This next blog will take a closer look at gloves that offer cut protection. Sometimes referred to as slash resistant gloves, this is hand protection for applications that involve work with sharp objects. We will cover the main industries, the latest safety standards and classifications, and the various other factors that all influence which glove is right for a particular application.
There are a huge range of industries and applications that bring operators into contact with sharp objects. The below list is a brief overview of the core sectors, but it is crucial to take a case-by-case approach when specifying protective gloves, and consider whether the application demands a degree of cut resistance.
The main industries for anti-cut gloves are:
- Food production
- Metal Fabrication
- Refuse and Recycling
- Utility Operations
This isn’t an exhaustive list, and while it covers the key applications that involve direct contact with sharp materials, there are a number of other industries that may indirectly expose the wearer, such as agriculture, chilled operations, oil & gas, and rail. The key, as with all PPE, is to ensure that the equipment is matched to the specific application it will be used in.
Using the latest standard
Anti-cut fibre technology has developed rapidly over the last decade. The level of protection now offered by the newest gloves is significantly better than 10 or 15 years ago, and because of this, the tests used to define how protective a glove is have had to change.
The EN388 standard is used to indicate how much mechanical resistance a glove will provide, with the updated EN388:2016 version providing information on the following:
- Abrasion resistance
- Circular blade cut resistance
- Tear resistance
- Puncture resistance
- Straight blade cut resistance
- Impact resistance
All of the above are given a score, based on how well the glove performs in each of the relevant tests. This forms an at-a-glance indication of what levels of protection a glove provides, which we’ve covered here in a separate blog.
The key change in the latest standard is a more ‘real world’ test of cut resistance, which is represented by the straight blade cut rating. The traditional coupe test was proving inaccurate, as the gloves being tested were starting to blunt the circular saw, and therefore affect results.
A new TDM-100 test was brought in, which measured the amount of force required for a new, straight blade to cut through glove liner material at a constant speed of 2.5mm/s over a distance of 20mmm. This is a more accurate simulation of the type of hazards that operators are likely to encounter, and is represented in classifications by a letter (A being the lowest protection, F being the highest).
This is where the dangers of relying on old standards becomes clear. Some level 5 cut resistant gloves are only achieving a resistance level of C under the new testing, suggesting that wearers are not as well protected as they think they are. Crucially, cut level 5 protection can now be offered by those classified as D-F, which offers more versatility when choosing PPE. While F offers the very highest protection against cuts, those tasked with specifying high levels of protection can opt for gloves classified from D upwards, based on whether the end-user also requires other features e.g. dexterity. As ever, approaching specification with an application-specific mindset is key.
Key considerations for cut resistant safety gloves
First and foremost, cut protection gloves are there to protect the wearer from sharp objects. The primary concern is safety, and using the latest standards to find the appropriate cut resistant level for the required task will always be the priority.
However, as with all protective equipment, it is important to be aware of the various other factors involved in the target application. The main mechanical resistance considerations have been outlined above, with a fairly prescriptive process for addressing these i.e. for applications that involve a risk of coming into contact with needles and syringes, use the standard to find puncture resistant gloves.
There are certain factors that fall outside of EN388:2016, and these require a considered approach to ensure they are addressed at the specification stage. Aside from protection, perhaps the most important attribute of gloves is the dexterity offered to the wearer. Some applications may require operators to undertake fiddly, complex tasks, and in these cases it is crucial their equipment allows them to do so.
This is important for a number of reasons. Firstly, if wearers of the glove are unable to complete tasks as effectively with them on, productivity will decrease. It may even result in the gloves having to be removed for the most complex tasks, which not only wastes time, but also has dangerous health and safety implications. It is also likely that hand fatigue will become a major factor with incorrectly specified gloves, putting the long-term health of wearers at greater risk.
Once the necessary dexterity has been determined, attention needs to be given to the full range of hazards that an operator may come into contact with. As ever, this varies from task to task, but the following are the main factors that should be considered:
- Breathability – crucial for comfort, especially when wearing gloves for extended periods of time. Pawā’s PG530 is a good example of this.
- Thermal – for cold environment applications, look for gloves such as Pawā’s PG540, covered in a previous blog.
- Heat-resistance – particularly important in foundry and manufacturing applications. Pawā’s PG520 kevlar glove is a great example of this.
- Oil-resistance – particularly important in the automotive and oil & gas industries. Pawā’s PG510 offers this kind of protection.
- Water-repellence – largely linked with comfort and preventing skin irritations such as dermatitis
Even in circumstances where the primary concern is cut resistance, the full range of applications that an operator will be completing should inform the decision on which gloves to purchase. Pawā workwear offers a number of gloves which are classed as ‘multi-norm’, which essentially protect against multiple different hazards.
Finding the right cut proof gloves can be challenging, but with the introduction of EN388:2016, those tasked with specifying PPE should be able to find the right level of cut resistance. From here, the various other factors listed above need to be considered, ultimately working towards finding the optimum balance for wearers.
By adopting a case-by-case approach and liaising with PPE manufacturers and suppliers, operators working in safety-critical environments can be assured of possessing appropriate protective equipment.