Industrial Supply Blog

Understanding the ANSI/ISEA 138 Standard and Its Impact on Hand Protection

Nov 21, 2019 11:00:00 AM

For years, workers have had no choice but to take chances with their safety glove selection with regards to back-of-the-hand and finger protection.

When it comes to protection from cold, punctures, chemical exposure or lacerations, there are numerous options that offer workers peace of mind when working with dangerous materials and environments.

Protecting the delicate bones and tissues of the back of the hands and fingertips? Well that’s another story. Somehow, consideration to impact protection has been left out of the game altogether.

ANSI 138 Image 1


Think about the work you do every day. How many near misses do your fingertips and knuckles experience when working with a hammer, a pipe or a piece of machinery? How many pinchpoints are your hands exposed to on a daily basis?

If we were to guess, it happens a lot more than one would think — especially when working in the oil and gas industries. Injuries to the fingers actually account for a third of all total recordable injuries, according to the International Association of Drilling Contractors (IADC). These injuries are likely due to working with a mix of the following:

  • Tongs or spinning chains
  • Pipes, cables, hoses and ropes
  • Moving machine parts
  • Hammers
  • Concrete blocks
  • Dropped objects and tools
  • Pinch points

In the past, glove manufacturers didn’t have to adhere to any kind of clear and consistent standard to prove the impact protection of their gloves. Over the years, there have been all kinds of new technology, new materials and new designs coming out of glove companies that made it difficult to decide on a uniform impact standard all manufacturers could adhere to.

But not anymore.


ANSI 138 Image 2


The American National Standard for Performance and Classification for Impact-Resistant Gloves is set to change all that. ANSI/ISEA 138-2019 was recently released and provides a homogenous classification system for dorsal impact protection that makes it easier for end-users to choose the level of protection right for them.

It’s a voluntary standard so that means it's not required by regulations, but it’s a start in the right direction.

How does ANSI/ISEA 138 improve impact protection?

Well for starters, ANSI/ISEA 138 evaluates safety gloves and their ability to dissipate impact forces on the knuckles, thumbs, fingers and fingertips and then provides clear classification on the level of protection.

This helps to establish minimum performance, classification and labeling requirements. In the end, this standard protects you and helps you choose the right impact-resistant glove for your needs.

It may be a voluntary standard, but that doesn’t mean it’s not going to have an impact on the way glove manufacturers do business. These companies are competing for your business and when they see a competitor proudly rocking the ANSI/ISEA 138 pictogram on their products, you better believe they’ll stand up and take notice.

If they want to “keep up with the Jones” and earn your business, they need to take certain measures to make sure their gloves offer the impact-resistance they claim. There’s no more honor system in impact-protection anymore. They must have their gloves tested by a third-party lab that meets existing ISO/IEC 17025:2017 testing and calibration requirements.



The Brains Behind the Operation

We think this standard is pretty impressive and developed by a team of people that understand the importance of adequate hand protection. The committee was made up of leading glove manufacturers, materials expert D30 and someone who has an intimate understanding of the human anatomy, a plastic and reconstructive surgeon. How’s that for a meeting of the minds?

Here’s what the doctor had to say about the need for improved impact protection:


“As far as what anatomy in the hand is 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


Industrial dorsal hand protection in the past didn’t offer end users any assistance when choosing the right safety glove for their needs. Every brand had different markings, different measures of performance and no way to accurately compare different products. Now, the new standard is very clear in it’s expectations.


ANSI 138 Image 4

The new ANSI/ISEA 138 standard:

  • Defines the test method
  • Includes three defined performance levels
  • Specifies a pictogram mark for each of the levels for compliant gloves
  • Requires products to be tested in a laboratory with a certificate of accreditation that meets the requirements of ISO/IEC 17025:2017, general requirements for the competence of testing and calibration laboratories


ANSI/ISEA 138 Levels of Protection

The levels of protection are broken down using an impact-protection scale that goes from 1 to 3. Level 1 is ideal for people who will experience less risk for impact, while Level 3 is for people who will experience more likelihood for impact.


ANSI/ISEA 138 Labeling of Impact-Resistant Gloves

If a glove is going to claim it has a performance level under ANSI/ISEA 138, it must have a pictogram or permanent label that tells the user the glove’s level of impact protection. See below for examples of these pictograms:


Image result for ansi isea 138"


Will ANSI/ISEA affect your glove’s performance?

The short answer is no.

However, considering many of the gloves that previously offered “dorsal protection” may have been merely decorative features, it will be critical to choose a glove that is constructed of innovative material that allows for dexterity and movement.

The very nature of the standard will force manufacturers to build in performance features, so that end users don’t have to sacrifice safety for workability. Talk to your safety supplier to help you find the right impact protection gloves that won’t slow you down.


Check out these ANSI/ISEA 138 rated gloves available through RMI:


ANSI 138 Level 2 Maximum Safety® TuffMax5™ from PIP

These nitrile coated gloves offer impact resistance and great grip, both wet or dry, while offering ANSI Cut Level 4 resistance. Ideal for working in oil and gas, automotive or fabrication applications.


ANSI 138 Level 1 Chrome SLT® 4060 from HexArmor

These gloves offer arc flash level 2 rating, heat protection and Level 1 back of the hand protection, plus cut-resistance and excellent grip in dry or light oil situations. Ideal for workers who prefer the look and dextrous feel of leather gloves.

Naturally, when you are choosing hand protection you need to factor in the other hazards you may face. Cold weather protection, cut-resistance, water-resistance, puncture-resistance, chemical resistance are just a few of the other features you may need to consider when choosing your next pair of impact-resistant safety gloves.


Kong Cold Protection Waterproof Glove


RWG28 Cut Level A2 Waterproof Dipped Winter Gripper Gloves Vise Gripster® C.I.A. - Cut and Puncture Resistant Coated Gloves


We understand that can become confusing quickly. Rather than trying to figure it out alone, let us help you find the right glove that can get you back to work.

We'd Like to Help

If you’d like more information on ANSI/ISEA 138 or help choosing the safety gloves right for you, stop in to Rocky Mountain Industrial Supply, visit our website or give us a call at 307-472-5519. We’d love to help get you and your team in the gear they need to work safely.

We’re here to help keep the American workforce safe everyday.


Topics: PPE, hand protection, gloves

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