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Glove standards

Deciding which safety glove to use for a specific job is often a process of trial and error and no matter which glove you choose, it should be subjected to operational testing and evaluation to ensure it performs to your specific requirements. But the whole selection process can be a lot less confusing if you have a sound knowledge of the EN Standards, and the Australian equivalents, that apply to glove manufacturing, design and performance.

Here, we’ve made it easy for you

Firstly, the easiest way to remember standards information is two think about them in two areas:

  1. categories
  2. risk areas

Choosing a category

Indicated by a CE symbol on the label, categories relate to the actual glove design and there are three possibilities to choose from:

  1. Simple for low-level risks like janitorial work

  2. Intermediate for general hazards that include cuts, abrasion and punctures.

  3. Complex for irreversible or mortal risks such as exposure to chemicals or radioactive substances

Selecting the appropriate risk area

The information below provides a quick guide to both the EN and the Australian standards relating to each risk area or hazard.

General protection EN420: 2003 AS/NZS 2161.2: 1998

This standard applies to ALL safety gloves and requires, amongst other things, the packaging to include information about glove size, dexterity and design category.

Mechanical EN388: 2003 AS/NZS 2161.3: 1998

There are four digits displayed alongside this pictogram. Each number gives the performance level on a scale of 0 to 5 against four hazards in this order: abrasion, blade cut, tear resistance and puncture resistance.

Chemical and micro-organism EN374: 2003 AS/NZS 2161.10: 2005

The pictogram is accompanied by at least three digits each of which corresponds to a certain classified chemical. For example, ‘A’ is for methanol and ‘B’ is for acetone. For chemical risk gloves, performance levels are measured on a scale of 1 to 6 to indicate how quickly the hazardous chemical may come into contact with the skin through the glove, known as breakthrough time. Performance level 1, for example, means the liquid can permeate the glove in 10 minutes, and level 6, means the chemical will not come into contact with the skin for at least 480 minutes.

Thermal (heat and fire) EN407: 2004 AS/NZS 2161.4: 1999

This pictogram is always accompanied by a six-digit code. Each digit, on a scale of 0 to 4 represents the glove’s protection level against specific hazards in this order: flammability, contact heat, convective heat, radiant heat, small splashes of molten metal, and large quantities of molten metal.

Cold (down to - 50°C) EN511: 2006 AS/NZS Standard 2161.5: 1998

Here, the pictogram will be shown alongside three digits which represent performance levels in the following order: convective cold, contact cold (these are both measured on a scale of 0 to 4) and, lastly, penetration by water, measured as either 0 or 1.

Radioactive contamination EN421: 2010 AS/NZS 2161.8: 2002

Gloves for protection against radioactive contamination must be liquid proof and depending on their intended use, it will also undergo additional testing for penetration, air pressure leaking and ozone cracking.

All gloves for protection against iodising radiation needs to contain a certain amount of lead or other metal, the quantity of which will be indicated on the label.


All gloves that certify protection against heat and fire, as well as cold, by regulation, must also have a minimum of level 1 protection against abrasion and tear.