Ask the Experts

What Is EN 388?

Thursday, 26 March 2020

Work gloves that are classed as PPE must uphold to a number of internationally recognised standards before they are sold. This improves the standards of the gloves available, but also improves the level of safety on offer, meaning that you can get to work, or buy gloves for your staff, without worrying as much about safety.

What Standards Am I Looking For?

There are a long list of standards that you can expect a pair of gloves to be certified too. These include:

  • EN 388 - Mechanical Protection
  • EN 511 - Cold Resistance
  • EN 407 - Heat Resistance
  • EN 374 - Chemical Resistance

The list is long, however those four cover the main standards in the PPE Safety Glove industry. The standard that we're concerned about today is EN 388 - Protective Gloves Against Mechanical Risks.

EN 388 Explained

What Is EN 388?

EN 388 measures how will a glove will protect you against mechanical risks. These are Abrasion, Cut, Tears, Punctures and occasionally Impact.

How Does EN 388 Work?

Every single time a glove is produced, it will be tested against abrasion, tears, punctures and a straight blade cut. Occasionally, a glove will also be tested against a circular blade and impact. This isn't always the case, but if you want to know why please click here.

How Do I Know If a Glove Passed EN 388?

You can find the results from EN 388 (or any EN standard) in one of four places. These are:

  1. On the conformity statement
  2. On the product listing
  3. On the back of the gloves
  4. On the product label inside the gloves

EN 388:2016 Example
EN 388 will be marked on the gloves with this symbol

What Results Can A Glove Receive?

A glove can achieve the following results (the higher the better)*:

  • Abrasion Resistance: Level 0 to 4
  • Cut Resistance (Circular Blade): Level 0 to 5
  • Tear Resistance: Level 0 to 4
  • Puncture Resistance: Level 0 to 4
  • Cut Resistance (Straight Blade): Level A to F
  • Impact Protection: Level P (Impact Protection won't be listed if a glove has not been tested to it. It is rare for a glove to have impact protection listed, so don't expect to see it too regularly).

*If a glove fails any of these tests it will receive a Level 0. If a glove isn't tested to one of these tests you will see either an N/A or an X.

Each Test In Depth

Abrasion Resistance

This test is performed by rubbing abrasion paper against the gloves until a hole is appeared. Scores can be seen below:

Performance Level Number of Rubs
Level 1 100 Rubs
Level 2 500 Rubs
Level 3 2,000 Rubs
Level 4 8,000 Rubs
Cut Resistance (Circular Blade)

A rotating blade is pressed against the palm of the glove, and the number of cycles that result in a cut are recorded.

Performance Level Cutting Index
Level 1 1.2 Cuts
Level 2 2.5 Cuts
Level 3 5 Cuts
Level 4 10 Cuts
Level 5 20 Cuts

*Please note that this test has been succeeded by a straight cut test. It is less common that this result will be on the back of the gloves and will often be marked by an "X".

Tear Resistance

Four patches from the gloves are placed within the jaws of a machine. These are gently pulled apart until a rip appears.

Performance Level Tear Force (N)
Level 1 10N
Level 2 25N
Level 3 50N
Level 4 75N
Puncture Resistance

As above, samples are taken from a glove and a compression machine will push a stylus into the gloves. The results are measured by the force required to cause a puncture.

Performance Level Puncture Force (N)
Level 1 20N
Level 2 60N
Level 3 100N
Level 4 150N
Cut Resistance (Straight Blade)

The newer cut resistance standard draws a blade across the material until a cut appears. Pressure is gently increased, and a score is awarded depending on when the glove is cut.

Performance Level Cut Resistance (N)
Level A 2N
Level B 5N
Level C 10N
Level D 15N
Level E 22N
Level F 30N

What Am I Looking For in the Product Listing?

Every single one of our gloves that has been tested to EN 388 will demonstrate their results in the product listing. Below you can see what you can typically expect to see in our listings:

EN 388

Resistance Level Received
Abrasion Resistance Level 4
Cut Resistance N/A
Tear Resistance Level 3
Puncture Resistance Level 1
ISO Cut Resistance Level E

In the gloves above, you can see that they perform well with abrasion and tears, however you probably wouldn't want to use them for protecting against punctures. As is becoming common practise, these gloves have not been tested to the old cut standard, however have been tested to the newer cut standard where they achieved a Level E. As these gloves achieved a Level E (second highest), they would be ideal for handling very sharp items.

Why Are Some Gloves Tested to Two Different Cut Standards?

Up to 2016, a glove would be tested to AbrasionCircular Blade Cut Resistance, Tears and Punctures. In 2016 the standard was updated, and the circular blade test was replaced by the straight blade test.

Occasionally, a glove will be tested to both, however this isn't compulsory. A glove has to be tested under the newer straight blade test before production.

Are the Two Cut Resistances Linked?

This is where the two cut tests get a little confusing. Generally, a Cut C or above under the new test is the equivalent of a Cut 5 under the old test. However, this isn't always the case, so a good rule of thumb is to look at the new test only and remember that they are both completely different tests.

Please Click Here to Return to How Does EN 388 Work?

Make Sure You Understand EN 388

Understanding EN 388 is the key to hand safety. The majority of the gloves above are tested to EN 388, so we encourage you to look into what each gloves receive before making your final choice. For more information on EN 388 or any of our gloves, don't hesitate to get in touch at helpdesk@gloves.co.uk.

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