The old standard had five ratings, but the new version nearly doubled it with a new scale of A1-A9. The change adds high-end levels, reflecting the influx of high-performance cut-resistant gloves in the marketplace. (Ansell photo)

ANSI/ISEA 105-2016 Regulation Updates

We're better equipped than ever before to provide hand protection to industrial workers. The biggest challenge is making sure regulations and standards around PPE and hand protection keep pace.

Effective workplace hand protection concerns us all. The good news is that technologies, engineering, and materials involved in glove manufacturing change and improve all the time. Testing methods always need to become better calibrated to measuring gloves' protective qualities. While the risks workers face every day continue to be serious, improvements in protection technology are having a positive impact on the workplace, where proper PPE can reduce injuries. We’re better equipped than ever before to provide hand protection to industrial workers. The biggest challenge is making sure regulations and standards around PPE and hand protection keep pace.

The American National Standards Institute (ANSI) recently updated its national hand protection standards. ANSI/ISEA 105-2016 is the latest revision of a voluntary standard first published in 1999, then revised in 2005 and 2011. These standards help safety managers, employers, and workers to ensure they select the right gloves for the right jobs.

Standards matter because the people who use and select gloves for the workplace rely on them to guide glove selection. Why? They're experts in building cars or air conditioners, not in personal protection equipment, and the standards help them find the right gloves to keep their workers safe. New yarns, thinner materials, and advanced technologies increase glove capabilities, meaning there are more options than ever before. If the job puts a worker's hands at risk of cut, there are gloves designed specifically for that. If the threat is chemical exposure, there are gloves designed to protect against many of the most common and most dangerous chemicals. If the worker is at risk of cut and chemicals, there are gloves designed to provide dual protection. This is a good thing for today's workers, but it makes it difficult for safety managers faced with seemingly endless options for glove selection. Standards can help put some structure around the process.

That sort of structure and clarity is invaluable. Consider this: According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics1, 30 percent of workers who suffered hand injuries were wearing gloves that were inadequate, damaged, or the wrong type of glove for the hazard (70 percent were not wearing gloves at all). That's unacceptable. That's a failure on multiple levels, from education to standards and regulations. There are too many good, tested glove options to allow statistics like that to exist.

The ANSI/ISEA 105 standard addresses the classification and testing of hand protection for specific performance properties related to chemical and industrial applications. Simply put, it allows manufacturers to more accurately classify their gloves as they relate to specific performance metrics. The changes impacted some classifications more than others, and none more significantly than those around cut protection.

The update on cut resistance test methodologies acknowledged two different methods for testing cut resistance with two different test machines. The standard ASTM F1790 allows for the use of a TDM and a CPPT test machine, while the revised ANSI/ISEA 105 establishes a single test method based on the ASTM F2992-15 that requires the TDM test machine exclusively. The latter will provide more consistent ratings from the end user perspective.

Another change allows for greater specificity in cut performance ratings. The old standard had five ratings, but the new version nearly doubled it with a new scale of A1-A9. The change adds high-end levels (A7, A8, A9), reflecting the influx of high-performance cut-resistant gloves in the marketplace. The revised standard also increases segmentation in the old ANSI cut 4 range, meaning gloves rated 4 in the old range may now fall in A4, A5, or A6 in the new range.

Often, where there are cut risks there also is the threat of puncture, and the standard made a small addition related to puncture prevention. The revised standard adds a needlestick puncture test. This is especially relevant for industries such as sanitation, recycling, or health care, where protection from smaller, hypodermic needles is important.

These are important changes that should help employers better match the right gloves to the right jobs. There were additional updates around impact resistance and vibration reduction, but those are topics for another day.

What Does It Mean?
Most safety managers use standards as guides for glove selection, which makes continual review and refinement of those standards critically important. In the absence of effective standards, safety-minded organizations often default to overprotection, which can be just as problematic as insufficient protection. Workers wearing gloves that provide more protection than needed—often thicker, bulkier models—tend to discard the gloves because they impair performance or are simply uncomfortable. That’s what leads to the 70 percent who aren’t wearing gloves when suffering an injury.

The other issue, of course, is the reality that these standards function more as guidelines than as any sort of enforceable regulation. Employers may make glove product compliance mandatory in the workplace, yet there is no official body or organization that enforces glove compliance. Until we get there, it's up to PPE manufacturers, employers, and workers to remain diligent in pursuing safety best practices. The updates to the ANSI/ISEA 105 standard are an important step forward as the industry strives to keep pace with workplace and PPE innovations.

Examining the updates to EN 388 and EN ISO 374
The United States isn’t alone in updating standards around hand protection. The European Standardization Organization revisited over the last several years standards related to glove safety and testing. Most standards in question had remained unchanged since 2003 and lagged well behind state-of-the-art glove technologies.

EN ISO 374
EN 374 is a series of standards guiding testing methodologies and providing requirements for gloves to be used when working with dangerous chemicals and microorganisms. As part of the change, EN 374 became EN ISO 374, meaning the standards will be adopted internationally, simplifying glove selection and compliance around the world.

EN ISO 374-1 expands the number of chemicals against which a chemical glove must be tested and provide resistance. This change is reflected in the pictogram used to signify chemical resistance.

EN ISO 374-1 and EN 374-4 add previously absent requirements to test for degradation resistance and specify a testing methodology.

EN ISO 374-5 addresses protection against microorganisms, specifically adding a viral penetration test to determine whether a glove protects against viruses. If a glove is certified against viruses, the word “VIRUS” will appear under the pictogram.

EN 388
EN 388 covers glove performance against mechanical hazards and includes performance requirements related to abrasion, cut, tear, puncture, and impact protection.

The updated standard introduces a new abrasive paper designed to deliver more consistent results when testing for abrasion resistance. This new paper is, in some instances, more abrasive, which means some gloves will need to be tested again for abrasion resistance and graded accordingly.

The updates also dictate a significant change around the methodology for cut testing. Today’s specially engineered yarns incorporate blunting materials that dull the blade and make the old cut test irrelevant. The new standard incorporates the ISO 13997 cut resistance test for these new, advanced materials. The updates also introduce a new standard for impact protection.


This article originally appeared in the June 2017 issue of Occupational Health & Safety.

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