November 1, 2017

When the time comes to select PPE for employees, there should be no question that you’re receiving the best cut protection for your company’s unique applications. To do this, it’s important to have a complete understanding of the factors that should be involved in the purchase decision.

One primary (and often poorly understood) factor relates to various cut tests and levels, specifically for the European EN388 (CE) and North American ANSI/ISEA standards. An understanding of these standards is imperative and could be the difference between an employee getting a serious injury, or avoiding it because their PPE had the appropriate cut level protection.

The EN388 standard now reports two cut levels, using two different testing methods. The first is the Coup Test. This test uses a circular blade that moves back and forth under 500 grams of weight until cut through occurs. Cut levels are reported on a 1-5 scale based on the ratio of rotations it takes to cut through the sample vs the control sample.

With high cut resistant materials, the Coup Test blade dulls and causes inconsistencies. Due to this, EN388 added a second test required for high cut materials: the ISO 13997. The ISO 13997 uses the TDM-100 test method which uses a straight razor blade under variable weight to measure cut resistance.

After each cut is made, the blade is changed and weight is added. Results are measured in newtons and reported in levels A-F (2-30 newtons). This method gives more consistent results with higher cut materials and better simulates real-life cut hazards. 

Similarly, the ANSI/ISEA 105-2016 cut standard requires the use of the TDM-100 test method. However, the ANSI/ISEA standard reports results in grams on an A1-A9 scale (200-6000 grams). While the A1-A9 scale is comparable to the EN388 A-F levels, ANSI/ISEA extends their scale by three levels to 6000 grams to report high cut materials more accurately.

In the featured photo above, you will find a graph that shows the levels of both standards. The Coup Test is a completely different test method. It is not easily comparable to the TDM-100 results.

Understanding cut tests and standards allows a safety manager to consistently outfit his or her employees with the ideal protection for every application. Next time you are viewing a flashy brochure or are approached with the next set of the industries’ “safest gloves,” make sure to inquire exactly what their definition of this means. This question could be the difference between the next recorded injury and the next testimonial of an injury prevented.

We know these standards can sometimes be confusing, so if you have any questions, please don't hesitate to reach out to one of our Safety Solutions Specialists at or 1-877-MYARMOR.