfortable and well fitted gloves below.


Cut Resistance Testing


Personal protective equipment (PPE) designed to offer mechanical protection is tested to EN388, the mechanical hazards standard for gloves. The cut resistance test as laid out in this standard can be carried out using two methods;

1. Coup test

This is the original cut test method and has often been found to be inappropriate for the latest generation of highly cut resistant yarns. This method works by comparing the cut resistance of the test glove, to a known standard fabric material. This test can fail for highly cut resistant products because the standard material is tested first, followed by the cut resistant glove, then the standard material for a second time. As the same blade is used throughout the tests, a highly cut resistant glove will blunt the blade, leading to an artificially high result for the second test against the standard material as the now very blunt blade will struggle to cut it. As the cut resistance is determined by dividing the glove result by the mean average of the two results from the standard material, a high result from the second standard material test will reduce the cut resistance result, leading to a highly cut resistant material being assessed at a far lower blade cut level than is the case in reality.


2. ISO cut test

This is a newer method designed to deal with new and highly cut resistant materials. The method determines the force in Newtons (N) to make a 20mm cut in the sample of the cut resistant glove. Under this test a glove is assessed as being cut level 4 is it scores ≥13N but <22N, while cut level 5 is ≥22N. This method, while included in EN388:2003, is an internationally recognised standard known as ISO13997. The force acting on the sample is varied by adding weights, so the test assess the actually force needed to make a cut, rather than using a comparison to a known standard material. Additionally, after every cut is performed, the blade is changed, so a fresh blade is used for every cut performed.




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