Working with or around chemicals is a high-risk job. That’s why donning the right pair of gloves is absolutely paramount – and why chemical-protective gloves must meet the requirements of the European standard EN 374.
Because choosing the right pair of chemical-resistant gloves can be tough, understanding this European standard a bit more will help you get the protection you need.
What exactly is EN 374?
Last modified in 2016, the EN ISO 374:2016 standard tests a glove's response to an extensive list of chemicals and microorganisms to protect workers’ hands subject to such exposure.
These exposures can cause serious harm for both personal health and the environment, which is why the standard is divided into five parts that test permeability, penetration, degradation, and more to help ensure gloves’ safety.
The five parts of the EN ISO 374:2016 standard are:
- EN 374-1: Protective Gloves Against Chemicals and Micro-Organisms
- EN 374-2: Determination to Resistance to Penetration
- EN 374-3: Determination of Resistance to Permeation by Chemicals (replaced by EN 16523)
- EN 374-4: Determination of Resistance to Degradation by Chemicals
- EN 374-5: Terminology and Performance Requirements for Micro-Organism Risks
Your chemical-resistant glove will be scored based on all five standards. EN374-1, 2, 3, and 4 are all required for certification, EN374-5 is an optional standard. Be on the lookout for the different emblems and abbreviations disclosing the different clauses.
To make it easy, we’re highlighting the main things you need to know about this standard.
Let’s dive in.
Three types of resistance
Chemical protection is based on 3 test methods along with proper risk assessment by the end user.
1. Penetration (EN 374-2:2014)
Penetration is the movement of a chemical and/or micro-organism through imperfections in a protective glove material at a non-molecular level, such as tiny holes, cracks, and tears.
Mechanical damage such as stretching, cuts, or punctures cause macroscopic breaks. Gloves that are old or poorly made are more likely to fail due to penetration.
An air leak and water leak test is performed to ensure there are no direct paths for chemicals to get into the glove. This is also checked in the QA process to confirm gloves are made properly with each production run before ever getting into the field.
2. Permeation (EN 16523-1:2015)
Permeation is arguably the most important resistance test, as a chemical could still get through a glove on a molecular level. This can happen without any visible or physical changes to the glove, and you won't know anything happened until after the chemical has contacted your hand.
Because dip coatings and plastic films are the barriers to chemicals in gloves, it is necessary to measure breakthrough times, or the time taken for the hazardous liquid to come in contact with the skin. Each chemical tested is classified in terms of breakthrough time performance levels 0 to 6.
For example, even in a tightly sealed balloon, the helium will permeate through the wall to the atmosphere. This is similar to liquids and chemicals, as they can permeate through the glove exposing the skin to the chemicals.
3. Degradation (EN 374-4:2013)
Degradation objectively measures how the glove material reacts when exposed to a chemical, giving you information on both what to look for and also what to expect if you are working with a specific chemical.
Degradation tests the change in one or more physical characteristics of a glove caused by contact with a chemical. Indications of degradation are flaking, swelling, disintegration, embrittlement, color change, dimensional change, appearance, hardening, softening, etc.
If a chemical has a significant impact on the protective glove’s material, then its ability to protect you becomes compromised and you risk chemical exposure to your skin.
However, it is important to know that just because your glove has a reaction, such as a color change, it doesn’t necessarily mean that the glove is losing protection. This is where referencing the permeation breakthrough times is paramount.
EN 374 pictograms
When it comes to permeation, there’s a pictogram and three types of gloves to pay attention to.
The below symbol can be found on the conformity statement or on the back of your gloves.
The letters beneath the symbol allow you to identify which chemicals you can use on the gloves, and you can find out which chemicals are relevant.
The letters allow you to identify the gloves you can use with specific chemicals as listed on the chemical resistance guide.
Type A: Protective glove with permeation resistance of at least 30 minutes each for at least 6 test chemicals.
Type B: Protective glove with permeation resistance of at least 30 minutes each for at least 3 test chemicals.
Type C: Protective glove with permeation resistance of at least 10 minutes for at least 1 test chemical. You aren't required to list a reference chemical for Type C gloves like you do with A and B.
EN 374 chemical resistance guide
Here is the list of hazardous compounds, as seen in the pictogram with correlating letters.
The chemicals listed are super common compounds used in many industries, but the important thing to pay attention to is the class.
There are hundreds to thousands of chemicals in each chemical class, so you can use this information to more easily reference how the glove will perform with another chemical in that class prior to putting it into trials.
Protective gloves against micro-organisms
In addition to the chemical resistance side of EN374, there is an optional certification to assess if a glove will protect the user against microorganisms and viruses. This testing follows the same process as the permeation test for chemicals.
There are two classifications:
- Protection against bacteria and fungi
- Protection against viruses, bacteria, and fungi
A glove claiming protection from bacteria and fungi must carry the following pictogram and warnings (first image).
A glove claiming protection from viruses, bacteria, and fungi must carry the following pictogram and warnings (second image).
Why EN 374-rated gloves?
EN 374 gloves can be trusted because they are certified by an independent European body that was set up by the European Union to ensure a high standard in glove safety.
The standards are backed up by strong and resilient tests that are among the most intrusive in the world, meaning that the end results are as strong as you can expect them to be.
Protective gloves that have undergone standardized certification will have an EN 374 marking, which is also helpful for product comparison.
HexArmor® can help
Once you’ve identified glove protection requirements as part of a risk assessment, finding the right glove can be tough. And it's important to take your time, as a mistake in purchase can mean that you end up with gloves that are resistant to an irrelevant chemical.
Plus, because the type of EN 374 gloves you need completely depends on your application, you may also need additional protection, such as cut resistance (EN 388) or heat protection (EN 407).
A glove manufacturer like HexArmor® can help you find the proper hand protection for you. What’s more, we have a unique relationship with uvex, a German-owned PPE company, that has an extensive chemical database as well as in-house testing for other common-place or proprietary chemicals that are available for use. Learn more about that here.Browse chemical-resistant gloves