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The Hand Protection Blog

Standard EN 388 is changing - What you need to know

EN388 Rating ChangesWhy the change?

EN 388:2003, the standard that determines a protective glove’s performance against mechanical hazards, is changing. One of the changes relates specifically to cut protection performance. This is happening because, today, a large performance variance can exist for gloves considered highly cut-resistant (EN 388 cut level 4 to 5).

The current method used to test cut-resistance for EN 388 is not ideal for gloves featuring liners blended with steel and glass because the test blade can rapidly become blunt (see outline of process below).  So now, other data is being considered to provide an additional cut performance indicator - data from the ISO 13997 test.

But why does this matter?

The accident figures are still too high. Cuts to the hand from sharp objects contribute to the undesirable statistic of 909,000 working days being lost due to handling injuries (Labour Force Survey + see more stats below).  Specifying a glove that provides workers with the appropriate amount of resistance to blade cuts for the task at hand is crucial in helping to keep workers safe and companies efficient. 

Main differences between EN 388 and EN ISO 13997 cut resistance tests

EN 388 (also called the ‘Coup Test’)

  1. A test sample is taken from the palm of a glove.
  2. A rotating circular blade moves back and forth across the test sample until a cut-through is achieved.
  3. A reference material is introduced, typically cotton canvas fabric.
  4. The reference material and the test sample are cut alternately until at least five results are achieved.
  5. To help account for a loss in sharpness over several cutting strokes, the reference material is cut before and after the test sample.
  6. The cut resistance is a ratio of the number of cycles needed to cut through the test sample compared with the reference material.

EN388 Coup Test Diagram

EN ISO 13997 (similar method to the ASTM F1790 test used in the United States)

  1. Uses a straight blade to draw across the fabric sample material at a constant speed and constant force.
  2. Sample is positioned on a curved surface and force is applied from below.
  3. The sharpness of the blade is calibrated in order to provide the most accurate information.
  4. Each time the blade makes a complete cycle or cuts through the sample, it must be replaced with a new blade to ensure accuracy.
  5. Cut-through is determined when electrical contact is recorded between the blade and the test device surface.
  6. If sample contains metal yarns, a thin plastic film is placed between the test device surface and fabric to prevent any electrical contact through the fabric itself.
  7. The sample is cut five times each at three different loads.
  8. The distance travelled to cause cut through at various forces is recorded.
  9. The data is used to determine the required load to cut through the sample.

What’s changing?

The European EN 388 Standard project recommends that when gloves offering high levels of cut protection (EN 388: level 4 and 5) are needed, results of the EN ISO 13997 test method should be considered. This will cross-validate the glove’s cut level performance.

The ISO test methods are expected to be adopted within the EN 388 test method (estimated 2016), when its revision is due, with results categorised and displayed as follows:-











EN ISO cut resistance in Newton value










These Newton values are still to be validated by the European committee

In the future, the additional ISO performance level result may be added as a 5th digit following the existing EN 388 test results under the pictogram. For example:

EN388 Rating Changes

And finally…

It’s important to remember that neither test method is 100% reflective of actual performance, but they do provide a good indicator.  All applications vary and effective protection from cuts is a combination of many factors, not just the fibres used in the construction of the glove or the number achieved from a cut score – education and training also play a massive part in helping to bring down the hand accident rates and that is a subject for another day.

If you are thinking, ‘what is the best cut-resistant glove for my workforce?’, we can help.  You can browse our cut-resistant range or why not ask for one of our hand protection experts to give you a call to discuss your specific situation?

(Source for ISO 13997 test process: SATRA)

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Accident Stats

Accidents in the UK, and beyond, are still occurring in the workplace – these Health & Safety Executive statistics for 2013-14 highlight the problem which many employers had to deal with.

  • There were around three times as many 7+ day injuries (58,716) as major/specified injuries (18,877);
  • According to the Health & Safety Executive, handling was the most frequent cause of 7+ day injury (RIDDOR) – this includes injuries due to lifting, carrying, pushing or pulling loads; strains; sprains; trapped fingers and cuts from sharp objects;
  • An average of 6.6 days were lost for each handling injury (LFS);
  • Three industry sectors account for 30% of employment, but for more than half of reported 7+ day injuries – these sectors are health & social care (11,238), manufacturing (10,436) and transport & storage (8,483);
  • The latest 3 year averaged estimates from the Labour Force Survey showed an estimated 54,000 reportable handling injuries resulted in more than three days’ absence from work - this was a rate of 190 per 100,000 workers.

If you like stats there are many more at:


Organisations should also note The Manual Handling Operations Regulations 1992 (MHO) which require employers and employees to reduce the risks of injury from manual handling as far as reasonably practicable.

CATEGORY: Cut Resistance, Standards

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