A cut above

A cut above
When the committee responsible for revising the ANSI/ISEA standard on the selection of hand protection launched about six years ago, it had a clear goal: to craft a simple approach to safety glove testing, says Matthew Reid, a former committee chairperson.

“The whole theme was to take complexity out of this standard. And we think we’ve created something that is simpler, less complex for the user to understand,” says Reid, who is a global sales and marketing professional at Stanley, N.C.-based DSM Dyneema.

Released in January, the new standard, ANSI/ISEA 105-2016 American National Standard for Hand Protection Classification, is the fourth version of a standard that deals with hand protection against mechanical, chemical and heat and flame hazards. Its most significant changes are in the classification and testing of cut resistant gloves: the levels of cut resistance have been expanded and testing protocols will be more uniform. These changes will affect the way many safety managers choose gloves, increasing their ability to select the best glove for a task, one that does not overprotect or under protect.

“There’s a bit of science behind it, but there’s also a bit of common sense. It’s a more common-sense approach,” says Reid.

When classifying gloves, materials are graded based on how much weight (measured in grams) must be applied to a blade moving across a sample before it cuts through 20 millimetres (reference distance). This is referred to as the rating force or cutting force. The higher the value of this weight or force, the greater the resistance of the material to cuts. In the grading system of the revised standard, the number of cut levels, or classifications, has been increased from five to nine.

With the new standard, levels 1 to 3 remain largely the same; the big difference comes with level 4. There was a large gap between levels 4 and 5, from 1500 to 3499 grams, and that huge range had to be broken down.

“Safety managers are by nature cautious and they’re trying to mitigate risk,” says David Gelpke, vice-president, global accounts at Grand Rapids, Mich.-based HexArmor. “With the new standard, they can secure proper levels of cut resistance for a task. If they were to specify a level 4 glove in the old system, it could be 1510 of cut resistance or it could be 3400 grams of cut resistance. That’s such a wide spread of protection available within that one level. The new standard will allow them to make more informed decisions and allow them to select a proper level for the task.”

The new ANSI levels will include an “A” before the number to indicate the gloves have been tested according to the requirements of the revised designations. The adoption of this alpha-numeric cut level system will reduce the confusion some customers have had between the ANSI and the European standards, both of which, until now, have used only a numeric grading system, says Gelpke.

The new standard also requires testing be done using a single testing device and method: the ASTM F2992-15 method on a tomodynamometer (TDM). Earlier editions of the standard had allowed manufacturers to select which method they wanted to use: generally, either the cut protection performance test (CPPT), associated with ASTM F1790-97 method, or the TDM-100, associated with ASTM F1790-05 method). With the CPPT device, the blade cuts vertically and the reference distance is 25 millimetres, while the TDM cuts horizontally and the reference distance is 20 millimetres.

One major problem with accepting the use of either machine is that test results between the two devices sometimes varied, Reid says.

“Part of that variation is caused by the device, but it’s also due to the method that it’s tied to. There could be significant differences in the test results; not in all glove products but in many glove products. So, going with one device makes it more standard. You have something that everybody is using,” he says.

Another important change to the standard is the addition of a hypodermic needle puncture resistance test. While there was a puncture resistance test in previous editions, it did not reflect many of the exposures presented by needlesticks and sharps (needles or other articles that can cause wounds or punctures). According to the International Safety Equipment Association (ISEA), the inclusion of this test recognizes the hazard that needlestick exposure presents to workers in the medical, sanitation and recycling industries.

Bert Steingard, sales manager at Northern Safety in Barrie, Ont., says the wider range of categories reflects the greater variety of cut resistant yarns and materials available on the market today, compared to when the standard was first published. Ten to 15 years ago, employers had few options for glove materials. Today, many yarns are combined with components such as steel, polyester and fibreglass, and there are far more materials to choose from.

“The technology is taking us to a point where we can achieve much higher levels of cut resistance. Thus, the old cut level 5, which simply said ‘3500 grams and higher,’ has been replaced by the new cut level 5 (2200 to 2999 grams) and there are an additional four ratings above it. As new technology and new products come out that are higher and higher in cut resistance, we will need these categories to be able to correctly place them into a category that makes sense,” says Steingard.

“Not only have they been able to increase the top end, the highest-performing gloves, but right in the middle the old cut levels 4 and 5, where most of the marketplace is — they’ve stretched that out so that the gloves in those categories can be represented more accurately as to the results they achieve.”

By the end of the year, Reid says, most industry leaders will be using the new standard.

“And, if the leaders in the market are using it, this will drive other companies toward the new standard.”

Steingard says it will probably take a while for end users to get used to the new standard. They will need to understand the new cut levels and how they relate to the old ones, especially in relation to the products they’ve been buying.

“There will be a learning curve. But really, it’s about more accurate information. The new system is good because it will make it easier for the purchaser to know what they’re getting. They’ll have more accurate information about the product they’re buying,” he says. “So, it might be more confusing in the short term, but in  the long term, it’s well worth making the change.” 

Linda Johnson is a freelance writer based in Toronto. She can be reached at lindajohnson@sympatico.ca.

This article originally appeared in the April/May 2016 issue of COS.