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Taking the Pain Out of the Selection of Cut-Resistant Gloves

Understanding the revised hand protection standards for cut-resistant gloves can help you select the best gloves for your workforce and job tasks.

Our hands consist of bones, ligaments, muscles, tendons, nerves, blood vessels, skin and nails.  Working in unison, they provide strength and dexterity enabling us to perform routine tasks and accomplish precision movements – until an injury happens. 

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics has been reporting data on nonfatal workplace injuries by body part affected for more than a decade. Injuries to upper extremities consistently top the list of nonfatal injuries, with hand injuries making up the largest subsection. Hands are susceptible to many types of injuries, including strains, sprains, burns, cuts, lacerations, punctures, fractures and amputations.

In 2015, there were more than 902,000 nonfatal injuries involving days away from work in private industry. Injuries to upper extremities topped the list with more than 294,000 injuries, and injuries to the hand accounted for more than 124,000 of those injuries.

In an effort to understand the incidence of and contributing factors to workplace hand injuries, a survey of more than 400 safety professionals, co-partnered by the American Society of Safety Engineers (ASSE), was completed in late 2015. Survey respondents were asked to rank which type of hand injury was most common, and 41 percent ranked cuts or punctures at the top. Another question asked why these injuries occurred. The top reason cited – by more than 40 percent – was lack of personal protective equipment or cut-resistant gloves.

When engineering and administrative controls are not enough, cut-resistant gloves can help prevent hand injuries. To ensure the correct cut-resistant gloves are being selected, you have to understand the current industry standards and levels of cut protection.  

Industry Standards and Levels of Cut Protection

Two standards are used to evaluate the cut protection levels of gloves. The American National Standards Institute/International Safety Equipment Association (ANSI/ISEA) 105 “American National Standard for Hand Protection” is the U.S. standard for glove testing. The European standard – EN388 “Protective Gloves against Mechanical Risks” – is the European Union (EU) standard for glove testing and it also is referenced globally. Both ANSI/ISEA 105 and EN388 are used to test gloves for mechanical risks such as abrasion, cut, tear and puncture, with cut ratings generating the most interest amongst glove users. 

ANSI/ISEA 105-2016 is the fourth revision of the voluntary consensus standard that first was published in 1999. Significant changes to the cut-resistance classification determinations have been made through the years.