What are EN glove standards and why do they exist?
Digesting health and safety legislation and fine print such as EN standards is often an oerwhelming (and dull) prospect. However, they exist for a very important reason – to clarify and classify specific product attributes and protection levels. So, for you to maintain and encourage work place health & safety (WHS) in your work environment, you really need to know what each EN standard represents and how exactly the PPE product will protect the hands and wrists of you and your employees.
Before we go any further though, we should clarify the difference between European standards (EN) and Australian/New Zealand occupational standards. The A/NZ standards were created off the back of the European ones, so in the main they are identical. There are a couple of discrepancies to watch out for however (i.e. the testing methods for EN511 & AS/NZS 2161.5:1998 are different).
A very brief overview of the various standards.
EN 420 (AS/NZS 2161.2:1998) – General requirements for protective gloves
EN 388 (AS/NZS 2161.3:1998) – Protection against mechanical risks
EN 374 (ANS/NZS 2161.10:2005) – Protection against chemicals & micro-organisms
EN407 (ANS/NZS 2161.4:1999) – Protection against heat
EN511 (AS/NZS 2161.5:1998) – Standard for protection against cold
EN 421 (AS/NZS 2161.1:2005) – Protection against radioactive contamination & ionising radiation
EN 12477 – Protection against the risks of welding
Read on for in depth & interesting detail on each of these standards!
How do you read an EN standard symbol or pictogram?
Each requirement, such as mechanical risk shown in image 2, is represented by a symbol and a series of numbers beneath it. Each number refers to a different aspect the glove’s performance in the laboratory tests, for example in EN388 standards like the one in image 2 the second digit (5 in this case) will always refer to cut level. Put simply, the higher the number, the higher the level of protection. If there is an X in the place of a number, it means this performance metric was not tested or the glove failed to register a score for that metric.
So what are EN Risk Categories then?
The PPE directives here in Australian and in Europe specify three major classes of risk facing workers and their hands; ‘minimal’, ‘intermediate’ & ‘irreversible’ or ‘mortal’.
Risk Category I: Simply designed gloves for minimal risk
Manufacturers are permitted to test and certify gloves internally if the gloves are of simple design and are for low risk requirements such as janitorial / domestic cleaning.
Risk Category II: Intermediate design gloves for intermediate risk
Gloves that are designed to withstand intermediate risk such as knife cuts or stabs must be certified by an independent testing and certification body.
Risk Category III: Complex design gloves for irreversible or mortal risk
Gloves designed to protect against the highest level of risk, such as chemical resistant gloves, must also be certified by an independent body. In addition, the quality assurance and testing of the company on the final product also need to independently checked.
A detailed overview of each EN Glove Standard.
EN 420 – General requirements for protective gloves
This standard refers to the basic and general requirements for protective gloves, such as their construction, design, comfort and efficiency. It can also apply to arm guards.
Some of the various factors considered are:
- pH level should be as close to neutral as possible
- leather gloves should have a pH value between 3.5 – 9.5
- are any substances used that are known to cause allergies
- sized with reference to common hand benchmarks in the country/region
EN 388 – Standard for protection against mechanical risks
This standard is one of the most relevant for Australian workers. It applies to gloves designed to protect against physical or mechanical risks such as abrasion, blades, punctures or tears.
|Abrasion resistance (cycles)||100||500||2000||8000|
|Blade cut resistance (factor)||1,2||2,5||5||10||20|
|Tear resistance (newton)||10||25||50||75|
|Puncture resistance (newton)||20||60||100||150|
1. Resistance to abrasion
Based on the number of cycles with sandpaper under a stipulated pressure to abrade the glove. The protection factor is then indicated on a scale from 1 to 4 depending on how many revolutions are required to make a hole in the material.
2. Blade cut resistance
Based on the number of cycles required to cut through the sample with a blade at a constant speed. The protection factor is then indicated on a scale from 1 to 5.
3. Tear resistance
Based on the amount of force required to tear the sample. The protection factor is then indicated on a scale from 1 to 4.
4. Puncture resistance
Based on the amount of force required to pierce the sample with a standard sized point. The protection factor is then indicated on a scale from 1 to 4.
