Everything You Need To Know
About Work Gloves
Work gloves make up £81.4 million of the Safety Equipment & Supplies Wholesaling industry in the UK. That's a lot of people wearing protective gloves!
Whether you're in construction, facilities management, rail or working on any other manual task, there's no better way of getting the job done safely and cost-effectively than a great pair of work gloves. Safety gloves are especially vital in any profession which involves coming into contact with sharp equipment, extreme temperatures or highly abrasive surfaces.
If you've previously thought your team is exempt from needing hand protection while they carry out hazardous tasks, we urge you think again. Today, someone somewhere will experience a tragic workplace accident that changes the way they function forever - don't let that be you or a worker you're responsible for.
In this guide, we'll cover the key EN glove standards, a step by step process of how to master glove selection, and the different categories for work safety gloves.
It's time to be a safety glove pro and keep your people safe!
Knowing Your EN Glove Standards
Safety standards help keep us protected at work.
Knowing your EN glove standards gives you the power to make wise, educated decisions about which gloves are appropriate for which tasks.
This said, it’s not recommended to select a glove style based solely on the rating it’s received. Before settling on a work glove to rollout, we advise running a trial with those who’ll be using the gloves for protection. Then with the user feedback, your company Risk Assessment Method Statement (RAMS) and the glove EN ratings in hand, your decision will be accurate, ultimately enhancing workforce safety.
Each EN Standards has its own symbol, relevant to the risks it is tested against. The individual requirements within a standard are represented by a number or a letter. The higher the number, the greater the level of hand protection.
EN 420:2003 + a1: 2009
general requirements for protective gloves & test methods
This is a test rarely spoken about in great detail, as it’s a requirement for all CE marked gloves. EN420 ensures work gloves themselves are not harmful to the user and that they reach an acceptable level of comfort.
- pH Value
STANDARD FOR GLOVES PROTECTING AGAINST MECHANICAL RISKS
EN 388 is a widely-recognised standard which safety gloves are commonly tested against across a huge range of industries. Any glove in the market which is categorised as cut-resistant should be marked to this standard.
So what exactly is it?
The EN 388 standard uses index values to rate the performance level of a glove in protecting the user against mechanical risks. As per EN388:2016 the tests are as follows:
- Abrasion (1-4)
- Coup Blade Cut Test (1-5)
- Tear (1-4)
- Puncture (1-4)
- EN ISO 13997 (A-F) New for 2016 standard
- Impact New for 2016 standard
Why is the new EN ISO 13997 cut test needed?
EN ISO 13997 gives a more accurate a more accurate specification in terms of cut resistance during work which includes differing impact based hazards.
It should be noted that there’s no correlation between the coup test and the new TDM test - if a sample fabric performs well in one test method it doesn’t necessarily mean it’ll also achieve good results in the other.
STANDARD FOR GLOVES PROTECTING AGAINST THERMAL HAZARDS
Heat resistant safety gloves are required for numerous applications including food manufacturing, pressings, mouldings, kiln work, foundry work, glass manufacture and engineering.
The EN 407 standard comprises of 6 different performance tests:
- Flammability resistance (0 - 4)
- Contact heat resistance (0 - 4)
- Convective heat resistance (0 - 4)
- Radiant heat resistance (0 - 4)
- Resistance to small splashes of molten metal (0 - 4)
- Resistance to large splashes of molten metal (0 - 4)
If certain gloves haven’t been tested for one or more of these qualities, they’ll be marked with an X.
STANDARD FOR GLOVES PROTECTING AGAINST COLD
The risks of working in cold conditions with inadequate protection are often underestimated. Read this blog to find out more.
Thermal gloves should be worn by any worker exposed to temperatures below 4°C. This standard applies to any gloves designed to give protection against convective and contact cold down to -50 °C.
The performance tests are as follows:
- Resistance to convective cold (0-4)
- Resistance to contact cold (0-4)
- Penetration by water (0 or 1)
If the work glove is only designed for a particular resistance, the other two will be marked with an X.
