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.