The issue of impact protection

Your Guide to the EN 388 Impact Glove Standard v ANSI 138 Standard

Back-of-hand bones and soft tissue are extremely vulnerable to impact-related hand injuries. Identifying appropriate hand protection is imperative in impact-related issues and pinch injuries – and having the right standard in place is paramount for this process.

The Difference Between EN 388 and ISEA 138

There are two global standards when selecting an impact glove: EN 388 and ISEA 138. Though both have similar test methods, each standard has a different scoring and rating system and knowing the difference between them is critical to making better-informed decisions about glove selection and ultimately keeping wearers safe.

The European industrial glove market was the first to add impact testing and ratings to their EN 388 standard in 2016 which follows the existing motorcycle glove test.

Both tests are conducted by dropping a weight of 2.5kg at a height of 20cm at a force of 20kN.

Top impact machine

EN 388

  • EN 388 only tests 1 area - Impact on the knuckles. 4 gloves are tested in the same spot
  • The EN 388 test is given a simple Pass (P) or Fail (F) rating, an untested glove will be given a score of Not Tested (X)
  • The marking for this test is displayed in the 6th position under the EN 388 icon
  • A pass = the transmitted mean force is calculated from the 4 tested gloves. This needs to be less than or equal to 7 kN with no single results greater than 9 kN or put simpler 65% absorption of the 20KJ force
  • The score of P, F, or X is designated in the diagram below
EN388 vs ISEA138 Impact Testing

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ISEA 138

  • The ISEA 138 standard lists test results with performance level of 1, 2 or 3 and fail
  • In comparison to the EN 388 standard, this standard tests both the knuckles and fingers
  • This means the results give more accurate and glove specific results to the areas most susceptible to injury
  • Testing is performed using 18 drops – 4 defined points in the knuckle area x 2 gloves equalling 8 tests and 5 defined points on the fingers x 2 Gloves equalling 10 tests
  • The force transfer is again measured in Kn. With a lower Kn force transfer - the higher the impact resistance. In other words, less impact is felt in the hand with a lower Kn reading and the wearer is assured of increased protection
    • 9kN – 6.5kN force transfer to the hand delivers a minimum 55% force absorption = level 1 rating
    • 6.5kN – 4kN force transfer to the hand delivers a minimum 67.5% force absorption = level 2 rating
    • Anything under 4kN force transfer to the hand delivers a minimum 80% force absorption = level 3 rating – the highest
    • Anything above a 9kN transfer = a fail
  • If the knuckle and finger impact tests deliver different transfer force ratings, only the lowest rating is given to the overall glove impact performance. This ensures a consistent representation of the impact protection between the knuckle and fingers. For example:
Watch the HexArmor Safety 101 Impact Protection video

Watch the video

See the ANSI/ISEA 138 impact test in action and learn more about what this standard means for your glove selection.

Rig Lizard® Thin Lizzie™ 2090X

Performance Ratings 4X44EP
ANSI/ISEA 138 Impact: Fingers 1
ANSI/ISEA 138 Impact: Knuckles 2

Overall Impact Score Level 1
Rig Lizard® Fluid 7102

Performance Ratings 4X42CP
ANSI/ISEA 138 Impact: Fingers 1
ANSI/ISEA 138 Impact: Knuckles 2

Overall Impact Score Level 1
EXT Rescue® 4011

Performance Ratings 4X43FP
ANSI/ISEA 138 Impact: Fingers 2
ANSI/ISEA 138 Impact: Knuckles 3

Overall Impact Score Level 2
Rig Lizard® 2037 with Cellutek® Technology

Performance Ratings 4343CP
ANSI/ISEA 138 Impact: Fingers 3
ANSI/ISEA 138 Impact: Knuckles 3

Overall Impact Score Level 3

In summary, the key benefits of the ISEA 138 impact test over the EN 388 test:

  • The test answers questions concerning finger pinch-point protection which is where most injuries occur
  • ISEA 138 delivers exact information concerning all-round protection and not just to the knuckles
  • It reassures wearers about how much protection they are receiving
  • Allows HSE professionals to make informed decisions and select impact protection according to the level of impact risk

Download our useful A5 guide

Download our useful A5 guide

Download the HexArmor brochure

Download the HexArmor brochure


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