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EN 388: 2016 Testing Standards for Protective Gloves Against Mechanical Risks

EN 388: 2016 Testing Standards for Protective Gloves Against Mechanical Risks

Standardized testing holds PPE providers responsible for correctly classifying product features and performance ratings to meet industry standards. The CE mark can simply be described as an official seal of approval to sell products within the European Union.

The CE mark also makes a statement to consumers, safety professionals, and purchasers that the product meets industry and consumer PPE requirements. When it comes to work gloves for mechanical risks and industrial applications, CE standard EN 388: 2016 measures the ability of the glove to protect working hands against abrasions, lacerations, tearing, punctures, and impact injuries.

Each test produces a performance rating based on progressive protection levels. The higher the number or letter rating, the greater the protection provided. This allows the wearer or health and safety professional to choose a set of gloves with a performance rating that is best suited for the environment and task at hand.

With all that said, throw on your virtual lab coat and follow along as we take you through EN 388: 2016 work glove performance testing.


Material performance testing starts with the Martindale abrasion machine. Sample material is pulled directly from the glove samples and fitted to the Martindale's weighted rubbing heads that are positioned over a table covered with 180 grit sand paper. The abrasion test is performed as the rubbing heads move in an elliptical motion, and the number of cycles required to abrade through the material is recorded. The advertised performance level is the lowest recorded result of 4 complete material tests. If a glove is multilayered, each layer is tested on the Martindale, and the advertised performance level is based on the total sum of cycles.

Cut performance testing has evolved to include both circular blade "Coupe Test" and straight blade "TDM Test" methods to provide more reliable cut glove ratings. The Coupe Test produces a 1-5 performance rating, but has its limitations when it comes to high-cut composite/aramid fiber material and metal blends, which can cause Coupe Test blades to dull and produce false readings.

The TDM straight blade travels once across the test material and is only used once, therefore dulling blades isn't an issue like the Coupe Test method. The amount of force and cut length are measured and plotted to determine a trend, and applied to the sample material five times to determine the defined tolerance levels.

The TDM Test rates materials on a scale of A - F and uses an oscillating blade that measures the force necessary to cut through high-cut materials. Materials that test beyond Level 3 or produce a false Coupe Test reading will receive an "X", and the TDM Test is introduced where a letter rating A - F is determined (Example 4X43FP). If the TDM Test isn't required, an "X" is used to state that there's no rating (Example 4243XP).

Tear resistance is measured with a standard tensile strength machine using pre-cut palm material from four glove samples. The jaws of the machine are fitted with the sample material and tear resistance is measured as the jaws move apart at a constant rate of speed (100mm/min). The force needed to tear the material is recorded and the lowest result of four tests is advertised.

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