Hand protection standards: What do they mean?

Employers, risk managers and contractors are acutely aware of the need for compliance with standards which affect the hand safety of workers who are exposed to a range of specific workplace hazards.

For electricians, typical hand hazards include cuts and scrapes from sharp edges of switchboard covers and cable ducts, as well as nicks and grazes caused by having to manipulate tools in confined areas.

Other hand risks include sharp cables protruding from crevices and ceiling cavities as well as a risk of hand burns from accidental electrical flashes.

An understanding of numeric codes and symbols used for specifying protection levels ensures workers are issued with the correct level of protection for their task. Cost control by matching the protection codes to the appropriate risk is also an important factor.

“International (ISO) and Australian/New Zealand (AS/NZS) standards help classify specific attributes of products and communicate the quality and protection levels of personal protection equipment,” says Greg Plemmons, Ansell Industrial’s Asia-Pacific Head of Marketing.

While compliance with AS/NZS 2161 Occupational Protective Gloves is not currently compulsory for glove manufacturers, safety managers view compliance with standards as a key issue,” he says.

“Australia and parts of Asia have a policy of adopting established international standards for its own use and has implemented a number of identical standards to those used throughout Europe. Ansell’s gloves have been all tested and approved to meet many of the stringent European and US standards.”

“For example, standard EN 420 (AS/NZS 2161.2:1998) – Occupational Protective Gloves, General Requirements defines general requirements to all protective gloves (except electrician and medical gloves) for glove construction, cleaning, comfort, efficiency and marking.

“A series of detailed standards follow: AS/NZS 2161.3:1998 (EN 388) Protective Gloves Against Mechanical Risk; AS/NZS 2161.10:1998 (EN 374) Protection against Chemicals and Micro Organisms and AS/NZS 2161.4:1999 (EN 407) Protective Gloves Against Thermal Risks.

“Each of these standards is represented by a symbol and number stamped on the gloves – the higher the number, the higher the level of protection. To achieve each standard requires testing to determine the rating of protection level and is a useful guide to those responsible for ensuring worker safety,” Mr Plemmons says.

The Ansell PowerFlex 80-813 glove which is constructed using inherently flame-resistant composite materials rated to European EN 407 standards. This glove also carries the highest level of cut resistance (European EN level 5), so the combination of flame and cut resistance makes it an ideal choice for electrical workers.

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