EN 374 – Standard for protection against chemicals & micro-organisms
The EN 374 standard refers to the capability of gloves to protect from chemicals and/or micro-organisms. The pictogram is accompanied by a minimum of three letters, each of which refers to a different chemical (see table ?). For the letter to be shown the chemical must have a break through time of at least 30 minutes.
|Breakthrough time (mins)||>10||>30||>60||>120||>240||>480|
|Performance level||Acceptable quality level unit||Inspection levels|
|Level 3||> 0.65||G1|
|Level 2||> 1.5||G1|
|Level 1||> 4.0||S4|
|Code letter||Chemical||Cas number||Category|
|E||Carbon disulfide||75-15-0||Sulphur containing organic compound|
|H||Tetrahydrofuran||109-99-9||Heterocyclic and ethereal compound|
|K||Sodium hydroxide 40%||1310-73-2||Inorganic base|
|L||Sulfuric acid 96%||7664-93-9||Inorganic mineral acid|
This standard refers to the ability of the glove to protect against heat and/or fire. The nature and degree of protection is represented by the pictogram and six numbers beneath it. Each relate to a specific performance quality, as shown in the table below.
|Resistance to burning (time in sec)||20||10||3||2|
|Resistance to Contact Heat (time in 15 sec)||100||250||350||500|
|Resistance to Convective Heat (time in secs)||4||7||1||18|
|Resistance to Radiant Heat (time in sec)||5||30||9||150|
|Resistance to Small Drops of Molton Metal (no. of droplets)||5||15||25||35|
|Resistance to Molton Metal Splash (weight in gms.)||30||60||120||200|
1. Resistance to flammability
The glove’s material is stretched out and then a gas flame is held against the material for around 15 seconds. After the gas flame is distinguished, the ‘afterburn’ time is measured, or length of time after that the material glows or burns.
2. Resistance to contact heat
The glove’s material is exposed to temperatures between +100°C and +500°C. The length of time it takes the material inside the glove to increase by 10°C intervals is then measured. 15 seconds is the accepted minimum time period for the first interval.
3. Resistance to convective heat
The amount of time is measured for the heat from a gas flame (80Kw/kvm) to increase the temperature of the glove’s inside material by 24°C.
4. Resistance to radiant heat
The glove’s material is stretched in front of a heat source with an effect of 20-40 kw/kvm. The average time is measured for heat penetration of 2.5 kw/kvm.
5. Resistance to small splashes of molten metal
The test is based on the total number of drops of molten metal required to increase the temperature by 40°C between the inside of the glove and the skin.
6. Resistance to large splashes of molten metal
Simulated skin is attached to the inside of the glove material. Molten metal is then poured over the glove material. The total number of grams is measured of how much molten metal is required to damage the simulated skin.
EN511 – Standard for protection against cold
The EN511 standard is relevant for insulated gloves that protect against the cold. The glove’s performance is expressed by the pictogram and three digits representing three different protective qualities.
1. The first digit show resistance to convective cold (performance level 0-4)
2. The second digit show resistance to contact cold (performance level 0-4). The higher performance level the better insulating capacity.
3. The third digit show permeability to water (performance level 0 or 1)
0 = water penetration after 30 minutes
1 = no water penetration after 30 minutes.
EN 421 – Standard for protection against radioactive contamination & ionising radiation
This standard is probably the scariest sounding of them all! However, the requirements for EN 421 certified gloves are actually quite simple. The glove has to be liquid proof and pass the same penetration test required in EN 374, which we’ve already discussed. Depending on the application of the gloves, they may also require an air pressure leak and ozone cracking test.
To protect against ionising radiation, the glove must contain a certain amount of lead or equivalent metal.
EN 12477 – Protection against the risks of welding
This standard certifies gloves designed to provide protection for both the hand and wrist while welding and is really a combination from testing EN 388 and EN 407. Welding gloves provide resistance to small splashes of molten metal, short exposure to convective heat/radiant heat and blade cuts.
Type A refer to gloves that shall provide a slightly higher level of protection against heat.
Type B refer to gloves that provide lower protection against heat, but they are more flexible and pliable.