Protective Gloves Testing & Certification

There are various standards that ensure protective gloves are fit for the purpose for which they are intended, and to help you choose the correct glove for the task at hand. This guide is an overview of the standards that relate to the Blackrock glove range.

EN ISO 21420:2020 – Protective Gloves

This is a new standard for protective gloves that sets out general requirements and test methods and has superseded EN 420:2003+A1:2009. As a specifier, buyer or user of protective gloves you need to be assured that gloves certified to EN 388:2016 have also passed EN ISO 21420:2020 in order to achieve a Mechanical Hazard Rating (MHR).

Some of the key requirements of this testing are:

Glove design and construction

The requirements for design and construction are covered; it also states that the gloves must not impair performance, but still provide the protection you need. The putting on and taking off are also elements that are covered, to ensure multi-layered gloves don’t become separated and the time it takes to put on and take off is minimised.


Protective gloves are tested to ensure they do not adversely affect the health of the wearer. Under normal use the glove materials must not release any substances which are outlined in the standard, thus keeping the wearer safe.

Comfort and efficiency

Dexterity and sizing is also covered. Sizing is based on the hand size stated on the glove, and circumference and length are measured. There may be some gloves which have minimum lengths dependent on their use, but which is not necessarily specified; these can be detailed in the user information sheet provided with the gloves.

Dexterity is graded by the diameter of the smallest steel pin that can be picked up from a flat surface three times in 30 seconds.

Breathability, comfort and water vapour absorption are also covered in this element of the standard.

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EN 388:2016+A1:2018

EN388 is the European safety standard for protective gloves against mechanical risks and the most recent version EN 388:2016+A1:2018 was an amendment to EN 388:2016 which superseded the previous EN 388:2003 edition. This standard was developed to define the level of protection against various risks and allows users to select appropriate gloves based on the hazards and risks identified for specific work activities.

EN388 is used in conjunction with the new EN ISO 21420:2020 standard.

EN 388:2016 rates the performance of a glove when protecting against various mechanical risks. These include abrasion, blade cut, tear, puncture and impact and the 2016 edition of this standard enables you to better match the protection required against the hazards present in the working environment.

Certified protective gloves are marked with the EN 388:2016 pictogram. Below this pictogram will be 4 numbers and 1 or 2 letters, which indicate the test performance of the gloves against each hazard.

What were the main changes from EN 388:2003 to EN 388:2016?

In the revised edition of EN388, some of the tests from the 2003 version remain unchanged, whereas others have been improved. For example, in the abrasion test, new abrasive test paper is specified, so it may be possible for some abrasion scores to change when a product is recertified under the new test conditions, but it will give a better consistency overall.

The key change relates to testing cut protection. The EN 388:2003 cut test, known as the ‘coupe test’, is now supplemented with the additional EN ISO 13997:1999 test method. The reasoning for this was that manufacturers were blending base materials with additional materials such as fibreglass or steel to increase levels of cut resistance: these were designed to protect against sharp materials that can damage the hand but due to their nature, they can also blunt the blades of the test machine used to test the performance.

It was felt that because blunting of the blade can occur in the test that this particular method is no longer representative of the actual degree of protection provided by these types of gloves. Therefore, in instances where blunting of the coupe test blade occurs, an additional test has been introduced, the EN ISO 13997:1999 cut test, which provides a further cut performance indicator.

EN 388:2003 did not include testing for resistance to impact. When gloves have impact protection under EN 388:2016, this means they have been tested according to the EN 13594:2015 test method. The impact protection test is optional and any gloves that meet these criteria are marked with a P.


Abrasion Resistance

The first number in the MHR pictogram relates to the resistance to abrasion. This is tested using a standard sandpaper, with a set amount of pressure and a certain number of abrasions. The total number of cycles needed to abrade a hole in the material being tested gives the result, eg. Level 4 highest performance equates to 8,000 cycles.

The level is indicated on a scale of 1 - 4 and the higher the number, the greater the resistance to abrasion.

Blade Cut

The second number relates to cut resistance according to the coupe test. The test uses a circular blade moving horizontally across a fabric sample, with a fixed force of 5 Newtons applied from above. The test is complete when the blade has broken through the material and the result is then specified as an index value. This result is determined by the number of cycles needed to cut through the sample and additionally by calculating the degree of wear and tear on the blade, eg. Level 5 highest performance equates to index 20.

The protection level is indicated by a number between 1 and 5, where 5 indicates the highest level of protection.


The third number of the MHR relates to tear resistance, which involves determining the force required to tear the glove material apart starting with the material slit. This is indicated by a number between 1 and 4, where 4 denotes the strongest material, eg. Level 4 highest performance equates to 75 Newtons.


This is tested using an amount of force needed to pierce the sample with a standardised point. Again this is demonstrated using a range between 1 and 4, where 4 shows the strongest material, eg. Level 4 highest performance equates to 150 Newtons.

ISO 13997:1999 Cut Test Procedure

As noted above, if the material blunts the blade during the coupe test then the cut test from EN ISO 13997 (TDM test) needs to be performed. This ensures the protection level of the glove is as accurate as possible. If blunting does occur during the coupe test, the results of the TDM cut test will be the default marking shown on the glove, and the coupe test value will be marked as X.

The new test uses a new blade for each test, and the straight edged blade is drawn across a sample until breakthrough takes place. This test measures the average load required to achieve the moment of cut-though, after the blade has travelled 20mm.

The new revision states there is no correlation between the coupe test and ISO test levels of protection. The cut level achieved is defined using the letters A to F, denoting increasing levels of protection.


The impact test (signalled with a P at the end of the code) is optional and normally used for gloves which are specifically designed for work involving higher impact and vibration hazards. As such they can be omitted if the glove does not achieve this or is not tested as part of the requirement of the glove.

EN 511:2006

Gloves certified to this standard are intended to protect the wearer from convective and contact cold.

The different performance levels are marked under a pictogram showing the standard plus the performance levels 1-4, which 4 denotes the highest level.

Convective cold (cold that penetrates)

Measures the amount of energy needed to keep the temperature of a heated hand model at a set temperature in relation to a certain room temperature.

Contact cold (direct contact)

The thermal resistance of the gloves using a hot and cold plate. The material is used to determine the change of temperature.

The gloves can also be tested for water permeability on a simple scale of 0-1 where 1 shows no water penetration after 30 minutes.

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This only affects new products being certified - all pre-existing certificates continued to be valid until the date of expiry

It makes it easy for you to identify higher levels of cut protection

The new standard of abrasive paper means the abrasion test is more strictly monitored so will provide more accuracy in performance