Technical Product Information

Hand Protection Standards and Ratings

Several standards pertain to safety gloves, these include:

  • EN420:2003 – General requirements for protective gloves
  • EN388:2016 – Mechanical protection
  • EN374:2014 – Protection from chemicals and micro-organisms
  • EN407:2004 – Protection from thermal hazards
  • EN511:2006 – Protection from cold
  • EN1149 – Antistatic
  • EN1186 – Food migration


Defines the general requirements for most types of protective gloves which includes glove construction, ergonomy, dexterity, innocuousness, product marking and packaging information, sizing, water vapour transmission and absorption as well as electrostatic properties. Sizing of gloves according to hand length and circumference is depicted in the table below:


A new or revised glove standard was released in 2016, EN388:2016, which replaced the existing EN388:2003 standard. As will be explained below, the EN 388:2016 supersedes EN 388:2003, but it only affects new product certification and will not apply retrospectively. Gloves may continue to be sold in South Africa under both versions of the standard until 2023 when, under the new PPE regulation, certification will need to be renewed to the latest version of the standard. Below we shall highlight the changes from the previous standard to the revised standard, describe each element of the standard and then explain the markings on gloves so that users may understand the ratings of a glove.

Standard Changes

The 2003 standard tested gloves according to their resistance to abrasion, tear and puncture with ratings of 0 – 4, with 4 being the highest performance level. The standard also tested gloves according to their cut resistance with a rating of 0 – 5, with 5 being the highest performance level.

The revised 2016 standard differs mainly in relation to cut resistance as well as the addition of impact protection. The revised standard tests gloves cut resistance with the existing Coup Method and additionally tests against a TDM blade test.

EN388:2016 Abrasion Resistance

Resistance to abrasion is performed by rubbing circular glove specimens against the specified grit paper under a force of 9 kilopascals in a Lissajous pattern. Abrasion is determined by observation of the specimen after a number of rubs defined by the performance level. Failure is observed once a complete breakthrough of the sample is reached. High performance materials can be tested to in excess of 8000 cycles until degradation of the sample is visible.

EN388:2016 Cut Protection

Coup Method, the Circular Blade Cut Resistance Tester measures the cut resistance of a material in accordance with EN388 (Clause 6.2). A test sample is cut from a glove and is clamped in a holder, which is placed onto the machine. A circular blade is gently lowered so that it touches the sample. The blade rotates whilst moving back and forth across the fabric, and when it penetrates the sample, the machine automatically stops. The number of cycles of the rotating blade is used to determine the cut index.

In the TDM blade test a tomodynamometer with a straight blade is drawn across the sample glove in one movement, with a new blade every time. The ‘stroke length’ before cut-through is recorded for a range of forces and graphs plotted to predict the force required to cut through the glove in 20mm of travel. This force is used to calculate a score from A to F, with F being the highest rating. Which EN388:2016 cut level do you choose? Below is a general guide to assist with the decision.

EN388:2016 Tear Protection

The Tensile Tester carries out tests where extension, stretch and compression against distance are required. The tear resistance of a fabric is defined as the force to tear the fabric. Four samples are tested for tearing force. Two rectangular specimens with a 50mm slit in the longitudinal direction are taken across the palm of 2 separate gloves, and two specimens are taken along the length of 2 separate gloves. The highest tearing force for each specimen is recorded and a classification level of 1-4 is determined by taking the lowest of the four results achieved.

EN388:2016 Puncture Protection

The Tensile Tester carries out tests where extension, stretch and compression against distance are required. The puncture resistance of a fabric is defined as the force required for a needle to break through the material. A 4mm probe with a rounded stylus is pressed at force 50mm into the material at a speed of 100mm/min. The test is carried out on 4 specimens where the highest value of force is recorded. The final result is the lowest obtained value and determines the puncture score that is given between levels 1-4.

EN388:2016 Impact Protection

The impact test is a new optional addition to the EN388 standard, designed for gloves that provide impact resistance (usually to the back of the hand and knuckles). Gloves are tested to EN 13594:2015 Protective Gloves for Motorcycle Riders. Where gloves have passed the test the letter ‘P’ will be displayed, if a fail, there will be no marking.

Understanding Glove Markings and Performance Levels

The below diagram will provide information which will enable an individual to understand the markings on gloves and resultant safety features.

With regards to the updated or revised 2016 standards the first four numbers remain the same, the new TDM cut result will appear in the 5th position and if the glove passes the impact protection test, the letter P will appear in the 6th position. Gloves which have not been tested under the Blade Cut Test (B) will have a letter ‘X’ shown to indicate not tested or not applicable and only results from the ISO 13997 cut test (E) will be displayed as shown in the glove markings table above, or vice versa.


To be discussed in detail in a separate document due to extent of standard and sub-standards.


The heat and flame pictogram on a glove is shown with 6 numbers, representing performance levels against specific thermal hazard tests, the performance levels of each 6 categories are listed in the table below.


In cold environments it is extra important to protect the hands from cold burns. This standard measures how well the glove can withstand both convective cold and contact cold down to -50°C. In addition, water permeation is tested after 30 minutes.

  • The first figure shows how well the glove protects against convective cold, the glove will be given a performance level of 0-4 with 4 providing the highest level of protection.
  • The second figure shows how well the glove protects against contact cold; the glove will be given a performance level of 0-4 with 4 providing the highest level of protection.
  • The third figure shows the glove protection against water penetration. Performance 0 or 1 where 0 indicates “water penetration after 30 minutes” and 1 indicates “no water penetration after 30 minutes”.


EN 1149-5:2008 is a European Standard which specifies the performance and design requirements for electrostatic dissipative clothing, used as part of an earthed clothing system to avoid the build-up of static charges. There are a number of important applications where the use of antistatic hand protection is of critical importance, such as:

  • To prevent charge build-up and release in flammable atmospheric environments where there is a risk of incendiary discharge
  • To avoid damage to sensitive electronic componentry during assembly processes
  • To control the attraction of dust and other contaminants to critical pre-painted surfaces

Two different test methods exist for the characterisation of antistatic performance according to EN 1149-5.


The regulation governs the substances that may be used in the manufacture of food contact materials (including gloves for food handling) and specifies that under normal foreseeable conditions of use, they do not transfer their constituents to food in quantities which could:

  • Endanger human health; or
  • Bring about an unacceptable change in the composition of the food; or
  • Bring about a deterioration in the organoleptic characteristics (i.e texture, taste, aroma)

To ensure food contact materials comply with these regulations a series of test standards are applied (EN 1186) to determine migration levels from contact materials into the food using a variety of food simulants.

Compliance with the allowable limits enables food gloves to be marked with the following ‘food safe’ pictogram:

Article prepared and written by Hayden Hill – 10.09.2020

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