Choosing the right leather glove for the job is crucial to preventing hand injuries. However, choosing the correct glove for your application isn't always obvious.

Using the wrong gloves can be a serious business expense as well. Each year more than one million workers in the United States visit an emergency room due to hand injuries, and 110,000 of those result in lost time. The average workers compensation cost for a hand injury is $6,000 while the average cost when a hand injury results in an LTI is over $7,500.

Glove Type and Lining

The first step in choosing the right leather glove is to analyze what the job task entails. Will the user be carrying glass panes, working with blades, or wearing the leather gloves for outdoor winter work?

Leather offers reasonably good cut and puncture protection, often good dexterity (depending upon the type of glove and application), good grip, impact protection, comfort, and warmth.

If your task requires additional protection, you might need to consider specialized leather gloves. Gloves made of materials like Kevlar or rubber, for instance, can provide improved impact resistance and thermal linings can offer additional insulation.

As a general rule cut-resistant gloves made with Kevlar and HPPE (High Performance Polyethylene) can provide more protection than just leather gloves alone, but are not always the best choice for every application and can sometimes be more costly.

(Learn about Cold Stress: Your Winter Safety Guide.)

Know Your Leather

There are four types of leather that are often used for work gloves:

  • Cowhide – The most common type of leather used for gloves. It is moderately priced, comfortable, and offers good abrasion protection.
  • Deerskin – A warm, supple, long-wearing leather that is more flexible and comfortable than cowhide.
  • Pigskin – Washable without deforming and more breathable than other leathers, it can become wet and dry without becoming stiff.
  • Goatskin – A good choice where dexterity is required. Goat skin contains lanolin which keeps it waterproof, supple, and makes it resistant to abrasions.

Cut Resistance Levels

There is really no such thing as a cut proof glove and the term "cut proof" can create a false sense of security. There are, however, different levels of cut resistance, ranging from low levels that protect from minor cuts to high levels that will help keep you safe from accidental slashes from a blade.

ANSI has upgraded their cut levels and the updated standard provides a more versatile guideline for the appropriate level of protection you need for your application. The ANSI test uses a blade with a variable load which moved in a linear motion across the fabric. Once the blade cuts through a conductive strip detects the cut.

ANSI Cut Levels

ASTM ANSI CUT LEVEL A1: Nuisance cuts. 200 to 499 grams to cut. Used for light cut hazards such as material handling, small parts assembly with sharp edges, packaging, warehouse, general purpose, forestry, and construction.

ASTM ANSI CUT LEVEL A2: 500 to 999 grams to cut. Used for light to medium cut hazards such as material handling, small parts assembly with sharp edges, packaging, warehouse, general purpose, forestry, construction, pulp and paper, and automotive assembly.

ASTM ANSI CUT LEVEL A3: 1,000 to 1,499 grams to cut. Used for light to medium cut hazards such as material handling, small parts assembly with sharp edges, packaging, warehouse, general purpose, forestry, construction, pulp and paper, and automotive assembly.

ASTM ANSI CUT LEVEL A4: 1,500 to 2,199 grams to cut. Used for medium cut hazards in HVAC, pulp and paper, automotive assembly, appliance manufacturing, light glass handling, canning, electrical, carpet installation, dry wall, metal fabrication, packaging, aerospace industry, food preparation and processing, and in the warehouse.

ASTM ANSI CUT LEVEL A5: 2,200 to 2,999 grams to cut. Used for medium cut hazards in HVAC, pulp and paper, automotive assembly, appliance manufacturing, light glass handling, canning, electrical, carpet installation, dry wall, metal fabrication, packaging, aerospace industry, food preparation and processing and in the warehouse.

ASTM ANSI CUT LEVEL A6: 3,000 to 3,999 grams to cut. Used for high cut hazards in HVAC, pulp and paper, automotive assembly, appliance manufacturing, light glass handling, canning, electrical, carpet installation, dry wall, metal fabrication, packaging, aerospace industry, food preparation and processing, and metal stamping and metal recycling.

ASTM ANSI CUT LEVEL A7: 4,000 to 4,999 grams to cut. Used for very high cut hazards in HVAC, pulp and paper, automotive assembly, appliance manufacturing, light glass handling, canning, electrical, carpet installation, dry wall, metal fabrication, packaging, aerospace industry, food preparation and processing, metal stamping, meat processing, metal recycling, and paper (changing slitter blades).

ASTM ANSI CUT LEVEL A8: 5,000 to 5,999 grams to cut. Used for very high cut hazards in HVAC, pulp and paper, automotive assembly, appliance manufacturing, light glass handling, canning, electrical, carpet installation, dry wall, metal fabrication, packaging, aerospace industry, food preparation and processing, metal stamping, meat processing, metal recycling, and paper (changing slitter blades).

ASTM ANSI CUT LEVEL A9: Over 6,000 grams to cut. Used for very high cut hazards in metal recycling, HVAC, pulp and paper, automotive assembly, appliance manufacturing, light glass handling, canning, electrical, carpet installation, dry wall, metal fabrication, packaging, aerospace industry, food preparation and processing, metal stamping, meat processing, metal recycling, and paper (changing slitter blades)

EN388 European Cut Resistance Standard

In Europe, EN388 is the standard used to determine cut levels for gloves. EN388 uses ratings ranging from “A” to “F” with “A” being the lightest cut resistance and “F” being the most heavy duty cut resistance.

Make the Right Choice

Choosing the right leather glove involves determining the requirements and level of protection required for the task at hand. Choosing the right combination of cut resistance, comfort, and dexterity is important to provide the proper level of protection. Testing and evaluating gloves is recommended to find the best glove for the job.

For more Hand and Arm Protection content, check out our Hand and Arm Protection Knowledge Center.