One of the most significant changes was the introduction of a revised product testing methodology, resulting in an expanded performance level rating for cut resistance, based on more rigorous, repeatable and standardised testing.
The EN388 2016 labelling requirements were revised and include a pictogram followed by up to six position-specific numbers or letters, which indicate test performance ratings. For alpha ratings, A is the lowest and F the highest resistance to cut. Numeric ratings run from one (the lowest) to four or five. The use of an X in positions one to five indicates testing has not been done or the test is not applicable.
The performance level rating required is determined by the application and present risks. As with any personal protective equipment (PPE) selection, the process begins with an assessment of the environment in which the hand protection will be used. A range of additional factors also guide the choice of cut resistant hand protection, but none more than the application and environment.
Exposure to sharp materials and cut risk is commonplace in most industrial environments and the degree of present risk in specific workplace undertakings is the most useful indicator when determining which of the six available cut resistance ratings should be employed. While some duties – such as metal press work – are inherently and overtly risky, even seemingly ‘safe’ tasks, such as screwing and unscrewing or carrying out general warehouse duties, can leave workers vulnerable to cut injury.
The best protective solutions are designed expressly for defined tasks, or a range of typical activities and likely conditions within a specific industry sector. To ensure you identify the best possible choice, you should look for solutions from a vendor that offer a comprehensive range of options across the full cut level rating gamut. Additional influencing factors to consider include:
Regardless of the application, look for a lightweight solution that incorporates suitable liner materials to ensure the highest protection is also comfortable, increasing the likelihood of continual wear and adherence to PPE policy.
Often the root cause of cut injury is not the most obvious one. Failing to select hand protection with suitable grip can lead to higher injury rates, as objects with sharp edges can slip when being handled — this is exacerbated in the case of wet or oil-covered objects — resulting in a slicing motion through the glove. Insufficient grip can also contribute to other unwanted conditions including stress, fatigue and muscle strain.
Cut-resistant fabrics are constructed by rolling and twisting cut-resistant fibres to deliver a material that provides suitable defence. When a coating is applied, the fibre’s cut resistance efficacy can be reduced. Most coated gloves will provide a higher resistance on the back of the hand than the palm, as those fibres may not be coated, so this needs to be considered when assessing potential options.
Regardless of the task being undertaken, there will always be demand for a reasonable degree of dexterity. Bulky or ill-fitting options will often lead to removal, so it’s important to select a glove that permits the wearer to carry out tasks effectively, while still providing adequate defence.
Consider the overall construction, as well as the materials used. There are many available solutions, some of which offer specific additional features; consider latex or silicone free alternatives where allergies are a consideration, or an anti-static option if the environment demands it.
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