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Posted: 10/13/2021 12:00:00 AM
How often have you been on a worksite or had a job where you needed to go through some form of hazardous material training? Probably quite a bit, since most workplaces, no matter whether they’re in an office or a construction site, usually have some level of interaction with chemicals or other hazardous materials.
Working safely with these materials requires adherence to strict procedures and the use of specially-designed protective equipment… including gloves! Since our hands are most at risk from chemical splashes or spills, we need to be sure they have the best protection possible.
The November 2016 update of the EN 374 standard considered better test methods, global application, and increased information regarding chemical and micro-organism risk. The new standard outlines the requirements for permeation, penetration, and degradation.
Permeation is the process where chemicals move through a glove at a molecular level. There are now three types of glove classifications for permeation: Type A, Type B, and Type C. These are determined by their performance level and the number of chemicals they can protect against. The permeation test involves exposing three samples from the palm, or weakest area, to chemicals. For gloves longer than 400mm, and gloves that claim to have cuff protection, another three samples are taken from the cuff. The breakthrough times are measured and the lowest result is used. Type C gloves will protect against at least one chemical for more than 10 minutes, type B gloves will protect against at least three chemicals for more than 30 minutes, and type A gloves will protect against at least six chemicals for more than 30 minutes. The list of chemicals that gloves are tested against was originally 12 chemicals but has been expanded by 6 chemicals to make the new total of 18 testable chemicals. This is because the industry now uses a lot of chemicals that weren’t covered by the old standard.
Penetration, or leakage, can happen when there are imperfections in a glove, such as pinholes or failures in a seam. The test for penetration consists of two parts—air and water leak testing. For the air leak test, the glove is immersed in water and the inside of the glove is pressurized with air. A leak is detected by a stream of bubbles coming from the surface of the glove. The water leak test is similar—the glove is filled with water and any leaks are detected by the appearance of water droplets on the outside surface of the glove.
The degradation test measures changes in the glove’s physical properties after exposure to a chemical. Degradation is the process through which a change to the material occurs—in this case, through contact with a chemical. Visual signs of degradation include flaking, swelling, change in appearance, and hardening of the tested material. Degradation testing is a new aspect of EN 374 and is carried out by determining the measured puncture resistance of the material after continuous contact of the external surface with a chemical. The amount of force to push a stylus through the glove material is measured, both before and after chemical exposure.
The EN 374 standards also test against micro-organism resistance. This is depicted as a shield with a biohazard, or micro-organism, symbol. The levels of protection range from 1 to 3, with 1 being the least protected and 3 being the most protected. Gloves must carry at least a level 2 rating to be considered micro-organism resistant since gloves at level 1 are only considered waterproof. Micro-organisms include bacteria, fungi, and now viruses. If the glove is resistant against viruses, there will be the word “virus” below the micro-organism shield.
EN 374 testing is represented by the image of a flask in a shield. The old beaker symbol has been phased out. The letters beneath the shield represent the chemical protection offered by the glove. For instance, a combination of JKL means that the glove has been tested for protection against n-Heptane, Sodium Hydroxide, and Sulphuric Acid. EN 374 lists 18 chemicals, but other chemicals and mixtures can also be tested, depending on the classification of the glove.
The North American standard for hand protection, ANSI/ISEA 105-2016, has not updated the section on chemical protection since 2011, but it follows many of the same testing standards as EN 374-1. Permeation testing is done in accordance with ASTM F739-12 standards, which rates the level of the glove based on breakthrough time. Resistance to penetration is tested using the ASTM F903 test, which exposes the glove to a variety of chemical properties to determine if there is any visible penetration.
So, no matter your workspace, chemical-resistant gloves will have the information you need to know readily available to keep you, and your hands, safe.
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