Guide to EN388 Safety Gloves

guide to en388 safety gloves


This is a guide to safety / work wear gloves or specifically EN388 rated gloves. “Whooo! hold your horses…” I hear you cry, “What does EN388 even stand for?”
Well in a nutshell EN stands for European Norm. A European Norm is a standard that something as to meet to perform it’s job. In the case of safety gloves these are designated as 388. Hence, we have the European Norm 388 or EN388. This standard covers the testing requirements for safety gloves that are sold as protection against mechanical risks. You still here? Great! Trust me this is going to get much better! Hold on to your hats and let’s get started.

So, what are the test requirements for an EN388 designated work glove I hear you ask? Well they are tested for four things:

• Abrasion Resistance
• Blade Cut Resistance
• Tear Resistance
• Puncture Resistance

Once tested they are given a score based on their performance. These scores are represented on the back of your safety gloves as seen on the image below.


Let’s break these four points down.

First up Abrasion Resistance:

The vast majority of hand injuries are either abrasion or cut, so this is a biggy. Abrasion resistance is the first number you will see on the back of your gloves. It’s rated between 1 and 4. 1 been the lowest score and 4 the highest. Abrasion resistance of a work wear glove is especially important to trades that work with rough materials. I’m looking at you Brickie’s! To test the gloves, they take a sample and pop it into a machine. The machine as a sheet of sandpaper inside to test the glove sample. The machine counts how many cycles it takes the sandpaper to abrade the glove (Layman’s terms, put a hole through it).
The higher the number of revolutions before a hole appears the higher score that is given to the glove.
I told you it would get better, stay with me because next up we have everyone’s favourite and one that is very important for your pinkies. Blade Cut Resistance!

Blade Cut Resistance:

This is the second number that makes up EN388. If you work with sheet metals, glass or sharp tools this is for you. So, have a slurp of your coffee or tea and let’s dive in. This time the number ranges between 1 and 5. 1 been a low cut resistance and 5 a high cut resistance. How is it tested? Well they take a sample of the safety glove and subject them to repeated cutting motions using a rotating tungsten steel circular blade. Dependant on the number of cycles it takes for a blade to cut through the material, a score is then given.

Tear Resistance:

Next up we have Tear resistance. This is the third number on the back of your glove, and its scored between 1 and 4. Once again 1 is the lowest and 4 the highest! Do I need to keep repeating this part? Ok what happens on the tear resistance test I hear you demand! Well They take a glove sample and clamp it into the jaws of a strength testing machine. The jaws are then moved apart at a constant pace and the force that is needed to tear the glove is measured. The tougher the glove the better the score.

Last but not least Puncture Resistance:

Scored between 1 and 4. You know the drill 1 low, 4 high. Last time I will say that I promise. So, this test uses a rounded point which is then pushed through a sample of the work glove, the force that is required to puncture the sample will determine the score achieved.

In a nutshell there you have it, you now know the basics of EN388 and what those numbers represent on the back of your gloves. I’ve tried to write this in a fun way as dare I say it EN numbers can sometimes be a little "boring", but in all seriousness the safety of our hands is obviously of the upmost importance. So, look after them, keep your protective gloves on when in work mode (even when it’s hot and sweaty) and stay safe.

Below is some technical data about the EN388 tests. Until next time stay safe.

en388 infographic

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