There are work gloves for just about every job under the sun. They come in many different styles, with each one designed to provide different strengths and excel at different uses.
One way in which gloves differ is in the style of thumb. The thumb of a glove can be sewn in different ways, and can either be a seamless part of the glove body or a separate piece of material attached to the palm.
Different thumb types have different advantages. So which glove thumb type is right for you? Check out the details below and decide for yourself.
A straight thumb is considered “straight” because it alights straight with the rest of the hand, pointing the same direction as the outstretched index finger. It can provide good grip, and is often the most economical thumb option, but it is not the most ergonomic or comfortable of the thumb designs.
Whereas a straight thumb lays along the edge of the hand, a wing thumb design sticks out from the side of the glove like an outstretched wing. This design allows for more flexibility. There is no seam between the palm of the glove and the thumb—it’s all one piece of material—which makes it more durable.
A keystone thumb is the most ergonomic thumb design. The thumb part of the glove is made from a separate piece of material, which is then sewn to the palm in a way that matches the natural resting position of your thumb. This makes the glove more comfortable for long periods of wear.
Work gloves are sometimes rated by cut level, and labeled as something like “cut level 1” or “cut level 3” gloves. But what does that really mean? And what cut level is right for your job?
Cut Resistance Standards
There are a few different standards used for determining how hard it is to cut through a glove’s material, or how resistant a material is to being cut. Each standard rates cut resistance on a five-level scale, and though they use different testing methods, they usually end up with about the same results.
Two of the standards, ASTM 1790 and ISO 13997, use a test where a razor blade is used to do the cutting. The harder you have to push down on the blade, or the more weight that has to be applied in order to slice through the material, the more cut-resistant the material is. For example, if the material can withstand between 500 and 999 grams (1.1 to 2.2 pounds) of pressure on the blade before it is cut, it would be considered cut level 2. A cut level 5 glove would have to withstand at least 3,500 grams (7.7 pounds) on the blade without the material being cut through.
EN 388 is the other, more widespread standard. Instead of a straight razor, it uses a rotating circular blade. And instead of varying the amount of pressure on the blade, it keeps the same pressure (500 grams, or 1.1 pounds) and counts the number of times you have to slash with the rotating blade before the material is cut. You’d have to cut at the same exact spot at least five times to get through a cut level 3 glove, while a cut level 5 material would withstand more than 20 attempts.
Note that EN 388 is also used to rate abrasion resistance, tear resistance, and puncture resistance. Cut resistance is the only one that goes up to level 5; the others are rated on a scale of 1 to 4. The different ratings are often listed as a string of four numbers, such as “EN 388: 2324.” The four digits represent the abrasion, cut, tear, and puncture ratings, in that order. So, “EN 388: 2324” would be abrasion level 2, cut level 3, tear level 2, and puncture level 4.
The Right Cut Level for the Job
So what cut level do you need?
Though some jobs will have specifically stated cut level requirements, you can get a general idea of the protection offered here:
- Cut level 1: Very low cut hazards. These gloves will protect your hands from things like paper cuts and light scratches, but aren’t guaranteed against actual blades. They are suitable for jobs that generally don’t involve sharp objects, such as car maintenance or landscaping work.
- Cut level 2: Low cut hazards. This is a good level of protection for most construction work, automotive assembly, or packaging jobs.
- Cut level 3: Moderate cut hazards. Cut level 3 gloves provide protection for light glass handling and metal stamping jobs.
- Cut level 4: High cut hazards. These include most glass handling and metal stamping jobs, as well as food service.
- Cut level 5: Extreme cut hazards. These gloves are used for jobs that involve very sharp blades, such as a meat butcher, and for heavy metal stamping and plate glass work.
UPDATED ANSI STANDARD for Cut Resistance ANSI/ISEA 105 (2016 edition)
The American National Standards Institute (ANSI) has released a new edition of the ANSI/ISEA 105 standard (2016 ed.). The changes include new classification levels, which includes a new scale to determine cut score (commonly referred to as the ANSI cut score), and a revised method for testing gloves to the standard.
New Scale to Determine Cut Scores
The new ANSI standard now features nine cut levels significantly reducing the gaps between each level and better defining protection levels for the cut resistant gloves and sleeves with the highest gram scores.
