Gove Risks: Overview of EN 388 with commentary on its limitations for U.S. users

Gove Risks: Overview of EN 388 with commentary on its limitations for U.S. users

In the previous two posts, we’ve explained where the EN 388 label comes from and how it contains risk information that is sometimes useful for U.S. users, especially when ANSI abrasion and puncture ratings aren’t offered for the glove.

If you’ve been following along with these articles, you will know that ANSI ratings tend to be available for gloves in the areas where the glove has strong performance; in contrast, the EN 388 label shows the basic four risk ratings on every label even if the glove performs poorly against the rated risks.

The EN 388 code will be between 4 and 6 digits long and each digit in the code contains a rating for a different risk category. Each digit in the code contains those ratings always in the same order. A popular hack to memorize this order is to think of the phrase ACT PROFESSIONALLY, where each of the first four letters of this phrase stand for a different risk.

A—Abrasion (scale of 1-4)
C—Cut (scale of 1-5)
T—Tear (scale of 1-4)
P—Puncture (scale of 1-4)

The abrasion test is performed on a different testing machine than the ANSI method, but it does render a useful result. As mentioned before, knowing this value is helpful in evaluating a glove when the ANSI abrasion score is absent.

The cut test that appears in the second position has serious drawbacks. The test method was designed in an are that did not envision the advances to cut resistance technology that have proliferated in the last 10 years. ANSI was able to address these advances by revising the scale of their test in 2016 to the current A1 – A9, but the Couptest method employed in the EN 388 standard was limited by the method itself. The same glove that receives an EN 388 score of 5 could be an ANSI A3, or it could be an A9, because the blade in the Couptest machine starts to get dull and unable to complete the cut at ANSI A3.

An ad hoc solution to this problem was implemented by adding a 5th test, which you will read about below.

The third digit in the code is for resistance to tear. This might have seemed important when the EN 388 standard was originally conceived, but tear resistance has not proven to be a concern equal to Abrasion, Cut, Puncture, or even Impact.

Moving on to the fourth digit, this puncture test is very similar to the ANSI puncture test. It isn’t identical because of differences in unit of measure (think inches vs. centimeters) and the scale.

2016 REVISION: Some of the shortcomings addressed above were addressed in 2016 by adding two optional digits to the code, the fifth for a more sophisticated cut rating, and the sixth to add an impact rating as described below:

The optional cut rating that appears as a fifth digit is based on the ANSI-style TDM test and gets a score not in numbers but in letters: A – F. While it is possible to take this test and compare it to the ANSI test score from another glove, there is absolutely no reason to do this. As stated previously, there is no shortage of ANSI glove ratings available for any glove that has the slightest cut resistant properties. Further, the ANSI cut rating of a certain level is often specified by safety managers for different tasks, and why fool with any glove that doesn’t have the required ANSI rating?

When a glove is provided a 5th digit for a cut rating, often you will see an “X” standing in for a number in the second place of the code, as in 4X33D. One could argue that this clarifies that the cut test on the end is the one you should be paying attention to, but one could also argue that having an “X” in the middle of the code makes it even more confusing than it already was.

The sixth and last digit is for an optional impact rating. This one gets a “P” for pass and “F” for fail. This test has not been widely adopted as of this writing, and it does not offer the domestic user any useful information that is not more reliably found with an ANSI 138 impact test rating. The test methods are similar, but the ANSI test specifies that the test be performed on more parts of the glove, and the earned rating is based on the part of the glove tested that yielded the weakest result. Considering that any glove with impact protection properties will almost certainly have and available ANSI 138 rating, this renders the optional sixth digit on EN 388 irrelevant in the U.S.

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