Making sense of glove selection

July 1, 2003
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Order the same type of Kevlar(R) gloves from three different manufacturers and it is quite possible that you will get three different gloves that contain different weights of Kevlar. These gloves may also provide varying degrees of cut resistance. The same is true of gloves designed for chemical resistance, heat and flame resistance, and resistance to punctures or cold temperatures.

Until recently, food and meat processors, construction professionals, chemical processors and industrial users of protective gloves could only determine which gloves best suited their particular applications by trying them and learning from experience. That experience could be costly. The qualification process for selecting and testing gloves can be time-consuming. Also, employees can be at risk for injuries if supposedly "equivalent" types of gloves are substituted for those that might have been initially user-tested. The "equivalent" gloves may not have equivalent ratings.

Voluntary standards

Now, however, many glove manufacturers are implementing voluntary standards established by the International Safety Equipment Association (ISEA) and approved in February 2000 by the American National Standards Institute, Inc. (ANSI). The 12-member Hand Protection Group of the ISEA designed the standard to help employers comply more easily with OSHA's regulation 29 CFR1910.138.

Before the ANSI/ISEA 105-2000 standard, hand protection users were left on their own to interpret manufacturers' product descriptions, which can be vague in nature. For example, a glove described as "lightweight, 100% Kevlar" does not tell the user what degree of cut resistance the glove will provide. This ambiguity in product description can lead to improper selection of gloves.

However, in Europe the European Norm, EN 388, for mechanical hazards, requires ratings for gloves based on abrasion resistance, blade cut resistance, tear resistance, and even puncture resistance. These ratings give the user a much better idea of what kind of protection they would be getting from a glove made by a manufacturer. The EN standard goes even a step further by requiring third-party laboratory testing of the gloves for certification.

The ANSI/ISEA 105-2000 standard is self-regulating but also has strict testing guidelines for each ratings category. Become familiar with the ANSI/ISEA 105-2000 standard, check for gloves that have been manufacturer-tested, and you can quickly narrow your choices so your selection process for a specific application becomes easier.

Common language

The standard provides a common language for users and manufacturers of protective gloves to communicate with each other about the degree of protection required for each application. It also enables a glove user to compare similar types of gloves from different manufacturers with a greater degree of accuracy than previously possible.

The ANSI/ISEA 105-2000 standard defines specific performance criteria for different levels of protection, test methods and pass/fail criteria for:

  • cut resistance
  • puncture resistance
  • abrasion resistance
  • chemical permeation
  • chemical degradation
  • detection of holes
  • flame resistance
  • heat degradation resistance
  • conductive heat resistance
  • conductive cold resistance.

Although the standard covers characteristics considered primarily in selecting gloves for chemical and industrial uses, an appendix to it references performance characteristics and other existing standards for protection from biological, electrical and radiation hazards.

The key to learning the ANSI/ISEA 105-2000 "language" is in developing an understanding of its definitions and structure. Glove manufacturers also can help with definitions of terms and descriptions of the standard's classifications into different levels of performance for providing protection against varying degrees of hazards. For the categories listed above, the standard describes specific test procedures for determining if a particular type of glove meets the pass/fail criteria set for classifying it into one of several levels of resistance.

Practical usage

Where hand protection is crucial, worker safety depends on narrowing glove selection choices to the correct level of resistance.

Users seeking a glove designed for cut resistance, for example, can choose from the minimal, or zero level, and five progressively higher levels of resistance. According to the ANSI/ISEA 105-2000 table for cut resistance, the glove that passes a Level 5 test requires a weight of 3,500 grams to force a blade traveling 25 mm to cut through it. At Level 1, the weight required to cut through a material with a blade traveling the same distance is greater than or equal to only 200 grams.

The Level 5 glove offers significantly greater protection from a more forceful cutting action than the lighter weight Level 1. Someone handling sheet metal might choose a Level 5 glove for additional protection. However, the Level 1 material may offer the advantage of greater dexterity along with sufficient protection for light-duty assembly operations.

The same recommendation, however, may not apply to a similar though not identical application. In each case, it is up to the end-user to identify and evaluate the hazards and assess relative risks and tradeoffs among glove properties, such as cut resistance versus lower-weight gloves that would provide greater dexterity.

Before the ISEA standard came along, end-users commonly selected gloves based on the type of material used - Kevlar or stainless steel mesh for cut resistance, for example. Before trying the glove in a work application, observation and flexing of the material might provide a "kick-the-tires" indication of its strength and degree of protection. However, there was no easily quantifiable way to certify that a sufficient amount of Kevlar or stainless steel was used to provide the degree of protection expected.

Efficient and accurate

While the ANSI/ISEA 105-2000 standard is a great improvement over non-quantifiable guidelines for glove selection, it does have some limitations. Since its implementation is voluntary, not every manufacturer will test its gloves. For those who do, the tests offer a generally consistent and repeatable method of determining various levels of protection offered by a diverse range of products.

With a little attention to ANSI/ISEA 105-2000 classifications, the glove selection process can be more efficient and accurate. By becoming familiar with the "language" of the standard, end-users can communicate their requirements more effectively to their suppliers and can more appropriately and consistently match measurably different gloves to different applications.

SIDEBAR: Get it in writing

Protective glove users should not accept an assertion that a glove without the appropriate markings and package labeling is equivalent to any particular classification level. To verify the level to which a product has been tested, the glove purchaser should request a technical report that, according to the ANSI/ISEA 105-2000 standard, includes the:

  • name or identification of the manufacturer
  • glove designation or trade name
  • type of glove material(s)
  • applicable test method or section of the standard
  • date of testing
  • results and performance classification based on the testing
  • designation of the ANSI/ISEA 105-2000.


NEED A COPY OF THE STANDARD?

To obtain a copy of the ANSI/ISEA 105-2000 standard, contact the ISEA in Arlington, Va., tel: (703) 525-1695, email: isea@safetyequipment.org.

EDITOR'S NOTE: Kevlar(R) is a Registered Trademark of the DuPont Corp.

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