Cut Resistant Glove Selection and Use
When not done properly, handling sharp objects can create unwanted workplace hazards. Cuts, lacerations and amputations are among the potential hazards. Cut-resistant gloves can help curb hand or finger injuries when engineering and administrative controls are not enough.
Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) Standards
Although there are no OSHA standards that specifically address cut-resistant gloves, 29 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) 1910.132 and 1910.138 do apply to hand protection.
1910.132(a) addresses protective equipment in general:
“Application. Protective equipment, including personal protective equipment for eyes, face, head, and extremities, protective clothing, respiratory devices, and protective shields and barriers, shall be provided, used, and maintained in a sanitary and reliable condition wherever it is necessary by reason of hazards of processes or environment, chemical hazards, radiological hazards, or mechanical irritants encountered in a manner capable of causing injury or impairment in the function of any part of the body through absorption, inhalation or physical contact.”
1910.138 applies specifically to hand protection:
1910.138(a): “General requirements. Employers shall select and require employees to use appropriate hand protection when employees’ hands are exposed to hazards such as those from skin absorption of harmful substances; severe cuts or lacerations; severe abrasions; punctures; chemical burns; thermal burns; and harmful temperature extremes.”
1910.138(b): “Selection. Employers shall base the selection of the appropriate hand protection on an evaluation of the performance characteristics of the hand protection relative to the task(s) to be performed, conditions present, duration of use, and the hazards and potential hazards identified.”
Characteristics, Applications and Selection
Cut-resistant gloves are designed to protect hands from direct contact with sharp edges such as glass, metal, ceramics and other materials. Cut resistance is a function of a glove’s material composition and thickness. You can increase your cut protection by increasing material weight, i.e. ounces per square yard, by using high-performance materials such as Spectra®, Kevlar®, etc., or by using composite yarns made with varying combinations of stainless steel, fiberglass, synthetic yarns and high-performance yarns.
Performance characteristics are not only affected by a material’s weight, but also by the coatings applied to the outside surface. Lighter weight styles are typically more flexible, resulting in less hand fatigue, while their heavier counterparts will generally provide the wearer with more cut and abrasion protection. Coated gloves enhance grip, especially on slippery surfaces. However, some coated gloves may not be appropriate for food handling applications.
Cut-resistant fibers and materials include, but are not limited to:
- Spectra Fiber: Ultrahigh molecular-weight polyethylene fiber that offers high cut resistance, even when wet. It is 10 times stronger than steel per unit weight.
- Spectra®gloves are cut and abrasion resistant, often lightweight, flexible and used in food processing, appliance assembly, food service, automotive assembly and the paper industry.
- Dyneema: A super-strong polyethylene fiber that offers maximum strength combined with minimum weight. It is up to 15 times stronger than quality steel and up to 40% stronger than aramid fibers, both on weight-for-weight basis. Dyneema® floats on water and is extremely durable and resistant to moisture, UV light and chemicals.
- Kevlar® Aramid Fiber: Aramid Fiber: Five times stronger than steel per unit weight. Inherently flame resistant, it begins to char at 800°F (427°C). The thread made of Kevlar® fiber is used to sew seams on temperature-resistant gloves.
- Kevlar® gloves offer cut- and heat-resistance. Typically it is a lightweight and flexible material that is used for many applications relating to automotive assembly, sheet metal handling and glass handling.
- Fiber-Metal Blends: Many durable, abrasion-resistant gloves are made of a woven fabric blend of Spectra®, Kevlar® and stainless steel.
- Metal Mesh: Interlocked stainless steel mesh offers superior cut and abrasion protection due to its strength.
- Metal mesh gloves are very cut and abrasion resistant and are used often in meat/poultry applications.
- SuperFabric: Combinations of the number of layers, thickness, substrates, surface coatings, etc., lead to fabrics that have varying levels of puncture, cut and abrasion resistance, grip and flexibility. Tactile surfaces offer improved grip of wet and oily surfaces.
- Steel Core: Cut and abrasion resistant and are often used for meat/poultry processing, glass handling, metal fabrication, automotive manufacturing as well as being used in the paper industry.
There are many different glove materials in the market that have a variety of performance characteristics and are used for a variety of different applications.
Although the above materials are known to provide excellent cut resistance, any glove material will provide some measure of cut resistance. Dupont Personal Protection performed a Cut-Protection Performance Test (CPPT) comparing leather, cotton and Kevlar®. Kevlar® outperformed the cotton, which in turn outperformed the leather.
