Understanding cut resistance in safety gloves


From standards to gloves and everything in between

For tougher applications, cut resistance is a must-have in safety gloves, as cuts, lacerations, and punctures account for nearly 44% of reported hand injuries, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Though some injuries can be brushed off with a band-aid, some need medical attention – and all incidents require a look at the PPE being worn (or not worn) by the injured person.

Understanding the levels for cut-resistant protection and how to choose the correct PPE per application is essential to protecting yourself and your workers. Here’s what you need to know about cut testing standards and how they apply to your safety program.

What is the cut resistance standard?

To figure out the cut resistance of a material, it needs to be tested. Two testing and classification standards exist to measure cut resistance:

  1. The American ANSI/ISEA 105-2016 standard, and
  2. The European EN388 or CE standard

Both updated in 2016, these standards address the classification and testing of hand protection for specific performance properties, with the most notable change being an increase in the levels of cut resistance.

As part of addressing the classification and testing of hand protection for specific performance properties, ANSI/ISEA 105-2016 conducts specific performance tests related to mechanical protection for abrasion, cut, puncture, and needlestick.

EN388 has a slight difference with performance tests on abrasion, cut, tear, puncture, and impact; although ANSI/ISEA does have a standalone standard for impact testing – ANSI/ISEA 138-2019.

Check out what these standards have to say about cut resistance below.

ANSI/ISEA 105-2016 American National Standard

This standard has established ASTM F2992-15 as the test method for measuring cut resistance on a 9-level scale. Prior to 2016, this standard (called ANSI/ISEA 105-2011) used a 1-5 scale but was updated to allow for more accurate identification of protection in PPE.

Graph of ANSI/ISEA cut test standards.

How the test works:

ANSI/ISEA 105-2016 uses a Tomodynamometer (TDM-100) machine. Materials are tested under three varied weights to achieve five cut-through distances(mm) within each set of distance ranges. All cuts are made in the same direction at approximately the length of 20mm. After each cut, a new blade is used, and weight (in grams) is added until cut-through is achieved. The grams at cut-through is recorded.

This test procedure is repeated a total of three times, and the average of the three tests gives the final gram rating that ranges from 200 grams to 6000 grams of cut resistance.

How the standard is labeled:

Though manufacturers are not required to label cut scores, ANSI/ISEA 105 cut-resistant gloves will be marked on the label or glove branding with their TDM-100 score, referenced as A1-A9.

EN388 European Cut Standard (CE)

This standard reports on two cut levels, using two different testing standards and methods: The Coup Test and the ISO 13977 method, also commonly known as the “TDM-100 Test”. The second (and more recommended) test was added in 2016 to address inconsistencies with the Coup Test for high-cut materials and closely relates to the North American standard test.

EN388 COUP cut test and TDM cut test.

How the test works:

For the Coup Test, testing is done in accredited labs where test fabric samples are cut by a counter-rotating circular blade that moves back and forth under 500 grams of weight until cut-through occurs. Results are measured on a 1-5 scale based on the ratio of rotations it takes to cut through the sample vs the control sample (1.5-20 index value).

If no cut-through occurs after 60 rotations, the EN388’s second test is used and required: 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, similar to ASTM F2992-15, but with different requirements.

After each cut is made, the blade is changed, and weight is added. Results are measured in Newtons, ranging from 2-30 Newtons. This method gives more consistent results with higher cut materials and better simulates real-life cut hazards.

How the standard is labeled:

Manufacturers are required to label cut scores. EN388 cut-resistant gloves will usually be marked with one score, depending on the cut-resistance level.

For example, a highly cut-resistant glove would only be marked with its TDM-100 score and an “X” for the Coup Test. The Coup Test score is referenced as level 1-5, and the TDM-100 score is referenced as level A-F.

Why ANSI/ISEA 105-2016 is the preferred test method

Though the EN388 scale roughly correlates to the ANSI/ISEA scale for cut levels A1-A6, it still falls short of differentiating highly cut-resistant materials that fall into the A7-A9 range.

For that reason, as well as the continued use of two potential testing protocols in EN388, we suggest using the ANSI/ISEA standards when evaluating PPE.

Graph of ANSI/ISEA cut test standards.

Remember – no glove is cut-proof, but the different levels of protection provide excellent options to mitigate costly injuries.

Get your cut-resistant gloves from HexArmor®

Have questions about what cut-resistant PPE may be right for you? HexArmor® can help.

Our lineup of industry-leading cut-resistant hand, arm, and body protection has consistently outperformed the competition in cut protection, not to mention has lowered the total recordable incident reports and bottom line for companies across industries.

Plus, we're an exclusive licensee of SuperFabric®* brand material, a high-quality, cut-resistant material made from a configuration of tiny guard plates that protect against not only cut injuries but puncture, abrasion, and needlestick injuries as well, without sacrificing dexterity.

Download our SuperFabric® solutions brochure and see what product may be the best for you and your application or learn more about SuperFabric® technology here.

Let us know if you need help or if you're ready to start a trial - our Solution Specialists are ready to work with you. Call 1.877.MY ARMOR or send us a message.

Browse all HexArmor® cut-resistant hand protection

*SuperFabric® is a registered Trademark of HDM, Inc.

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