STANDARD FOR GLOVES PROTECTING AGAINST CHEMICALS AND MICRO-ORGANISMS
as of 2016 revision, Chemical protective gloves are tested via three methods:
- Penetration test
- Permeation test
- Degradation test
The ‘chemical resistant’ glove symbol is always accompanied by a minimum three-digit code, which refers to the code letters of the chemicals (see here for full list), for which a breakthrough time of at least 30 minutes has been obtained.
A Revised StandardDownload our free Guide
STANDARD FOR GLOVES PROTECTING AGAINST RADIOACTIVE CONTAMINATION AND IONISING RADIATION
As yet, there are no TraffiGlove products marked to the EN 421 standard. Those in the nuclear industry may be required to wear safety gloves which protect against such risks.
IONISING RADIATION requirements:
- The glove has to be liquid proof and pass the penetration test defined in EN374.
- For protective gloves specified for use in containment enclosures, it needs to pass an additional specific air pressure leak test.
- Optional test: materials may be modelled by their behaviour to ozone cracking.
RADIOACTIVE CONTAMINATION REQUIREMENTS:
- To protect from ionising radiation, the glove has to contain a certain amount of lead or equivalent metal, quoted as lead equivalence. This lead equivalence must be marked on each glove.
Foolproof Glove Selection Process
How Often do you use Your Hands in a Day?
Everyone knows the morning rush to work right? You wake up, maybe press the snooze button a couple of times, grab some breakfast, brush your teeth, tie your shoelaces and shoot out the door. You use your hands for all these things, and that’s before you’ve even arrived at work!
Imagine a life where all these actions are made more difficult, or even impossible?
Appropriate glove selection is vital in protecting hands against risks in the workplace. Many operatives don’t know how to select the right glove for their job, or even why they need hand protection at all. This leads to a higher risk of injury, and a potential loss of productivity.
Luckily, we’re here to break down protective, work glove selection into easy, bite-size chunks. Using the following advice, and an up-to-date risk assessment, you’ll be on track for glove selection success!
1.THE NATURE OF THE TASK
Every job has its own set of requirements. For example, in scaffolding, handling the poles will require a good level of abrasion and tear protection, as well as the ability to maintain a strong grip in both dry and wet weather conditions. In contrast, detailed plumbing jobs will need gloves that provide high levels of dexterity and protection against the risk of cut on sharp metal edges.
Taking the time to fully understand what a job entails will give you the knowledge you need to choose a safety glove that provides suitable protection against all the risks involved.
When working in wet conditions there’ll be a number of potential requirements – to help the worker keep comfortable, it’s good to supply water-resistant gloves. This changes from a want to a need when wet conditions are mixed with a cold environment or contaminated waters. Other times, the major requirement is for a protective glove coating which will maintain grip.
Most work gloves should be suitable for dry environments. However, issues can arise when the wearer has to keep the gloves on for long periods of time. The hand may sweat, and combined with dust from external environments this can cause discomfort. As such, try looking for gloves that are ‘breathable’ or use moisture wicking technology.
The most important feature for gloves used in oily environments is grip. Generally speaking, a nitrile coating will be better than a PU coating for protecting hands against any contact risk, as well as keeping a better hold on oily components.
Being exposed to cold weather or refrigerated environments can be dangerous if inadequately dressed. Your nose, ears, hands and feet suffer the greatest risk. It’s vital to keep hands sufficiently protected and dry to avoid injuries such as frostbite, HAVS and chilblains. At TraffiGlove, we offer a thermal liner which can be worn under the wearers’ normal work glove.
If this is applicable to your working environment, it is important to identify the specific type of heat being worked with - dry or moist? Thermal or atmospheric? Presence of an open flame or spark? And of course, the temperature.
On a slightly different level of the word, the initial heat emitted from ARC FLASH can reach up to 4 times hotter than the sun! Workplaces at risk of arc flash, therefore, require more than just ordinary heat resistant gloves. You can check here for specialist arc flash gloves.
This is perhaps the most varied of all environments as there’s a wide spectrum of chemicals a worker may come into contact with. To protect yourself against such substances, a glove that meets the EN374-3 standard should be worn. It’s hard to fully remove chemicals from the gloves and therefore it’s not recommended to wear the same pair the next day as it may have eroded the material.