New Testing Standard
The new edition of the ANSI/ISEA 105 Standard (2016 ed.) also outlines a new test method for determining the new cut scores. The new ASTM F2992-15 test method allows for only one type of machine to be used, the TDM-100. Under the previous ANSI standard, the old test method ASTM F1790-05, the testing could be performed on either the TDM-100 machine or the CPPT machine. By ensuring uniform testing with one machine, it is easier to compare gram scores for a given material.
Understanding ASTM F2992-15 Test Methods
The sample is cut by a straight-edge blade, under load, that moves along a straight path. The sample is cut five times each at three different loads with a new blade for each cut and the data is used to determine the required load to cut through the sample at a specified reference difference. This is referred to as the cutting force, which is then equated to a cut level.
What Changes Can We Expect?
For all PIP products with cut scores printed on them, we will have a rolling change with new production orders, replacing the old ANSI cut score with the new ANSI cut score. The new ANSI cut score is easy to identify as it now includes the letter “A” in front of the score.
Depending on the products, this process could take several months before these changes are seen in the field. For that reason, it’s important to refer to the manufacturer spec sheets in order to obtain this information.
Because all PIP cut resistant gloves and sleeves have been tested using the TDM-100 machine, which is compliant with the new test method, by March 1st, we will have all of our spec sheets and our website updated to reflect the new ANSI cut score. To help with the transition, we will also be displaying the old ANSI cut score on both our website and the spec sheets simultaneously.
How do these changes impact the performance of the product?
Since 2005, PIP has been testing all of our cut resistant gloves and sleeves with the TDM-100 machine. As such, the gram score for our gloves comply with the new ANSI standard and will be applied accordingly under the new scale.
Can gloves and sleeves that comply with the old ANSI/ISEA 105 standard continue to be sold?
Although the use of the ANSI/ISEA selection criteria is not mandatory, most safety managers strive to provide the latest and most up to date products for protection for their employees. Manufacturers are expected to begin the process of transitioning from ANSI/ISEA 105-11 standard to the revised ANSI/ISEA 105-16 standard that was adopted in February 2016. The new cut test method in the ANSI/ISEA 105-16 is ASTM F2992. Because of long lead times and inventory in the pipeline, it is highly likely that there will be a mix of identifications of cut resistance in the marketplace for the next little while. It is, however, important to reiterate to your customers that all current PIP gloves have been tested using the TDM-100 machine, as described in the new ASTM F2992 test method, for the last 10 years. Our Spec Sheets and literature are being converted to reflect the new ASTM F2992 cut score scale as we speak.
When working near heavy machinery or high-speed traffic, the type of clothing you wear can be a matter of life or death. Forget fashion; you want to be as visible as possible, so those distracted drivers can’t help but notice you (and avoid hitting you).
That’s why we have high-visibility clothing. But hi-vis clothing comes in different types, or classes: class 1, class 2, class 3, and class E. What do the different classes mean, and which class do you need?
Hi-Vis Clothing Classes Explained
The different classes of hi-vis clothing are set by ANSI (American National Standards Institute) and ISEA (International Safety Equipment Association) standards, and are based on how much high-visibility fabric and reflective tape are used. The standards also specify details like where the reflective tape is placed (i.e., on the shoulders, around the waist).
The high-visibility fabrics, which come in fluorescent colors, are designed to make workers easy to see in daylight hours. The reflective stripes are for nighttime or low-light situations, and reflect back the headlights of approaching vehicles.
Different types of work environments require different hi-vis clothing classes. The requirements are for minimum class ratings, so it’s perfectly fine to use a class 3 vest for a class 1 job; you just can’t use a class 1 vest for a class 3 job.
Class 1 Clothing
Class 1 clothing is used for situations where high visibility is not a big priority. It is acceptable for jobs where:
- There is separation between the worker and the vehicle traffic.
- The worker is able to pay attention to traffic, and isn’t distracted by other work duties.
- Vehicle speeds are below 25 mph.
- The background is not complex, and not something that the worker could blend in with.
Examples of class 1 clothing jobs:
- Parking lot attendants
- Warehouse workers
- Sidewalk construction workers
- Delivery drivers
Class 1 clothing must be a fluorescent color and have at least 155 square inches of reflective tape around both the waist and shoulders.
