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The Facts about Puncture Resistant gloves
As materials and manufacturing techniques used for glove making have developed over the past decades, the ability to provide specific performance characteristics in hand protection has continually improved. Yet when trying to understand glove suitability for the intended task, it becomes apparent that the listed brand / manufacturer information relating to Puncture and Needle resistant gloves is not uniformly presented or easily comparable.
In researching this topic, one can find a diverse range of testing methods, certifications and performance ratings quoted in various formats / units of measure. The potential confusion created by these non-complimentary documents and data is distracting from the main purpose of providing clear and distinct information so that employee / employers can evaluate the most suitable product available for the intended purpose.
The Variations in Test Methods
Last Century a European Standard EN388 was created to help determine which glove may best suit what application. It was known as the ‘Protection against Mechanical Risks’ Standard for hand protection and tested for Abrasion, Cut, Tear and Puncture resistance. In this Standard the Puncture test was conducted by a 5mm steel probe (Pencil size) with a rounded point tip 1mm wide. This probe pressed against the glove palm at a right angle travelling at 100mm/minute. This rather thick object travelling at a slow speed tended to bend, stretch and eventually burst through the material. This test is particularly relevant to static spikes, thick splinters or wire, edges of steel / aluminium.
In November 2010 a new standard test method ASTM F2778-10 was introduced for ‘Protective Clothing Material resistance to Hypodermic Needle Puncture’. In Feb 2016 the American ANSI/ISEA 105 Standard was updated to include the ASTM F2878-10. This is now the internationally recognised testing procedure specifically for needle resistant gloves. In this test the fine point Needle travels at 500mm/minute, measuring the amount of force to pierce (Needles have a precise bevelled edge) then pass through material in Newtons force.
Today some manufacturers are persisting with older test methodologies that are not specifically designed to test hand protection such as the Modified ASTM F1342-05. Some manufacturers are quoting glove performance in other than the Standard International unit of Force which is the ‘Newton’. It is only when you convert their alternate unit measures of force that you can have a clearer appraisal of the actual protection factor. If your glove manufacturer is providing you with measure of force in 1 Pound / foot (lb/f) this equals 1.3558179 Newton-meters. Others will provide force in Grams 1 = 0.00980665 Newtons.
Take note of the gauge (diameter) of Hypodermic Needle used in the testing. The 25g Needle is the accepted standard gauge for industry testing. Some tests are conducted with 23g as the wider Needle tip delivers better performance results (the smaller the gauge number the wider the needle). We find real world reference to gauge when a commonly provided ‘substance addiction’ or Diabetes Needle is 19, 23 to 25 gauges in thickness.
It is very relevant to understand that many so-called “Needle (Stick) Resistant” gloves as advertised, are not providing a very high level of Needle puncture resistance. Some of the popular well-known brands are as low as 1.2 to 3.5 Newtons of protection. To put this into perspective the highest level of performance currently able to be manufactured is just over 10 Newtons. These upper and lower performance measurements position a Hypodermic Needle resistant glove providing 5 to 6 Newtons in the mid-range of protection.
It is in this mid-range performance level that we find the “sweet spot” as far as working with some hand mobility and dexterity in Needle resistant gloves. That is, the provision of adequate levels of protection without creating unnecessary feeling of clumsiness or increased discomfort, lack of sensitivity, wearer hand / finger fatigue.
As long as there are established processes in place for steady and controlled movements in a low to mid level of potential risk work zone, these gloves should prove to be suitable. For those tasks where the hazard is unknown, or a higher level of protection is required, then the 10 Newtons rated gloves will provide the maximum puncture resistant performance.
Due to the specialised nature of design in Needle resistant fabrics, the higher Needle resistance performance rating equates to the Higher Cut resistance. These high Newtons of performance Needle resistant gloves have far superior Cut / Blade resistance to any other type of specialised textile gloves available. In some brands, the maximum Cut Resistant rating of “F” measured to 30 Newtons of Cut resistant force, has been more than doubled.
Final consideration should be given to balancing the amount of finger/ hand movement required to conduct each work process against the potential risk and level of protection deemed necessary. The last undisputable truth is that the higher the Newtons of performance specified, the more restriction in movement, sense of touch (feel) and grip control you are likely to experience.
As with all P.P.E it is vitally important to fully evaluate the needs analysis for each respective task / risk to ensure the correct mix of protection and functionality is maintained. It is no good having the highest performing protective products available, if you can’t wear them to complete your work duties.