Now you're well on the way to being a safety glove selection pro!
To summarise, the findings from an evaluation of working environments will directly affect the coatings you choose.
Although we can give advice about suitable work gloves for certain jobs, the final selection ultimately rests with the employer / Health & Safety Manager. A thorough risk assessment should be carried out for each department leading to a specified glove to use.
Below are the 4 simple steps to conducting a risk assessment:
- Identify the risk
- Measure the severity / categorise the risk
- Manage the risk
- Review the risk
Risk assessments should always be updated, especially if any changes are made to processes or you feel the risk assessment is outdated in any way.
HSE's Risk Assessment & Policy
TemplateDownload for free
Once you’ve decided which product(s) you’re likely to go for, we recommend you carry out a user trial. No one is better placed to provide input on the effectiveness of a work glove for a certain task than those who use it every day.
If the protective glove is proving suitable for the trade, it’s worthwhile letting the trial run as long as the glove lasts. This way, you can record the glove life in comparison to the current style you’re using, helping you track any cost savings made.
Inviting your workers to be a part of the decision-making process can help promote overall buy-in to the hand protection programme.
5.BUYING GLOVES: PRICE VS COST
You might think price and cost mean the same thing, but when we’re talking about safety gloves there’s an important distinction to make. To put it simply: price is what it says on the swing ticket, while cost, is the true overall representation of how much you’ve spent/saved.
Such factors to consider are:
- Wear life of the glove
- The glove's ability to protect against hand injuries
- Whether the glove can improve worker performance and productivity
- Whether you can launder the glove
With this in mind, there are often underlying concerns with really cheap gloves too. This isn’t obvious just by appearance, or necessarily if you try the glove on. But they are fundamentally vital.
Shortcuts to slash costs may include:
- Poor factory standards
- Inefficient quality control
- Outdated certification
- Yarn properties
- Composition & thickness of coatings
- Finishing off – making the glove ready for the wearer
Proper protective glove selection will increase workplace safety for your company. It’ll also boost employee morale and improve overall productivity.
6.LOOKING AFTER YOUR GLOVES
New work gloves must be closely examined before the first wear to check for any manufacturing faults. If the gloves are damaged in any way they shouldn’t be worn as they won’t provide the maximum levels of protection they’re designed for
Once the gloves have been accepted as serviceable, they’ll need to be inspected every day. Check for rips, tears or any thinning of the materials that would suggest the gloves have reached the ‘worn out’ stage and are no longer providing the required level of protection.
Gloves should be turned inside out before rinsing using tepid warm water and then left to dry naturally. It’s important that no chemicals are used when washing gloves as this could degrade the coating. All safety gloves should be inspected after washing to ensure the coating is still present and intact.
Gloves By Category
There’s a sea of work gloves out there…
Understanding different glove categories can keep personnel safe and protected against workplace hazards. Once the nature of the task and the working environments have been determined, you’ll be able to choose which type of gloves are needed and what specific characteristics your choice needs to have.
As technologies and standards continually improve in the glove manufacturing process, there’s a higher expectation for gloves that are comfortable, dexterous and allow you to perform your job effectively and safely.
In this chapter, we’ll cover the following (take note this is not a definitive list, just the key categories)
Safety gloves that protect your hands from cuts and slashes
Gloves protecting your hands against cold hazards
Gloves that protect your hands against thermal hazards
Gloves that protect against an incident of arc flash
We'll explain how gloves claiming to reduce the risk don't really work...
Gloves engineered to be compatible with touchscreen devices
CUT RESISTANT work GLOVES
There are 3 types of cut resistant gloves:
- Metal mesh (the kind butchers use)
- Seamless knitted (this is the type we’ll be focusing on)
In seamless knitted liners, the cut protection is provided by high-performance materials such as Para-aramid HPPE. Using these yarns, the gloves are knitted to a specified gauge (the higher the gauge, the thinner the glove), and then dipped or coated with some form of Latex, Nitrile or Polyurethane.
