ANSI/ISEA 138 Safety Gloves: Ensuring Hand Protection

ANSI/ISEA 138 Safety Gloves: Ensuring Hand Protection

The human hand is an anatomical masterpiece and arguably the greatest tool attached to our bodies. The 14 phalanges in the fingers, five metacarpal bones in the palm, and eight carpal bones in the wrist all work in symphony to allow us to perform precise movements and intricate tasks. However, this complex network of bones, joints, muscles, tendons, and nerves makes our hands extraordinarily delicate and susceptible to injury.

According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, hand injuries are the most common workplace injuries, with the Department of Labor estimating that 23% of all work-related injuries involve the hands or fingers (Pasternack Tilker Ziegler Walsh Stanton & Romano, Aug. 15, 2022). Below, we explore the ANSI/ISEA 138 standard and how its creation became a pivotal benchmark for hand protection across various industrial environments.

Decoding ANSI/ISEA 138: Impact Safety Gloves Standard

The American National Standards Institute (ANSI), in collaboration with the International Safety Equipment Association (ISEA), developed the ANSI/ISEA 138 standard, which focuses on the protection provided by gloves against impact injuries. Introduced in 2019, this safety standard categorizes protective gloves based on their ability to dissipate energy from impacts to the back of the hand – a common injury in many workplaces. The ISEA 138 in particular, tests two areas for impact performance: knuckles, and fingers/thumb. ISEA 138 also requires testing in a lab that meets the laboratory conformity assessment standard IOS/IEC 17205, benefitting the credibility and claims of glove performance level.

Prior to this standard, evaluating impact resistance claims on gloves lacked a uniform approach. The ANSI/ISEA 138 standard filled this gap by introducing a standardized testing methodology, performance criteria, and labeling requirements for gloves designed to protect the back of the hand from forceful impacts.

Overview of ANSI/ISEA 138 Standard for Impact Resistance

The ANSI/ISEA 138 standard outlines a series of tests to assess the impact absorption capabilities of protective gloves. These tests involve dropping a 2.5-kilogram weighted mass onto specific sections of the glove’s back-of-hand area to simulate impact scenarios. This process is repeated ten times on the fingers, and eight times on the knuckles. Impact resistant gloves are then rated from Level 1 (least impact protection) to Level 3 (highest impact protection) based on the Mean Transmitted Force (MTF). It’s worth noting that the MTF of the finger area is treated separately from the knuckles, so the lower MTF of the two regions will be used to classify the glove.

Understanding ANSI/ISEA 138-2019

Here’s a breakdown of these ratings:

  • Level 1: Suitable for light-duty applications, gloves with this rating allow an average force of 9 kilonewtons (kN) or less to reach the hand and its protective materials will absorb 55 percent of force. Gloves like the Pyramex Genuine Leather Impact Gloves fall under this level of protection.
  • Level 2: Ideal for tasks involving moderate impact risks, gloves like the Predator Mechanics Hi-Vis Impact Gloves provide mid-level impact resistance, with an average force transmission of 6.5 kN or less. These gloves materials will absorb 67.5 percent of force.
  • Level 3: Gloves with this rating allow an average force of 4 kN. Gloves like the Pyramex Micro-Foam Nitrile A4 Impact Gloves are recommended for high-risk environments with the potential for the heaviest impacts. The protective materials of these gloves will absorb 80% of force.

According to ANSI, “It is important to check for the designated symbol of the impact levels 1-3. This marking can be found on the glove or attached to the glove and is strictly used for gloves only following ANSI/ISEA 138 (ANSI, March 19, 2019).” These symbols will tell you, for instance, that while the Safety Ninja Lite Work Gloves offer tactile sensitivity and abrasion resistance, they don’t offer any impact protection.

Significance of ANSI Impact Ratings in Workplace Safety

Before ANSI/ISEA 138, impact resistance claims on gloves were subjective. This standard provides a quantifiable measure of a glove's ability to absorb impact, helping safety professionals make informed decisions about selecting gloves with the appropriate level of protection for the specific hazards encountered in their workplaces.

According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) standards for hand protection, “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 (OSHA, n.d.).”

Exploring ANSI Standards for Gloves: A Detailed Guide

ANSI standards for hand protection go beyond impact resistance, covering various other work hazards, including abrasion, cuts, punctures, and chemical exposure. ANSI/ISEA 105 provides ratings for specific performance properties, including:

  • Mechanical Protection: This covers cut, puncture, and abrasion resistance. These genuine leather impact gloves provide superior mechanical protection and are ideal for auto repair, construction, and general maintenance applications.
  • Chemical Protection: This includes permeation and degradation resistance.
  • Heat Protection: Ignition, heat degradation, and conductive heat resistance.

ANSI/ISEA 105 specifies different performance levels for each property. Cut levels are rated A1 to A9 (lowest to highest). Meanwhile, puncture and abrasion levels are rated 0 to 5 and 0 to 6, respectively. These ratings help users select the appropriate hand protection for specific risks involved in their workplace. For example, while the Predator Goatskin Mechanics Gloves features an engineered DuPont Kevlar palm lining that achieves ANSI Level A9 cut protection, it only has a Level 1 rating for impacts.

How ANSI Glove Ratings Enhance User Safety

By setting clear, measurable criteria for hand protection, ANSI standards help manufacturers develop better protective gloves and empower employers to make informed decisions about their protective equipment. Moreover, these standards breed innovation. For instance, the Predator Hi-Vis Mechanics Glove w/HyperMax has ANSI Cut A7, ANSI Abrasion Level 6, and ANSI Impact 2. It’s an outstanding choice for those seeking all-around hand protection.

Through comprehensive testing and stringent criteria, these gloves ensure that workers' hands—their most valuable tools—remain protected in various challenging environments. Contact our safety supply experts today to learn more about the hand protection options available for your specific application.



Jun 25th 2024 PK Safety Team

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