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ANSI/ISEA 138-2019 and BS EN 388:2016+A1:2018 – Performance Standards and Classifications for Impact-resistant Hand Protection and Protection Against Mechanical Risks

“Impacto Protective Products understands that specific tasks need specific protection and offers a range of specialty gloves to provide the ultimate hand protection for any task. Specializing in anti-impact and anti-vibration hand protection, offering protection for almost any job, Impacto takes pride in developing quality protective equipment that conforms with many international safety standards.” Impacto Protective Products Inc., 1-888-232-0031,

An estimated 18% of recordable injuries that occur in U.S. workplaces involve crushing and bone breakage. The hand’s importance in the performance of work-related tasks and the use of machinery in industry makes the hand especially vulnerable to occupational injury. The hand is complex and compact. It encompasses skin, nerves, blood vessels, bones and muscles in a small space.

Hand injuries can result in thousands of dollars in costs and both immediate impact and long-term effects ranging from weakness, loss of motion, numbness, tingling and cramping to permanent disability. Crush injuries of the hand may involve damage to multiple structures within the hand, loss of tissue and possibly even amputation of fingers. Hand injuries occur frequently in the automotive, construction, warehouse, heavy equipment, cargo handling, oil/gas, towing/transportation industries, manufacturing, mining and agriculture industries.

Causes of Hand Crush Incidents

Machinery with moving parts, including power shear equipment, punch presses and brake presses that are common in the manufacturing industry, account for many crush incidents. At construction sites, heavy construction materials constitute a danger to hands. Being stuck between two heavy moving objects, such as a power-driven vehicle, is another hazard.

About the Standards

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The International Safety Equipment Association (ISEA) developed ANSI/ISEA 138-2019 to address gaps in appropriately evaluating performance of a glove’s dorsal protection and assists employers in making informed product selections. This standard establishes testing, classification and labeling requirements for occupational gloves providing back-of-the-hand impact protection.

This type of hand protection is commonly used in the automotive, heavy equipment and construction operation, cargo handling, oil /gas and towing/transportation industries. Compliant gloves are evaluated for their capability to dissipate impact forces on the knuckles and fingers and are classified accordingly. The resulting classifications can be used by employers as a reliable means of comparing different products on an equal basis when selecting hand protection relative to the tasks being performed.

ANSI/ISEA 138 provides a basis for evaluating and classifying gloves ‘for their capability to dissipate impact forces on the knuckles and fingers.’ The standard uses an impact-protection scale from levels 1 to 3 to define levels of impact, with level 1 being applicable for workers encountering lesser impact and level 3 for people encountering more impact. The difference between levels is measured by Kilonewtons (kN). The parts of an impact-resistant glove (i.e., fingers, knuckles) may have different level numbers assigned to them. The glove itself will show the lowest of the numbers.

The standard includes the following provisions regarding back-of-the-hand impact protection:

  • A requirement that products be tested in a laboratory having a certificate of accreditation meeting the requirements in ISO/IEC 17025:2017, and general requirements for the competence of testing and calibration laboratories
  • Specifications for required testing equipment and methods
  • Classification and labeling requirements
  • A performance level scale that provides employers with the information they need to compare products and select gloves that are a fit for the application-specific hazards in their workplaces
  • A required pictogram mark for each of the defined levels for compliant gloves

The European standard BS EN 388:2016+A1:2018 specifies requirements, test methods, marking and information to be supplied for protective gloves against the mechanical risks of abrasion, blade cut, tear, puncture and, if applicable, impact.

Manufacturers use various features and materials to give gloves dorsal impact protection, including foam, a shock-absorbing/cushioning pad on the back of the hand, thermoplastic rubber (TPR) or thermoplastic elastomers (TPE). As with all forms of occupational hand protection, impact-resistant gloves must be comfortable and flexible enough to allow the wearer to complete necessary work tasks, or the worker will be tempted to remove the gloves – and lose, at least temporarily, their protective qualities. In environments where a number of hazards are present, gloves that combine impact resistance with other qualities — such as chemical-, heat- and cut-resistance, insulation from cold temperatures and waterproofing – should be chosen.

Treatment for Hand Crush Injuries

Depending upon the nature and severity of the injury, crush injuries to the hand may require stitches, surgery, the wearing of a cast or splint and physical therapy. In some cases, laser or ultrasound therapy can help damaged tissues heal. In the most serious incidents, amputation is necessary.

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