Understanding cut resistant glove coatingsRead our blog post
Current test - coup test method vs NEW EN IS0 13997 TDM TEST
There is no correlation between the two cut tests and therefore you cannot compare a cut level 5 to a cut level D, for example.
The cut resistance is engineered in the liner, while the type of coating changes the glove’s application.
Cut resistant gloves - Polyurethane
PU gloves are seen by many as the obvious choice of cut-resistant gloves. This is because they’re usually soft and stretchy, in addition to having good puncture and abrasion resistance. For all of this, PU gloves aren’t bulky and don’t compromise on touch sensitivity or grip. Often set at a lower price point than other cut resistant gloves.
However, the coating on PU gloves has a tendency to penetrate into the seamless knit liner and can sometimes heighten skin sensitivity issues. The PU coating is also non-breathable so is often used just as a finger or palm dip style to reduce any perspiration build up inside the glove.
Overall, PU gloves are excellent for general purpose activities, particularly in light manufacturing and small part assembly type operations.
CUT RESISTANT GLOVES - latex coated
Latex has very high elasticity and outstanding grip compared to other safety glove materials, especially when it’s been processed to form a crinkled surface. Crinkle surface styles offer great grip, cut/tear resilience, and are often used in handling rough wood, boxes, cut stone, scrap metal, and concrete block. Latex also has good durability and strength and is able to withstand extreme temperatures.
However, it should be noted, the soluble protein content levels found in some latex coated gloves can cause allergic reactions for wearers who suffer from latex allergies.
Tends to be popular in the construction industry with tasks such as ground working, bricklaying etc. They aren’t suitable for use in oily conditions, however, and performs poorly with hydrocarbon and organic solvents.
CUT RESISTANT GLOVES - nitrile coated
Nitrile coated gloves are a good alternative for people who can’t wear latex gloves.
They offer excellent puncture and tear resistance and, whilst not flame-resistant *, they perform well in a range of temperatures. The superior strength of nitrile rubber also makes it more resistant to chemicals, oils and acid than natural rubber.
Foamed nitrile gives the coating a sponge-like property, which performs great when in contact with smooth, oily surfaces. In effect, any surface oil is soaked up and displaced, meaning grip can be significantly improved.
Flat nitrile coatings provide a high level of oil and water resistance and offer good grip in dry conditions. It’s often combined with a knuckle or wrist dip first coat under a foam palm coating to provide a highly durable oil and water resistant coating.
However, a weakness of nitrile coated gloves is that wearers can sometimes find them less dexterous, as nitrile doesn’t have the same micron thickness properties as PU, for example.
Nitrile is a superb choice for use in abrasive material handling, building construction, small parts assembly, metal fabricating, oil and petrochemical refining, and automotive and battery manufacturing.
If nitrile ticks the boxes for your coating needs but you need to have increased tactility and comfort, we would recommend seeking our latest Microdex technology coatings.
*EN 407 test requirements will apply.
Thermal gloves need to:
- Keep the hands warm (no prizes for guessing that one!)
- Be water resistant – when hands are damp, they are much more susceptible to the risks of working in the cold
- Offer sufficient dexterity
Anyone working in conditions below 4°C should wear thermal gloves.
Our Thermic Range consists of flexible, comfortable single layer winter ready gloves with a latex matt finish palm coating for excellent grip in wet and dry conditions. The brushed acrylic inner lining keeps the hands warm while offering resistance from the elements and moisture.
That said, if your task requires a more specialist glove, better agility or full liquid protection, it’s worth considering a Thermal Liner. This is a close fitting, seamless knitted thermal liner that can be worn under the user’s normal size glove without reducing dexterity. Thermal Liners are often used with a fully coated work glove for cold, wet environments.
HEAT RESISTANT GLOVES
As mentioned in the environments section, it’s incredibly important to understand what tasks will be involved – and therefore which risks will be encountered - before choosing a heat resistant glove.
The term contact heat resistance means not feeling any pain from the heat for up to 15 seconds. It’s important to understand this and not try and use the protective gloves for holding or working with hot apparatus for long periods of time.
