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What You Need to Know About The changes to EN388: Protective gloves against mechanical risk

Aug 03 2018, 09:46 AM

As a leading supplier of Healthcare and Janitorial consumables, Brosch Direct is uniquely placed to gain insight into the effects of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) Regulatory change.

In 2016 the EN388 standard for PPE protective gloves against mechanical risk was revised and came into force this April. Though many have hailed this as a positive change which will more effectively protect end users and consumers, the changes have caused some confusion. As such, we have summed up the key points for consideration when it comes to this updated standard and the new PPE regulations.


Three main changes have been made to the testing of protective handwear. The areas of testing which have been updated are:

  1. Abradant - the specification for the abrasive paper has changed.
  2. Impact – a new parameter for impact resistance has been included.
  3. Cutting – a second test called the ISO cut method has been added and is utilised when the blade is blunted during the initial Coupe test.
Under new guidelines, the specifications of the abrasion testing will differ. While previous specifications of paper weight, abrasive size, breaking strength, and backing paper will stay in force, it will also be necessary to use a Grit 180 Klingspor PL13B abradant paper in testing.

Impact testing has also been introduced on an optional level. To display the relevant “p” marker, gloves should pass a test during which they are subjected to the force of a flat, 2.5 kg metal hammer dropped from sufficient height to create an impact energy of 5 Joules. This test will be repeated four times with four different gloves to test consistency.

Finally, and most controversially, changes have been made to the testing for cut resistance. The coupe test will now be stopped at 60 cycles to check the blade for blunting; if the blade has been blunted the glove will then undergo the ISO (ENISO13997:1999) test to provide a more accurate classification for cut resistance.

Cut Resistance Classification
The confusion caused by EN388:2016 is almost entirely a result of the changes to the cut resistance classification.  Because of the changes, cut resistance on the pictogram can now be shown in three different ways:


Each of the three scores above could potentially refer to the same glove because of the changes to the cut resistance testing methods.
However, in cases where both tests have been applied the coupe score is shown only for     information; the ISO score is considered the official classification.

The confusion this can cause amongst end users as they try to determine the suitability of a glove for their purposes is huge, but this is not the most concerning factor at work.

Two Key Concerns to Consider

Brosch Direct has found that there are two main areas of concern within the EN388:2016 standard changes. They are:
  1. The potential for result manipulation.
  2. End-user confusion.
In terms of cut resistance testing, we at Brosch Direct have found that gloves of level 4 or 5 will almost always cause blunting to the test blade used in the coupe method during the now limited 60 cycles. As the classification method for this test works with an index that accounts for the number of cycles which can be run, high resistance gloves which previously scored well may score lower (because the calculation of the end result is based upon the number of cycles and as the number of cycles is limited to a lower number this may have an effect on the final figure)

This makes ISO testing a certainty for many high-resistance gloves but may also cause confusion amongst end users because gloves of the same quality as those they have used previously may have a lower score despite no product changes having been made. The mandatory use of ISO testing is a concern for Brosch Direct as we have observed that variations in blades, calibration materials, and the irregular analysis of tests results (thanks to a lack of specification in analysis graph types or methods), makes ISO test results very susceptible to manipulation. The set standards do not define which type of graph should be used to accurately assess results, and so there can be huge differences between manufacturers. An example graph is shown below:

In this example, the same results were taken and analysed by two independent laboratories. Because of the differences in the graph of best fit used, one laboratory gave the glove a level B for cut resistance, while the other gave it a level D. This is considerable difference, and it was caused by the fact that one facility always uses the exponential graph, while the calculates the r2 value by using a series of graphs before selecting the line of best fit.

As such, results can be legitimately manipulated for best effect.

What Does This Really Mean for Us?
All these changes will have a noticeable impact, of course, but the potential confusion that could result from the new cut resistance testing methods is of most concern.

To counteract potential confusion amongst consumers, Brosch Direct will display only the relevant scores on their products. Thus, gloves which undergo both ISO and coupe testing will display only the ISO testing scores. We believe that showing both scores adds little or no value, and only complicates the matter of determining suitability for the task in mind. In fact, there is a clear statement in EN388:2016 which confirms that there is no value in doing otherwise because:

“There is no correlation between the levels of performance obtained with the 6.2 & 6.3 test methods.”

As such you can be sure when using genuine Brosch Direct gloves that the scores which are shown are accurate and do not try to intimate correlations between the two test procedures or manipulate the scores obtained.

BSI Quality Management

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