What are the different types of cut-resistant gloves available and what do they protect against?

Q:

What are the different types of cut-resistant gloves available and what do they protect against?

A:

Of the more than 1,000,000 hand injuries reported yearly by OSHA, a staggering 69% are due to lacerations and puncture injuries. In 30% of all cases, the injured worker either did not wear safety gloves or used a glove that did not offer enough protection from the hazards present in their working environment.

Keeping hands safe means using a glove with the right material and the right level of cut resistance.

Types of Material

When trying to decide which cut-resistant gloves to buy, you will face a number of different materials. But in reality, 98% of the gloves in the market are made of one of three materials:

  • Ultra-High-Molecular-Weight Polyethylene (UHMWPE) Yarn (e.g. Spectra, Dyneema, TenActiv)
  • Para-Aramid Yarn (e.g. Kevlar, XKS, Aramex, Rhino, Metalguard, Armcore)
  • Steel Mesh (only a small percentage of gloves are made from this material)

Neither of the most common materials are inherently better than the other. Your choice will be based on the application and the working environment.

UHWMPE disperses heat, is water resistant, and is lighter and 40% stronger than para-aramids. Para-aramids are heavier, weaker, absorb water (3.5% of their weight) but they do insulate better.

Although para-aramid is weaker than UHWMPE, it doesn't necessarily offer lower cut resistance. Different treatments and coatings are applied to the gloves that can alter their cut resistance (learn more in 12 Types of Hand Protection Gloves - And How to Choose the Right One).

Cut Resistance vs. Puncture Resistance

It's important to know the difference between cut resistance and puncture resistance. Cut-resistant gloves are able to withstand a longitudinal cut, but some will not be able to resist downward piercing pressure.

Some gloves offer both cut and puncture resistance, but never assume that a glove will offer both unless the manufacturer specifies it (for related reading, see Beyond Gloves: 7 Things to Do to Keep Your Hands Safe at Work).

Cut Resistance Levels and Applications

Depending on where you live, there are two major standards that define the different levels of cut resistance. People living in Europe, Canada, South America, or Asian countries follow the EN 388 standard, while United States follow the ANSI/ISEA 105-2016 standard. These standards are not equivalent and have different testing procedures.

The table below refers strictly to the American standard. The ANSI standard categorizes gloves by nine different cut resistance levels, from A1 to A9. These different levels indicate how much pressure (in grams) it takes for a blade to cut (longitudinally) through 25 mm of material.

Cut Resistance Level

Grams of Pressure

Applications

A1

200-499

Assembly, Maintenance, Material Handling, and Shipping and Receiving

A2

500-999

Assembly, Appliance Manufacturing, Automotive, Construction, Maintenance, Material Handling, Metal Handling, Heavier Kitchen Preparation, Glass Handling

A3

1000-1499

Assembly, Appliance Manufacturing, Automotive, Construction, Maintenance, Material Handling, Metal Handling, Heavier Kitchen Preparation, Glass Handling

A4

1500-2199

Appliance Manufacturing, Automotive, Construction, Glass Handling, Machining, Metal Handling, Metal Stamping, Paper Production, Intense Kitchen Preparation, Glass Handling

A5

2200-2999

Appliance Manufacturing, Automotive, Construction, Glass Handling, Machining, Metal Handling, Metal Stamping, Paper Production, High-Risk Kitchen Preparation, Butcher Shops, Meat and Poultry Applications

A6

3000-3999

Appliance Manufacturing, Automotive, Construction, Glass Handling, Machining, Metal Handling, Metal Stamping, Paper Production

A7

4000-4999

Assembly or movement of large, bulky, or heavy objects with sharp edges (also recommended for assembly or movement of items that are difficult to grip)

A8

5000-5999

Assembly or movement of large, bulky, or heavy objects with sharp edges (also recommended for assembly or movement of items that are difficult to grip)

A9

6000+

Assembly or movement of large, bulky, or heavy objects with sharp edges (also recommended for assembly or movement of items that are difficult to grip)


Conclusion

Though it seems that in the ANSI standard different level of cut resistance are recommended for the same type of activity, your hazard assessment should take into consideration the amount of pressure your worker’s hand will have to withstand in order to determine the right level of cut resistance. Once you determine this, you need to think of the working conditions and other qualities you are looking for in a glove to choose among gloves providing the same degree of protection.

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Written by Karoly Ban Matei
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Karoly has worked at a senior level (both as an employee and a contractor) for organizations in the construction and manufacturing industries. He has a passion for developing and improving health and safety programs.

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