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EN 388 for Gloves Explained

2016 saw a great deal of press coverage relating to the revision of the European Protective Gloves standard, BS EN 388, and it seems that confusion is still rife in the industry.


Historically the safety standard EN 388 has always determined a protective glove’s performance against four hazards: blade cuts, punctures, tears and abrasion. The results of the tests for these four hazards have then been translated into the performance rating of the gloves – 0 to 4 for puncture, tear and abrasion, and 0 to 5 for cut resistance. Printing this performance level on each glove has – up until now – made it far simpler for anyone purchasing hand protection to assess the suitability of a glove for a particular task.

But, whilst the blade cut test or coup test that has been used in EN 388 assessments for over 10 years is still suitable for low cut-resistant materials, modern fabric technology has advanced significantly, and with more and more materials now containing steel or glass fibre the coup test has become less reliable.

The new standard tackles this unreliability by employing TWO cut resistance test methods – if the sample glove blunts the coup test blade during its mandatory 60 passes, then it must also be tested using the ISO 13997 cut resistance method, and this result must also be labelled on the glove. All of which leads us to the existence of two different markings.

The BSIF is worried about how confusing this double label makes glove safety for users, and Institute, the UK’s National Body for Standards, agrees. They say that “…should the Coupe test be performed and the sample proven to blunt the blade as defined within the standard, the result from this test should NOT be visible to end users, just the ISO 13997 test result.”

But let’s be realistic. The change of cut test in EN 388 will not change the inherent protection that the gloves provide to the user. Nor will it change the types of gloves that are available on the market. The need for proper risk assessments and hand protection assessments to really determine the kind of gloves employees need and the hazards they face remains unchanged.

Despite the additional level of understanding which is now necessary to de-code glove markings, and the confusion that may surround that in the short term, at Rokwear we see the test change as a positive move and we believe there is no doubt it will help companies ensure their employees are wearing the right kinds of gloves for the job.

By Blake Prisgrove, Managing Director of Rokwear


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