Our Kinetic Range has the highest level of flammability resistance and offers contact of initial 100°C, making it a great choice for those in the automotive industry or tasks which involve metalwork and fabrication.
ARC FLASH GLOVES
When an arc flash occurs, hands are usually the first body part to catch fire due to their close proximity to the fault. As such, workers should not wear gloves which may easily burn, ignite or don’t provide any protection from heat.
Rubber insulating work gloves have long since been the norm for tasks that carry an arc flash risk. However, rubber gloves can be incredibly bulky and limit dexterity, making them difficult to work in. Due to this, many non-rubber, lightweight arc flash gloves are now entering the market. However, it is important to understand that knitted arc flash gloves do not protect against electric shock/conductivity.
Such safety gloves are made from a material which is innately flame resistant (leather, aramid, coated nylon, and glass) or treated. These types of arc flash gloves are far more comfortable than their rubber counterparts and often provide more protection. These seamless knit solutions can also increase the level of cut protection of the EN 388 standard.
Dangers, Consequences & Reducing The RiskDownload our Guide
Hand-arm vibration syndrome (HAVS) is the term used for a collection of debilitating conditions associated with the continuous use of hand-held power tools and industrial equipment. The violent vibrations from such machinery can cause damage to nerves, bones, tendons, muscles and blood vessels, leading to chronic ailments such as carpel tunnel syndrome (CTS) and vibration white finger (VWF).
There are ‘anti-vibration’ gloves available to buy on the market, but these provide little protection to the wearer against HAVS. In fact, the HSE warns that:
...[anti-vibration gloves] are not particularly effective at reducing the frequency-weighted vibration associated with risk of HAVS and they can increase the vibration at some frequencies.
Instead, workers exposed to such risks must be aware of these simple and effective measures to take:
- Using tools with reduced vibration
- Taking regular breaks
- Limiting length of time using the tools
- Keeping the body warm if working in cold conditions to improve blood circulation and reduce damage
How to protect your hands from risk of HAVSView blog post
Due to the automation of many factory processes, and the ever-increasing reliance on technology for many areas of our lives, the demand for touchscreen gloves is noticeably increasing.
In order to make a work glove fully touchscreen compatible, the liner has to be knitted with a conductive yarn. This is because the screen can be operated by anything that holds an electrical charge – that includes human skin.
Sometimes cheaper touchscreen gloves just add an element with conductive properties into the coating to make it work. However, this will only last as long as the glove is clean (as dirt will interfere), and the conductive fibres may wash out if the glove is laundered.
TG4090 ICONIC 4
As mentioned above, we can only recommend the hand protection we believe will be suitable for your tasks. Ultimately it comes down to the company’s risk assessment and user trials to ensure the correct safety glove is chosen.
We know this might be quite a lot of information to take in all at once. However, the importance of understanding your task profile and which gloves are best suited can't be stressed enough.
Learn your facts and the selection process will always be simple.
And a simple selection process = a safer, happier workforce.
3 key takeaways
There are 6 main EN standards which cover a wide range of risks. Try gaining an understanding of what each letter/number means and when you require the highest level of protection against a certain hazard.
The safety glove selection process is as follows:
- The nature of the task (think: do we require dexterity or high abrasion etc.)
- Working environments (hot, cold, chemical?)
- Risk assessment (this is very important as ultimately your choice of protective gloves is based on your risk assessment)
- Controlled trial (including workers in the decision making process is invaluable)
- Buying gloves - price vs cost (cost gives you the overall picture i.e quality gloves last longer so actually save you money in the long run)
- Looking after your work gloves (inspect your gloves before you wear them, and we don't recommend washing gloves with soap)
Work gloves are designed and manufactured to suit the needs of specific tasks. Different yarns, coatings and technologies are utilised to create high-performance gloves.
If you have any further questions we'd be happy to help, contact us on 01344 207090 or use our live chat function.
At TraffiGlove, we offer free site audits to see how you can best consolidate your range, swap out ill-suited glove styles, get the best value for money and of course, significantly reduce your hand injuries.
Ready to transform your hand protection?