New Standard Test Method for Impact Hand Protection: ANSI/ISEA 138

The human hand is one of the most essential tools in the work environment.  It is also highly vulnerable to occupational injury. In North America, standards and guidance have been in place for multiple types of hand injuries (cuts, stabs & chemical exposures). Until last month, however, the market lacked a standardized approach for addressing gloves designed to protect against injuries caused by impact (broken and fractured bones, contusions and other injuries ranging from inconvenient or uncomfortable bruising to completely crushed hands). These injuries and the gloves worn to protect against them are ubiquitous in many industries: oil & gas, cargo & freight handling, transportation, construction and heavy machinery.


Last month the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) approved a new test method for evaluating the protection that gloves provide against dorsal injury.  This new standard, ANSI/ISEA 138, was developed by the International Safety Equipment Association and published by ANSI. It is an important advancement in promoting workplace safety, as it represents the first standard method for evaluating a protective function that is both highly in demand by users and highly marketed to them: impact protection. The new standard uses technology that has been widely adopted as the leading method for evaluating impact attenuation properties of many other categories of personal protective equipment (PPE) and sporting goods. The new American National Standard for Performance and Classification of Impact-Resistant Gloves establishes a testing protocol, performance levels and labeling requirements for gloves that offer back-of-hand protection. ANSI/ISEA 138 specifies marking pictograms that correspond to defined impact attenuation levels for better identification by workers and safety managers. The standard also requires that gloves be tested by an accredited laboratory.   ICS is pleased to offer testing to this new method. Contact us today to set up a test project.


The new 138 standard provides minimum performance criteria for gloves that are marketed to users as providing impact protection. This is significant, as there was no prior method for evaluating the accuracy of impact-resistance performance claims that many gloves make or imply. The European PPE market, by way of EN 388, has had a standardized approach to evaluating this aspect of industrial gloves for several years. While standards like ANSI/ISEA 105 have been in place to assess the performance of many protective features of gloves (puncture resistance, cut/slice resistance, thermal protection, abrasion-by-friction, chemical hazards, etc.), there is now a method for one of the most widely requested and touted functions of much of the hand protection on the market today – impact protection.   Both industry and the general public now have a consensus standard built around a vetted testing methodology to evaluate performance and labeling which will ultimately lead to more informed choices regarding hand protection.