30 Mar 17
Cut Protection: What Should I Know?
The closest most workers come to cut-risk exposure is of the paper kind. But for industrial and trade workers, the risk of suffering cuts, slashes, nicks and abrasions is simply part of the gig. So, selecting the proper glove as part of a smart safety culture is crucial to protecting their most important tools for the job: their hands.
Glove manufacturers are often asked, “Is this glove cut resistant?” Of course, any glove will provide more cut protection than bare skin. The sub-text is, “Does this glove employ a technical material designed specifically to prevent cuts?” or “What is this glove’s cut score?” as it pertains to a particular test method or standard.
There are two primary global glove standards: ANSI/ISEA 105-2016 and EN 388: 2016. The details of these standards is a topic for another post (but here’s a handy infographic, for starters).
In this post, we’ll focus on ANSI/ISEA 105-2016, which is the standard for hand protection in the U.S. The ANSI Standard features nine levels of cut resistance: Levels A1 – A9. The higher the A#, the more cut protection it provides.
When to Use a Lower Cut Resistance Level
For many general applications, a standard work glove is useful if the application doesn’t carry a higher risk of cut. These types of gloves protect the wearer from nicks and abrasions and usually consist of the following:
- Leather or synthetic leather palm
- Reinforcement material on the palm and fingers for extra grip and abrasion resistance
- May carry an ANSI cut score of A1 or A2, or they may not be tested for cut resistance at all
- Primary purpose is for more basic protection and functions like enhanced grip.
Gloves marketed as “cut resistant” typically start at an A3 level and employ some type of technical material layer or construction that resists cuts and slashes better than a simple single or the aforementioned double-layer palm. Levels A3 – A6 make up most cut-resistant gloves available in the marketplace today.
High Cut Resistance Levels May Impact Dexterity
As the level of cut resistance increases, factors such as dexterity and flexibility can also be affected. Because cut and slash protection requires more material, cut resistant gloves can have more limited feel and flex than their standard counterparts. Breathability can also be impacted, since additional layers retain more heat. Lastly, gloves featuring enhanced cut resistance almost always cost more than a standard work glove (in some cases, significantly more). Gloves featuring cut levels A7, A8 and A9 tend to see these factors affected more than gloves at the lower levels, but the cut protection is also undoubtedly greater.
This discussion is in no way meant to disparage cut-resistant gloves or discourage users from buying and wearing them. On the contrary, there are certain applications where enhanced cut protection is vital to keep hands protected and prevent injuries, including loss of fingers. Also, technical materials have greatly advanced even in the past few years, allowing manufacturers to combat the traditional tradeoffs of dexterity, flexibility, breathability and cost. Consumers today have more choices and levels of protection, which is a good thing!
Choosing the Right Cut Resistance Gloves
So, what to do? Like most things, education and a little common sense goes a long way when choosing a glove.
- Remember, any glove will provide some level of cut and slash protection (versus no glove at all).
- More is not necessarily better. Often, the higher the cut score, the more other factors are affected. This can lead to non-compliance (workers choosing to not wear their gloves) because they are hard to work in … and now the expensive gloves purchased to protect them sit in their truck or on a toolbox while they work with their hands exposed.
- Get smart. Partner with a manufacturer or distributor to select the right glove(s) for the job, often more than just one glove for an entire jobsite or project.
- Run trials. As a glove customer, you have options. Work with partners who will supply a reasonable number of no-charge samples for field evaluations. Get wearer buy-in and determine the right combination of protection, dexterity and flexibility at a reasonable cost that won’t break your budget.
Trust us, workers who used to say, “cut it out” will give you a hand.