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Setting the Standard: The ultimate guide to ANSI/ISEA 138

Impact Standards Can Help You Protect Your Team Better

Over half of all occupational injuries are to the hands and fingers.

That’s the bad news. The good news is that the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) and the International Safety Equipment Association (ISEA) have teamed up with a group of hand protection experts to bring a new standard to the industry – ANSI/ISEA 138.

ANSI/ISEA 138 is a new, voluntary standard for the North American market that will allow manufacturers to more accurately convey the level of impact protection in their hand protection products to customers.

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Q: Why introduce a standard?

Standards protect end users. Standards create a level playing field and ensure purchasers can compare different products accurately and be able to select those products that will best be able to keep end-users safe.

Given the sheer number of impact-resistant options available and the fact that testing methods weren’t standardized, before the standard it was almost impossible for purchasers to make educated comparisons or substantiate claims made by manufacturers.

A standard that homogenizes testing methods and provides dependable, clear classifications allows purchasers to make better-informed decisions and ultimately provide superior protection to end users.

Q: Is this the very first impact standard?

No, there has been an impact standard under EN 388 since 2016; however, ANSI/ISEA 138 boasts several improvements. EN 388, the standard used primarily in Europe, added a section for impact protection in 2016 but used an existing motorcycle impact standard as the model rather than building the standard specifically for the industrial glove market. Instead of classifications, it offers only a Pass/Fail result and the protection measured covers only the knuckles.

Conversely, ANSI/ISEA 138 was designed specifically for the industrial glove market. It offers three levels of classification and includes both knuckles and fingers in its measurement of protection.

Q: Who created the standard?

ANSI/ISEA 138 is the result of collaboration between ANSI, ISEA, leading glove industry manufacturers, a team from materials expert D3O, and a plastic and reconstructive hand surgeon.

Q: How are impact-resistant gloves tested under ANSI/ISEA 138?

ANSI/ISEA 138 has standardized the method for testing impact-resistant gloves and provides manufacturers with exact instructions on the requirements for testing equipment and how to run the tests.

Using precise measurements, the new standard measures the force transferred to the hand through the glove from an impact. A ‘drop striker’ (falling mass) is dropped on specific points of the glove (representing the position of knuckles and fingers) and the force transferred is recorded in kilonewtons (kN). The test is repeated eight times for the knuckles and ten times for the fingers. Gloves are classified based on all test results as well as the mean. To receive an ANSI/ISEA 138 classification, all test results and the mean must be within specified parameters.

Q: What are the classifications for impact-resistant gloves under ANSI/ISEA 138?

There are three levels of classification under ANSI/ISEA 138. Level 1 represents the lowest level of impact protection offered under the standard and Level 3 the highest.

Q: Who can conduct the tests?

One of the stand-out features of this standard is that unlike other standards, it does not rely on the ‘honor system’. Manufacturers cannot claim their own test results and instead must have their gloves tested in a third-party lab that meets the ISO/IEC 17025:2017 standard.

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