Cut ratings have become a trendy topic in industrial safety, with glove manufacturers developing new blends of High Performance Polyethylene (HPPE) that stretch our imaginations regarding what fabric can do. Blends of Aramid®, Kevlar®, and other engineered fabrics have raised the threshold on hand protection.

HPPE blends allow for user comfort, coupled with extreme protection. Many cut-resistant glove options have turned up on the market, and the testing of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) has precipitated a veritable lab war between the U.S. and European standards. While EN testing was originally developed for the European Union, it is accepted nearly worldwide as a safety certification. Meanwhile, ANSI testing has gained traction recently on many U.S. jobsites, as many in America feel it is “tougher” to get a high rating.

ANSI/ISEA 105 Cut Performance Levels (Based on ASTM F1790 Testing)

Key: ASTM measures force in grams. ANSI is the standard that assigns “levels”. ISEA and ANSI are governing bodies, comprised of industry leaders who develop and hone testing procedures for the industry.

Test procedure

Blade: Four inch straight blade

Cutting Path: Straight path

Duration: In contact with the material one time

Loads: Three different loads

Distance Cut: 20mm (2005), or 25 mm (1997)

Two versions of this US standard: 1997 version vs 2005 version

1997 Version: CPP tester only; 25mm cut length

2005 method does not require the blade to cut through the mounting tape to register a cut result; Calibration load was increased to 500g; 20mm cut length

Instruments: CPP and TDM testers (TDM-100 - Updated version of the CPPT machine. This machine changed the position of the fabric placement and the weight system.)

Note: CPP testers (ASTM 2005 version) usually yield a lower result than the 1997 version

Measured in: Grams of force

Applications: Cuts from impact or from grasping a sharp object

Disadvantages: The microscopic sharpness of blades varies, and need calibration. This causes variance from lab to lab (about 27 percent on average).

EN 388

Developed by CEN (The European Committee for Standardization)

Test procedure

In the EN388 blade cut test the test specimen is placed in a holder on top of a piece of aluminum foil, then a circular blade is applied to the sample and moves back and forth until it cuts through the sample. When the blade cuts through the sample it contacts the foil and completes a circuit to turn the machine off. This is done five times on each sample (10 cuts in total across two specimens).

Blade: Circular/rotating

Cutting Speed: Maximum of 10cm/s

Cutting Path: Straight

Load: Fixed/ Limited to a five Newton max

Instruments: TDM or Couptest

Control Material: Cotton canvas fabric

Alternating cuts on control fabric, and sample fabric until at least five results are obtained. Cut resistance is a ratio of the number of cycles to cut through the sample, versus the control fabric.

Note: En388 penalizes glove materials which blunt the test blade because the index is calculated from the average sharpness of the blade before and after the test. If the blade is blunted for a given number of cuts, the index would be lower than if the blade was not blunted by the sample.

Measured in: Newtons of force

Duration: Until it cuts; if the machine cannot cut through the sample, it is accelerated to the ISO 13997 test

Disadvantages: Once the blade cycles over the material, the blade gets duller with each passing rotation. EN 388 is not able to measure more cut-resistant engineered yarns containing steel wire. The EU is considering abandoning this test procedure.

Applications: Suited to the hazard of sharp objects sliding through hands, i.e. handling glass panes.

EN ISO 13997

Developed by ISO

WHY: When fabrics exceed EN 388 cut standards (they cannot be cut through at a max load of five Newtons) testing facilities automatically accelerate to ISO 13997.

Different: Ratings of four or five are the only ones available

Test procedure

Blade: Straight; blades are validated on a piece of Neoprene and there is a “blade sharpness” correction factor applied to the result.

Cutting Speed: 2.5m/s

Cutting Path: Straight

Loads: Three different loads; adjusted depending on the sample—until it cuts!

Distance Cut: 20mm or 25 mm

Instrument: TDM

Measured In: Newtons of Force

Prevalence: Growing as new HPPE fibers are coming out.

Applications: Cuts from impact or from grasping a sharp object

Apples to oranges

There is no easy comparison between the EN and ANSI cut test standards because they are measured with completely different machines. Additionally, the corresponding measurements are reported in different units of measure. The best test for your worksite will depend on the jobsite hazards.

No perfect test

Another factor to consider is the margin of error that may make a difference of up to one cut grade level on sample gloves due to the difference between machines, or placement of the sample (i.e. if the machine must cut through a seam of Kevlar® thread in addition to the base fabric, the cut rating may be superficially elevated). Performance levels of the gloves are measured in ranges, with some levels spanning larger ranges than others. There may be noticeable differences between the lowest and highest products within a range. Also, test reports may include a margin of error of up to 27 percent between labs due to blade differences.

Cost performance analysis

With some testing labs reporting up to 25 percent of incoming test gloves exceeding the EN 388 standard, it is prudent to examine the quiet entrance of EN ISO 13997 onto today’s cut test scene. As PPE manufacturers develop cutting edge fibers, the upper spectrum of these ratings are being reexamined.