Understanding EN Glove Standards

The International Organisation for Standardisation (ISO) and Australian/New Zealand Standards (AS/NZS) help with specific product categories, identifying attributes which communicates the quality and personal protection levels of specific protection equipment. These standards are designed in assisting managers with the provision of workplace safety and maintenance levels.

Eliminating of safety and health hazards in the workplace has been mandated by Governmental legislation. In the instances where they can’t be eliminated, it is up to the employers to reduce hazards to a minimum level as is reasonably practical. Because of this legislation, the Government have put in place several identical standards used throughout Europe.

For example, standard EN420 (AS/NZS 2161.2:1998) – Occupational Protective Gloves, General Requirements – defines requirements for all protective gloves (except electrical and medical gloves) for cleaning, glove construction, efficiency and comfort, information and marking. The majority of the Australian/New Zealand occupational glove standards are identical to the European standards, there are instances where the European standard has been revised, but the Australian/New Zealand standard has not been changed. Therefore, for example, the protection against cold standard AS/NZS 2161.5:1998 is different from the European cold standard EN511:2006. The requirements are similar, but the two standards use different testing methodologies.

guide to pictograms used for the EN Standards
Above is a guide to pictograms used for the EN Standards.

Explaining the Three Risk Categories According to EN Legislation

The PPE directive 89/686/EEC has two specific classes of gloves meeting two levels of risk: ‘mortal” and ‘minimal’ or ‘irreversible’ risk. Any risk that falls between the two levels can be described as ‘intermediate’. As a result, a system of marking has been developed which identifies the risk level to ensure you select gloves of the appropriate class.

Risk Category I: Simple Design Gloves for Minimal Risk Only

Gloves of simple design offering low level risk protection such as janitorial gloves, manufacturers are permitted to test and certify gloves internally (note, there is no requirement for testing and certification by an independent body).

Risk Category II: Intermediate Design Gloves for Intermediate Risk

Intermediate risk design Gloves such as, general handling gloves requiring puncture, good cut and or abrasion performance, is subjected to independent testing and certification by a notified body. Only approved bodies may issue a CE mark, which are necessary for the gloves to be sold. Each notified body has its own identification number. You will find the name and address of the notified body that certifies the product on the instructions for use that will accompany the gloves.

Risk Category III: Complex Design Gloves for Irreversible or Mortal Risk

High level risk Gloves that are designed to protect against risk such as chemicals, must also be tested and certified by a notified body. Also, the quality assurance process used by the manufacturer to guarantee homogeneity of production and the quality consistency testing of the final product is to be independently checked. The body responsible for assessment will be identified by a number which must appear alongside the CE mark (in this risk case, would be 0493).

EN Glove Standards:

EN 420
General Requirements for Protective Gloves

Relevant Australian Standard: AS/NZS 2161.2:1998

A standard that defines the general requirements for glove design and construction, comfort, innocuousness, efficiency, marking and information applicable to all gloves of protection. This standard can also apply to arm guards. A glove is a piece of personal protective equipment that protects the hand or any part of the hand from hazards. It may also cover part of the forearm and arm.

Glove construction and design:
Gloves must offer the greatest possible degree of protection in the foreseeable conditions of end use
In the event that seams are included, the strength of these seams must not reduce the overall performance of the glove.

EN 374
Gloves Giving Protection from Chemicals and Micro-Organisms

Relevant Australian Standard: AS/NZS 2161.10:2005

This specific standard applies to the capability of gloves to protect the user against chemicals and or micro-organisms. The minimum three-digit code of ‘chemical resistant’ must accompany glove picture. This code refers to the code letters of the chemicals (from a list of 12 standard defined chemicals), for which a breakthrough time of at least 30 minutes has been obtained.

Each chemical tested is classified in terms of breakthrough time (performance level 0 to 6).

This specific standard applies to ‘low chemical resistant’ or ‘waterproof’ glove pictogram is to be used for those gloves that do not achieve a breakthrough time of at least 30 minutes against at least three chemicals from the defined list, but which comply with the penetration test.

This specific standard applies ‘micro-organism’ pictogram is to be used when the glove conforms to at least a performance level 2 for the penetration test.

EN 388
Gloves Giving Protection from Mechanical Risks

Relevant Australian standard: AS/NZS 2161.3:1998

This specific standard applies to all kinds of protective gloves in respect of mechanical and physical aggressions caused by abrasion, puncture, blade cut and tearing. Protection against mechanical hazards is expressed by a pictogram followed by four numbers (performance levels), each representing test performance against a specific hazard. The ‘mechanical risks’ pictogram is accompanied by a four-digit code:

  1. Abrasion Resistance 
    Based on the number of cycles required to abrade through the sample glove.
  2. Blade Cut Resistance 
    Based on the number of cycles required to cut through the sample at a constant speed.
  3. Tear Resistance 
    Based on the amount of force required to tear the sample.
  4. Puncture Resistance 
    Based on the amount of force required to pierce the sample with a standard-sized point.

In all cases above, 0 indicates the lowest level of performance. These performance levels must be prominently displayed alongside the pictogram on the gloves and on the packaging, which immediately contains the gloves.

EN 407
Gloves Giving Protection from Heat

Relevant Australian Standard: AS/NZS 2161.4:1999

This specific standard applies to thermal performance for protective gloves against heat and/or fire. The nature and degree of protection is shown by a pictogram followed by a series of six performance levels, relating to specific protective qualities.

EN 511
Gloves Giving Protection from Cold

Relevant Australian Standard: AS/NZS 2161.5:1998

This specific standard applies to any gloves to protect the hands against convective and contact cold down to -50 °C. Protection against cold is expressed by a pictogram followed by a series of three performance levels, relating to specific protective qualities.

EN 421
Gloves Giving Protection from Radioactive Contamination & Ionising Radiation

Relevant Australian Standard: AS/NZS 2161.10:2005

This specific standard applies to protect from radioactive contamination, the glove must be liquid proof and needs to pass the penetration test defined in EN374. For gloves used in containment enclosures, the glove shall pass in addition a specific air pressure leak test. Materials may be modelled by their behaviour to ozone cracking. This test is optional and can be used as an aid to select the right gloves.

This specific standard applies to protect from ionising radiation, the glove has to contain a certain amount of lead or equivalent metal, quoted as lead equivalence. This lead equivalence must be marked on each glove.





“With more than 20 years industry experience under our belt, Workforce Safety Products proudly stand among the most established glove and safety wholesalers in Western Australia. Workforce Safety values long-term business relationships, good old-fashioned, quality service, and creating fit-for-purpose products for today’s industry needs.”