Cut Test Methods
When specifying cut protection gloves and accessories, it is important to understand the different test methods and standards used:
- ASTM F1790-97 (1997 test method): Original standard test method for measuring cut resistance of materials used in protective clothing. This method was developed by DuPont and is used by labs that have a Cut Protection Performance Test (CPPT) cut test machine. Cut data generated by this method is used to specify American National Standard / International Safety Equipment Association (ANSI/ISEA) cut levels.
- ASTM F1790-05 (2005 method): This ASTM test method for measuring cut resistance is used by labs that use a Tomodynamometer (TDM) cut test machine. The later revision was harmonized with the ISO 13997 cut test method. Although the method can be used for both the CPPT and TDM cut test machines, current practice is to use ASTM 1790-97 for the CPPT and ASTM 1790-05 for the TDM.
- EN 388-2003: The European norm for protective gloves against mechanical hazards. This test uses the Couptest cut test machine.
- ISO 13997: International test standard for the TDM cut test machine.
In the ASTM F1790-97, ASTM F1790-05 and ISO 13997 test methods, the sample is cut by a straight-edge blade, under load, that moves along a straight path. The sample is cut five times each at three different loads and the data is used to determine the required load to cut through the sample at a reference distance of 25 millimeters (mm) of blade travel when testing to ASTM F1790-97 and 20 mm when testing to ASTM F1790-05. This is referred to as the Rating Force or Cutting Force. The higher the Rating Force the more cut-resistant the material. Neoprene rubber is used as the standard to evaluate blade sharpness.
Currently, ASTM F1790-05 is the standard being used to measure cut resistance. When using a CPPT tester, the values obtained using ASTM F1790-05 are typically lower than the values obtained using the ASTM F1790-97 version.
In the EN 388 test method, a circular blade, under a fixed load, moves back and forth across the sample until cut-through is achieved. A cotton canvas fabric is used as the reference material. The reference material and test sample are cut alternately until at least five results are obtained. The cut resistance is a ratio of the number of cycles needed to cut through the test sample versus the reference material. This is referred to as the cut index. The higher the cut index the more cut resistant the material.
Industry Standards and Levels of Cut Resistance
ANSI/ISEA 105-2011 “American National Standard for Hand Protection” defines performance levels for cut resistance and abrasion resistance. This is the third edition of ANSI/ISEA 105 and significant changes have been made. Cut-resistance classification may now be determined using either ASTM F1790-97 or ASTM F1790-05 and then calculated using a newly created standardized Cut-Resistance Performance Calculator. The 2011 standard also includes separate testing methods for abrasion-resistance classification dependent upon the material type.
ANSI/ISEA 105 Cut-Resistance Performance Levels
|Weight (grams) needed to cut through material
(25 mm of blade travel – ASTM F1790-97)
(20 mm of blade travel – ASATM F1790-05)
|Weight (grams) needed to cut through material
with 20 mm of blade travel
The European standard EN388, “Protective Gloves Against Mechanical Risks” uses different level groupings and a completely different method of testing than ANSI/ISEA 105.
EN 388 Cut-Resistance Performance Levels
Blade Cut Resistance (Cut Index)
|2||2.5 – 4.9|
|3||5.0 – 9.9|
|4||10.0 – 19.9|
ANSI/ISEA 105 and EN 388 cut levels are not interchangeable.
Glove manufacturers and industry standards groups have made tremendous progress in testing and measuring cut resistance. Cut resistance information is now readily available. It is vital to understand the different test methods in order to interpret the results, draw accurate conclusions and select the best glove for the task at hand.
Commonly Asked Questions
Q. Do cut-resistant gloves offer good puncture resistance?
A. Many cut-resistant gloves are manufactured to provide protection from a slash from sharp items like knives/blades. However, they may provide very little, if any, puncture resistance from a pointed item like a needle. If the application requires both cut and puncture resistance, some manufacturers offer gloves that provide both types of protection. The manufacturer’s specifications should be reviewed to determine if a glove is rated for puncture resistance and, if so, what rating is associated with it.
Q. Should cut-resistant gloves be used to protect one from cuts from powered/mechanical equipment like powered saws and drills?
A. Manufacturers of cut-resistant gloves will not suggest the use of cut-resistant gloves for protection against powered devices. Gloves are typically tested for use with non-powered blades and sharps only.
The use of a cut-resistant glove with powered equipment could potentially harm an individual. If the moving blade catches the glove, it could result in a person getting pulled into moving machinery. Moving machine parts have the potential for causing severe workplace injuries, such as crushed fingers or hands, amputations, burns or blindness. Safeguards are essential for protecting workers from these preventable injuries. Any machine part, function or process that may cause injury must be safeguarded, especially when the operation of a machine or accidental contact with it can injure the operator or others in the vicinity. These hazards must be either eliminated or controlled.