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Slash resistant gloves often come with lots of information about what levels of protection they provide, but no information on what these levels or standards mean. Here we hope to clarify some of the jargon so you can choose the right gloves for you or your company.

If you require gloves that are cut, puncture or abrasion resistant, there are a number of considerations to be made. If you are buying gloves for an employee you need to ensure that they have been subjected to European standard safety testing.

Gloves that have undergone tests in accordance with EU standards will have an EN code (for slash resistant gloves this is EN388). Gloves tested in America will have an ASTM code (American Society for Testing and Materials).

How are gloves tested?

To meet EN388 standards, gloves advertised as cut or slash resistant undergo four tests and given a performance rating of 0 to 5, with 5 being the most effective. These tests are

  • A) Abrasion Resistance
  • B) Blade Cut Resistance (the only test that can achieve a level 5)
  • C) Tear Resistance
  • D) Puncture Resistance

Gloves that have been approved to EN388 standards will display the performance levels of the gloves either on the label or on the packaging. The numbers will always appear in the same order to indicate which test they apply to – A, B, C, D – and will usually show under the EN388 logo or listed as ‘rating’.


The Abrasion Test

The glove material is fixed into place and a standard abrasive material is moved in a circular motion over the glove. The same speed and pressure is always applied. The performance level is then based on the number of cycles required to abrade the material.

LEVEL 0 1 2 3 4 5
Abrasion Resistance (cycles) <100 100 500 2000 8000 N/A

The Blade Cut Test

A circular blade is moved back and forth over the glove material at a fixed stroke length, pressure and weight (usually about 5N/0.5kg). The number of cycles required to cut through the sample indicates its performance level. As the sharpness of the blade must be taken into consideration the blade is tested before and after use by using it to cut a sample fabric. This helps determine how much the blade may have blunted during the test.

LEVEL 0 1 2 3 4 5
Blade Cut Resistance (cycles) <1.2 1.2 2.5 5.0 10.0 20.0

The Tear Resistance Test

In this instance the glove material is clamped in the jaws of a strength testing machine. The jaws are then moved apart at a constant speed and the force needed to tear the material is measured (in newtons).

LEVEL 0 1 2 3 4 5
Tear Resistance (newtons) <10 10 25 50 75 N/A

The Puncture Resistance Test

A standard rounded point is pushed through the glove material at a fixed speed, and the force required to penetrate the material is measured (in newtons).

LEVEL 0 1 2 3 4 5
Puncture Resistance (newtons) <20 20 60 100 150 N/A


If a glove is made of multiple layers of material, the abrasion and tear tests are carried out on each layer separately. The performance level will be based on the lowest individual result of the most resistant material. The blade cut and puncture tests will be carried out with all the individual layers assembled together as they would be in the glove. The tests are repeated a set number of times and the performance levels are then based on the lowest of the test results.

blog3It is important to remember that all gloves of this kind are advertised as resistant and not proof. These ratings can provide a guide when buying protective gloves, but it must be remembered that this is only an indicator of how well the glove will perform. Each test is performed with an item, such as a blade that is standardised so that each test can be easily repeated under the same clinical circumstances. The tests are not carried out with a variety of blades, nor is the puncture test carried out with a selection of different gauge needles, metal or wood splinters etc.

What Cut Resistant Fabrics Are Available?

There are several materials in production that are resistant to cuts and abrasions. Perhaps the most commonly known is Kevlar, developed at DuPont and commercially available since the early 1970’s. Kevlar is part of the aramid family of synthetic fibres, and is accepted to be 5 times stronger than steel. Kevlar is also naturally fire retardant.

Some of the newer fibres such as Ultra-High-Molecular Weight Polyethylene (UHMwPE), better known as brands like Dyneema from DSM (available since 1990) and Honeywell Spectra from Allied Signal (introduced in the mid 1980’s), are 10 – 15 times stronger than steel, and up to 40% stronger than aramid fibres (such as Kevlar). As well as being strong and lightweight, Dyneema in particular is naturally water and UV resistant.

Cut resistant fibres are nearly always used in conjunction with other fabrics such as neoprene, leather or cotton. This means they could be used as a lining, or that some areas of a glove may be reinforced but not others, depending on what the gloves is intended for. For example, a glove specifically designed for dog handlers is may have abrasion resistant material across the palm where the lead is most likely to rub, but not on the finger tips or backs.

If you need general protection, look for gloves that have cut resistant fibres woven into the main fabric or as a liner. If you are particularly worried about needle stick injuries, look for gloves that have extra reinforcement on the sides of the index finger and finger tips as this is where most needle stick injuries occur.


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