Class 2 Clothing
Class 2 clothing is a step up from class 1 in both the amount of hi-vis material and the amount of reflective tape. Unlike class 1, class 2 clothing is MUTCD compliant. It should be used in situations where:
- Workers are in close proximity to traffic.
- The job does not allow the worker to keep a close eye on traffic.
- Vehicle speeds are greater than 25 mph, but under 50 mph.
- Weather conditions or a complex background make it harder to see the worker.
Examples of class 2 clothing jobs:
- Road construction workers
- Utility workers
- Crossing guards
- Tollgate workers
- Airport baggage handlers
- Police officers
Class 2 clothing must have at least 775 square inches of hi-vis material and at least 201 inches of reflective tape.
Class 3 Clothing
Class 3 is the highest-rated level of hi-vis clothing (though it can be combined with class E to provide even more visibility). It is used for the highest-risk situations, such as when:
- Workers are in close proximity to high-speed traffic.
- Overall visibility is poor, such as in a blizzard or heavy fog.
- Vehicle speeds are greater than 50 mph.
- Equipment operators are working near pedestrians.
Examples of class 3 clothing jobs:
- Highway construction workers
- Highway surveyors
- Emergency response personnel
Class 3 clothing must have at least 1,240 square inches of hi-vis material and at least 310 square inches of reflective tape. It must make the worker visible through a full range of body motions at a distance of at least 1,280 feet.
Class E Clothing
Class E hi-vis clothing can seem a bit confusing, since it doesn’t fit in the numbering system. Instead of being a higher or lower class of safety vest, it refers to something completely different: high-visibility pants. Class E pants can be added to any hi-vis vest to improve visibility. If you add class E pants to a class 2 vest, the overall outfit is considered to be class 3. If you add class E pants to a class 3 vest, it’s still considered class 3, but it is considerably more visible than the vest by itself.
Class E pants can be added to a safety vest for any job where visibility is especially important. They are sometimes used as an add-on for when conditions change. For example, a worker using a class 2 vest may put on a pair of class E pants after dark, or during inclement weather, to create a class 3 ensemble.
When shopping for safety eyewear, you’ll often see glasses and goggles labeled with “Z87.1+” or some similarly cryptic code. But what is Z87.1+, and is it something you need to be on the lookout for?
Z87.1 is a safety standard for eyewear set up by ANSI (the American National Standards Institute). It is used to rate whether glasses or goggles provide an acceptable level of protection for different work-related hazards. OSHA (the Occupational Safety and Health Administration) uses ANSI Z87.1 standards when setting workplace safety rules, so for many jobs, the use of Z87.1-rated eyewear is required by law.
If you see a “+” after the Z87.1 rating, or Z87.1+, that means the eyewear is designed to provide impact protection. Glasses and goggles are tested for impact protection using both blunt objects and sharp objects. As this video shows, Z87.1+ eyewear provides protection against impacts that would otherwise severely damage your eyes.
Besides the “+” for impact protection, there are several other codes you may see listed after the Z87.1 rating. Those include:
- W for welding protection.
- U for UV light protection.
- L for visible light (glare) filter.
- R for infrared (IR) light filter.
- D for dust or droplet (splash) protection.
- V for variable tint.
- S for special purpose.
Those codes will often be followed by a number showing the level of protection. For example, eyewear with an infrared 3.0 filter will be listed as “R3.” Level 5 dust protection would be “D5.” Eyewear that provides IR protection, dust protection, and impact protection would be marked as something like “Z87.1+ R3 D5.”
Hard hats are required PPE at many job sites, and for good reason. You want to protect your head from falling objects, low-hanging steel beams, exposed electrical wiring, and a whole host of other workplace hazards.
There are different types and classes of hard hats, which are designed to provide different levels of protection. But which type and class is right for you?
Type vs. Class
First, it helps to understand the difference between hard hat “type” and hard hat “class.”
“Type” refers to the type of impact protection the hat provides. There are two types: Type I and Type II.
“Class” refers to how well the hat insulates against electric shock. There are three classes: Class G, Class E, and Class C.
The types and classes are defined by ANSI Z89.1 standards and testing procedures. OSHA uses ANSI Z89.1 to set workplace safety rules, so having the right type and class of hard hat is often required by law.
Hard Hat Types
The two types of hard hats are defined based on the direction of the impact hazard: whether you’re in danger of getting hit from directly above, or if you need protection from every angle.
