May 30, 2012

Note: This blog refers to standards set prior to 2016. For information on the updated standards, read our "Changes to Cut Protection Standards for Hand PPE" blog post.

Ever wonder what's up when you see a glove marked CE Level 5 and ANSI/ISEA Level 4?

What you're seeing is the result of two industry standards delivering two separate rating levels for the same product. Pretty confusing when you are being asked to evaluate the proper PPE for your employees.

Since the testing methods and results are completely different for both the European EN388 Standard and the American ANSI/ISEA 105 Standard, there is a lot of room for manufacturers to self-interpret which rating their products should use. There are cases where glove manufacturers will make claims to have 'Level 5 cut protection' when the reality is that their gloves only pass EN388 (CE) Level 5 ratings. This mis-representation puts the end user at higher risk for injury, and can put a safety professional's job on the line.

Boiling it down: EN388 (CE) 5 v. ANSI/ISEA 5

The minimum gram rating to achieve an EN388 (CE) level 5 is almost 1300 grams less than the minimum gram rating for an ANSI/ISEA Level 5. Take a look at the chart below, and you'll clearly see where the flaw lies.

In our opinion based on real world tests, the EN388 cut-test is not a strong representation of a material's performance characteristics. The test uses an oscillating blade with a mere 500 Grams of force (1.1lbs) that is not relevant to, for example, an automotive worker moving sheet metal fenders and body panels. Look around your office. That steel stapler on your test is probably about 2lbs. We prefer the ANSI/ISEA 105 test for a better approximation of a material's true protection level because it uses varied weights and a straight blade that is changed after every cut.

The most important takeaway for safety professionals and end users is to ask the right questions of the PPE manufacturers or distributors.

  • Which rating scale is being used (EN388 or ANSI/ISEA)
  • What is the actual gram rating of these gloves
  • Who did the actual tests

For more information on the EN388 and ANSI/ISEA cut tests, watch our safety standards 101 video on cut testing.