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The Hand Protection Blog

EN 388:2016 - How Glove Technology is Driving Standards

By Nick Green | 05.02.19

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Despite major technical advances in process, control and plant environments in recent years, workers still face a host of mechanical hazards – in particular to their hands.

According to the HSE, process, plant and machine operatives in the UK’s manufacturing sector have significantly higher rates of hand injury compared to workers in other sectors. Two of the most common areas where these hand injuries occur are:

  • Contact with machinery
  • Handling, lifting or carrying objects

And as technology within plants has increased so too has fibre and materials technology used to manufacture protective gloves. In fact, so fast has glove development been, that they outpaced traditional testing standards, driving the introduction of a new EN 388:2016 standard.

So Why Change?

Although EN 388:2003 results were seen as a satisfactory indicator for lower cut resistance gloves, a number of flaws were identified for higher cut resistance (cut Level 4-5) ones, grouping together gloves where potentially large performance variances existed.

Why Did It Matter?

Accurate data is an essential element of a successful hand protection programme. But the pace at which fibre technology developed was making it increasingly challenging for H&S professionals to determine exact levels of cut performance using old EN 388 data. The scoring categories were not able to accurately reflect the performance variances seen in higher level cut resistance.

Under the old Standard, a glove with a cut index of 5 would be classed as having the same cut resistance as a glove with a cut index of 9.9 - almost twice the level of cut resistance.

So enter EN 388:2016 providing accurate performance data to enable a more informed decision about the level of protection offered by a specific glove.

Whilst manufacturers can introduce gloves on to the market with EN 388: 2003 certification until 21st April 2019, it is important to understand what the new standard means now.

Introducing EN 388:2016

Many of the fundamental aspects of EN 388:2003 remain. The test determines a protective glove’s performance against the primary mechanical hazards:

  • Abrasion
  • Blade Cut
  • Tear
  • Puncture

Every glove achieves a performance rating expressed by a pictogram, followed by four numbers representing performance against each specific hazard. The higher the numerical rating (0-4 for abrasion, tear and puncture / 0-5 for blade cuts), the higher the protection offered.

New to the Standard

Although EN 388:2003 results were seen as a satisfactory indicator for gloves with lower cut resistance, a number of flaws were identified for those with higher cut resistance (cut levels 4-5).

The liners used with the latter that are blended with glass-fibre can blunt the microscopic edge of the blade used in the Coup Test, whilst steel-based engineered yarns can stop the testing machine due to metal-to-metal contact without necessarily cutting through the material.

As a result, potentially large performance variances and inconsistent cut indices existed. The 2003 version of the standard used the Coup Test method only to indicate cut resistance performance.

In the 2016 version, the Coup Test is still used but with a significant development.

Under the new test method, the number of test cycles carried out by the blade is set to a maximum of 60, whether the blade has cut though the fabric or not, helping to overcome the limitation of the original test method.

Under the new coupe test method, when a sample has proven to blunt the blade (by a factor of 3 or above after the second reference fabric cut) the EN ISO 13977 cut resistance method then becomes the reference test method for the assessment of the protection against cut risks.

Performance levels remain the same as the 2003 version, with one significant exception; there are now six letter-based classification levels rather than 4.

The new levels provide greater performance results for cut resistant gloves and have been increased to six in line with the availability of higher cut resistant materials. Going from low to high to determine the level of cut resistance offered, the new levels include: A (2N), B (5N), C (10N) D (15N) which is higher than the current ISO cut level 4 (13N), level E (22N) is the same as the current ISO cut level 5, while level F (30N) is a new, higher cut level.

Results will be categorised as follows:

Abrasion and Impact Developments
In addition, new testing protocols covering abrasion and impact resistance have been created.

Abrasion Testing
Under the new test, the type of abrasive paper used for the test has changed. To measure the abrasion resistance, the glove material is fitted to a Martindale abrasion machine and the rubbing head moves over the material in an elliptical motion over a table covered with 180 grit abrasive material.

The number of cycles required to make a hole in the material will relate to the 1-4 level of abrasion performance.

Impact Resistance Testing 

This test is carried out in accordance with EN 13594:2015 6.9 Protective Gloves for Motorcycle Riders. The protective material/area is tested by being secured to a domed anvil and impacted with a 2.5kg flat face striker and energy of 5J. Gloves must meet the requirement of level 1 of EN 13594:2015 - the mean transmitted force shall be ≤7.0kN with no single results greater than ≤9.0kN.

If the glove meets this requirement, a ‘P’ is added as the last digit to the EN388: 2016 glove marking.
These results are reflected in a new pictogram performance format:


  • Abrasion Resistance 1-4
  • Circular Blade Cut Resistance 1-5
  • Tear Resistance 1-4
  • Puncture Resistance 1-4
  • Straight Blade Cut Resistance A-F
  • Impact resistance P

In Conclusion
The new EN 388 standard provides H&S managers with better performance data to guide hand protection decisions. It’s important to remember that the most effective protection from cuts is a combination of many factors. Not just the fibres of the glove or the number achieved from a cut score.

Education and training also plays a massive part in helping bring down the hand injury rates. We can offer a range of educational and training programmes to help drive home the message of hand protection to workers and our Globus Group Hand Protection Programme delivers tailored solutions starting with a free on site assessment of hand protection requirements across a business.

CATEGORY: Cut Resistance, Health and Safety, Standards

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