- Type I hard hats protect your head from falling debris or other impact hazards that can hit you from directly overhead. If you run the risk of having a hammer, a rock, or any other hard object fall on you, a Type I hard hat will keep you covered.
- Type II hard hats are designed to protect your head from any angle. In addition to protecting you from falling objects, Type II hats will also provide protection from hits to the side, back, or front of the helmet. For example, if your workplace has low-hanging steel beams that you might accidentally walk into, a Type II hard hat will protect you from such horizontal impacts.
Hard Hat Classes
The three classes of hard hats are rated based on the amount of electrical insulation they provide.
- Class G (General) hard hats are rated to provide protection from up to 2,200 volts of electricity. They are “general” because that level of protection is sufficient for most jobs.
- Class E (Electrical) hard hats provide a much higher level of protection, and are rated for up to 20,000 volts. They are used by electricians, linemen, or anyone working near high-voltage hazards.
- Class C (Conductive) hard hats don’t provide any electrical insulation at all. They are “conductive,” meaning they can conduct electricity. Obviously, they are only used in places where there are no electrical hazards, such as road construction or other outdoor work when there are no power lines present. The reason why Class C might be preferable to Class G in these situations is because they can include vents for airflow, or be made of a material that conducts heat, making them cooler and more comfortable to wear.
If you’re shopping for respiratory protection, you may notice that respirators often come with a NIOSH rating, such as N-95 or N-99. But what does that even mean, and why should you care?
For starters, NIOSH stands for the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, a federal agency that is part of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
NIOSH has developed a rating system for air filtration that measures how effective a respirator is at filtering particles out of the air. Respirators are tested to see what percentage of particles they filter out of the air that passes through them. The tests look at particles as small as 0.3 microns, or the size of a single virus.
Test are performed under worst-case conditions. Since you’re usually not going to be in a worst-case scenario, respirators will normally perform better than their NIOSH ratings suggest.
If a respirator filters out at least 95% of all particles, it is given a 95 rating. If it filters out at least 99%, it receives a 99 rating. Respirators can earn a 100 rating if they filter out at least 99.97% of all particles.
Besides particle filtration, NIOSH ratings also look at whether a respirator can protect against oils. Respirators are rated “N” (for “Not resistant”) if they are not resistant to oil, “R” (for “Resistant”) if they are somewhat resistant, and “P” (for “oil Proof”) if they are strongly resistant.
That means there are nine different NIOSH ratings:
|Not resistant||Somewhat resistant||Oil proof|
|Particle Filtration||At least 95%||N-95||R-95||P-95|
|At least 99%||N-99||R-99||P-99|
|At least 99.97%||N-100||R-100||P-100|
Which NIOSH Rating Do You Need?
Different jobs will have different requirements, but N-95 is the most common minimum standard, and is recommended by the CDC itself to protect healthcare workers from disease. R-type or P-type respirators are only needed in jobs where oil is an issue, since the oil can affect how well the respirator performs.
However, since we’re talking about minimum requirements, you can still choose a higher-rated respirator than what is required if you want a higher level of protection. For example, if an N-95 respirator is required, an N-99 respirator will also work for the job. An N-99 respirator might be harder to breathe through, or may have to be larger to let the same amount of air in. But, it will definitely do the job.
Hearing protection devices are often labeled with Noise Reduction Ratings, or NRR. For example, an earmuff might be listed as NRR 31, or a set of earplugs be advertised as NRR 25. So what do those NRR numbers mean, and what Noise Reduction Rating do you need for your workplace?
NRR and dB
Noise Reduction Ratings measure how much sound is blocked by earmuffs or earplugs. The loudness of sound is measured in decibels, or dB, so the NRR number tells you how many decibels the hearing protection device blocks.
So if the noise level at your workplace is 90 dB—about as loud as a lawnmower—using NRR 30 earmuffs would lower that to 60 dB, or the sound of a normal conversation. Right? Unfortunately, it’s not that simple.
The problem is that there are different ways of measuring decibels. Noise levels are often measured using what’s called the “A-weighting” of decibels, or dBA. A-weighting adjusts the decibel scale to account for how well humans hear different frequencies. Some very low or very high frequencies don’t sound very loud to human ears, while other frequencies are quite easy for us to hear. For example, a human might not hear a dog whistle at all, even though the dog whistle is actually very loud.
