February 28, 2019 | Joe Geng |

Everything You Need To Know About ANSI/ISEA 138 – The New Impact Standard



Have you heard the news? There’s a new standard in town!

Whether you’ve been waiting patiently or this is the first time you’re hearing about it, the American National Standard for Performance and Classification for Impact-Resistant Gloves (ANSI/ISEA 138-2019) was officially released. This standard provides a homogenous classification system for impact protection across all manufacturers and makes it easier for industries where impact protection is critical, such as oil and gas, to make better choices for impact-resistant gloves.

Keep reading to find out what the new standard is and how it can help you choose the impact-resistant gloves that best suit your needs.

What is ANSI/ISEA 138

“We want to be able to write and design something the people are going to use. End users ultimately need to understand why a particular standard exists – why there is a number or mark on the product label and what that means for the selection process…They [end users] don’t want to be overprotected, because there might be a trade-off, whether that is dexterity or user comfort.”

– Cristine Fargo, Director of Member and Technical Services, ISEA

ANSI/ISEA 138 is a new, voluntary standard for the North American market designed to accurately classify different levels of impact protection offered by the impact-resistant gloves on the market.

In the past decade, the market for impact-resistant gloves has grown from almost non-existent to a value of over $100 million globally. As such, the materials technology for impact-resistant gloves has grown in leaps and bounds as well, resulting in a plethora of products offering back-of-hand protection and little information on how best to choose between them.

In 2016, the European Standard EN 388 (which already covers hazards such as cuts, tears, and punctures) was updated to include a standard for impact protection; however, many industry experts felt it didn’t adequately cover the requirements of the industrial safety glove industry.

For starters, the updates to EN 388 were based on an impact standard for motorcycles and not specifically designed for the needs of the industrial safety glove market. Additionally, it only offers a pass/fail result, which simply indicates whether a particular glove provides impact protection but does nothing to help classify to what extent. Finally, it only requires testing of protection for the knuckles, leaving out one of the most commonly injured areas – the fingers.

Given the limitations of the impact standards in EN 388, industry experts in North America got together with the objective of creating a standard that would be able to evaluate compliant gloves for their ability to dissipate impact forces on the knuckles and fingers and to classify them accordingly. The scope of the resulting standard was to establish minimum performance, classification, and labeling requirements for hand protection products designed to protect the knuckles and fingers from impact forces while performing occupational tasks.

The result was the creation of ANSI/ISEA 138.

Why Introduce a Standard

“Because of the newness of the technology, design, and market, it has taken a while to generate the need for an impact standard. Now that the market has grown to a value of than $100 million globally, a standard is long overdue.”

– Lucie Ponting, D30

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.

Of course, one of the main drivers for a standard was the fact that there simply wasn’t one and the market had grown to a size where one was needed. Given the sheer number of impact-resistant options available and the fact that testing methods weren’t standardized, 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.

“What’s the most appropriate glove for back-of-hand impact protection? Until now [after release of standard], I have not been able to definitely answer the question…It normally boils down to trial and error…Eventually, an employee will inadvertently drop a tool on their hand and sustain an impact injury. This is not prevention, and it is a poor way to allocate resources.”

– Dan Markiewicz, health and safety consultant

Who Created the Standard

ANSI/ISEA 138 is the result of collaboration between several key stakeholders: The American National Standards Institute (ANSI), the International Safety Equipment Association (ISEA), materials experts from material manufacturer D3O, representatives from leading industrial glove manufacturers (including Superior Glove), and plastic and reconstructive hand surgeon Dr. Lloyd Champagne.

“As far as what anatomy in the hand is the most vulnerable the two main problem areas are the fingertips, which are very commonly injured because they are the part that is universally in contact with everything, and the big knuckles, which are frequently impacted by things such as wrenches slipping or people catching their hands under the hood of a car.”

– Dr. Lloyd Champagne, plastic and reconstructive hand surgeon

Execution of ANSI/ISEA 138

The standard outlines the exact requirements for testing and labeling in order for manufacturers to be able to display the ANSI/ISEA 138 pictograms on their products.

How Impact-Resistant Gloves Are Tested

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

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.

Using precise measurements, the new standard ensures impact force to the knuckles and fingers is accurately measured.


The test is conducted by dropping a ‘drop striker’ (a falling mass) on the impact points of the glove, recording the force transferred in kilonewtons (kN). This test is repeated eight times for the knuckles and ten times for the fingers. Gloves are classified based on all the test results and the mean. To classify as an ANSI/ISEA 138 level 1, 2, or 3, the mean and all test results must be within the classification parameters.

Labeling of Impact-Resistant Gloves

All gloves claiming a performance level under ANSI/ISEA 138 must have an ANSI/ISEA 138 pictogram showcasing the level of protection offered by the glove on the glove itself or a label that is permanently attached to the glove. The pictogram marking must be visible and legible throughout the normal useful life of the glove.

“The ANSI/ISEA 138 impact standard will help reduce workplace impact injuries in two major ways. First, it will drive functional, instead of cosmetic, innovation from glove manufacturers and material science research. Second, it will help safety managers compare and choose gloves that will really protect their workers. Until now, safety managers have literally evaluated gloves by banging their hands against the wall, while wearing gloves. ANSI/ISEA 138 replaces that with science and hard numbers.”

– Joe Geng, Senior Vice President of Superior Glove

Superior Glove’s Line-Up of Impact-Resistant Gloves

At the time of publishing, Superior Glove had been able to have eight of our impact-resistant gloves tested under the new standard. As they are tested, we will update results for our other impact-resistant gloves on our website.

Impact-Resistant Gloves Performance Level 1

Impact-Resistant Gloves Performance Level 2

Joe Geng
About Joe Geng
Vice President of Superior Glove

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