NRR ratings are not calculated using the dBA scale; they measure changes in regular dB. So although a pair of NRR 30 earmuffs might decrease the noise level by 30 dB, that does not equate to a 30 dBA reduction in sound. To make sure you’re getting a safe level of hearing protection, it’s recommended that you convert the NRR rating using this formula:
- Subtract 7 from the NRR number.
- Divide the result by 2.
The resulting number estimates how much protection is provided on the dBA scale. For NRR 30 earmuffs, subtracting 7 from 30 gives you 23, and 23 divided by 2 is 11.5. In the lawnmower example above, that means the earmuffs would lower the sound level from 90 dBA to 78.5 dBA. That might not look like a big reduction, until you consider the fact that decibel ratings use a logarithmic scale. On a logarithmic scale, a decrease of 10 decibels means the sound is 10 times quieter, or only 10% as loud.
What Noise Reduction Rating do you need?
OSHA sets limits for how much noise exposure is allowed in the workplace. The limits are based on both the noise level (measured in dBA) and the number of hours per day a worker is exposed to that noise level. The louder the dBA level, the less time a worker can spend in the environment.
The noise exposure limits are:
|OSHA’s Permissible Noise Exposures|
|dBA Sound Level||Hours Per Day|
Based on this chart, you can calculate how much hearing protection you need. For example, if someone is going to be in a 110 dBA environment for two hours, they need hearing protection that reduces the noise level to 100 dBA or less. (The NRR 30 earmuffs in our example above would work for this, since they would lower the noise level by 11.5 dBA.) If you’re going to be in a 97 dBA environment all day long, you’ll need hearing protection that lowers the noise level to below 90 dBA—or else you’ll have to quit working after just three hours.
When shopping for PPE, there is a veritable alphabet soup of safety standards and compliance ratings. One such code you might see on head protection products is EN 812. The fact that a safety hat meets the EN 812 standard sounds nice, but what exactly does that mean?
EN 812 Testing
EN 812 is a European Standard (it’s “EN” instead of “ES” because it’s been translated from French) for the protection provided by bump caps. Bump caps are designed primarily to protect workers from bumping their heads on objects, as opposed to protecting you from items dropped from directly overhead. Because the hazards are different, the testing standards are different.
Bump caps are tested for EN 812 compliance by dropping metal weights onto the hat from different angles and heights. To measure impact protection (or shock absorption), a flat striker weighing 5 kilograms (about 11 pounds) is dropped from a height of 250 millimeters (about 10 inches). The weight is dropped with the bump cap tilted at different angles, to simulate a worker hitting something with the front or back of their head (such as might happen if you failed to duck and walked into a low-hanging beam). The amount of force that is transmitted through the cap to the worker’s head is measured, and has to be less than 12 joules to pass the test.
To measure penetration protection, a sharp pointed cone weighing 0.5 kilograms (about 1.1 pounds) is dropped from a height of 500 millimeters (about 20 inches). The hat passes this test if it prevents the cone from puncturing the bump cap.
Hats sometimes become weaker due to age, temperature differences, or other factors, so the tests are repeated using bump caps that have been heated, cooled, soaked in water, and aged with UV rays. A hat has to pass the test in all conditions to be certified as EN 812.
Gloves giving protection from mechanical risks
Protection against mechanical hazards is expressed by a pictogram followed by four numbers (performance levels), each representing test performance against a specific hazard.
1. Resistance to abrasion
Based on the number of cycles required to abrade through the sample glove (abrasion by sandpaper under a stipulated pressure). The protection factor is then indicated on a scale from 1 to 4 depending on how many revolutions are required to make a hole in the material. The higher the number, the better the glove. See table below.
2. Blade cut resistance
Based on the number of cycles required to cut through the sample at a constant speed. The protection factor is then indicated on a scale from 1 to 4.
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. The protection factor is then indicated on a scale from 1 to 4.
This indicates Volume resistivity, where a glove can reduce the risk of electrostatic discharge. (Pass or fail test). These pictograms only appear when the gloves have passed the relevant test.
If some of the results are marked with an X means that this test performance is not tested. If some of the results are marked with an O means that the glove did not pass the test.
Abrasion resistance (cycles)
Blade cut resistance (factor)
Tear resistance (newton)
Puncture resistance (newton)