ANSI/ISEA 138: Impact Standards

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there were over 143,000 hand-related workplace injuries in 2015. This makes the hand the second most common body part injured at work, despite OSHA reporting that 70.9% of hand and arm injuries could have been prevented with personal protective equipment (PPE), specifically safety gloves. Hand injuries are also costly, with the National Safety Council reporting that the cost for a hand injury can range from $540 to $26,000 depending on the severity of the injury. Cuts and punctures are common injuries, but hands can also be crushed by heavy machinery or tools. Workers can take care of their hands by remaining aware of their surroundings and by taking extra precautions like wearing impact resistant gloves.

EN 388 Standard

Impact resistant gloves are generally used in the automotive, heavy equipment and construction operation, cargo handling, oil and gas, and transportation industries. Previously, impact resistant gloves were rated using the European Standard EN 388 (originally a rating for hazards like cuts tears and punctures). However, industry experts felt it was not comprehensive enough for the safety glove industry. This is because the impact resistance updates to EN 388 were based on impact protection standards for motorcycles rather than the industrial safety glove market. Furthermore, it only offered a pass/fail result, which indicated impact protection but did not classify the extent of the protection. EN 388 also only tested the knuckles, ignoring the fingers.

ANSI/ISEA 138-2019 Standard was created to:

  • “Address the gaps in appropriately evaluation performance of a gloves dorsal protection and assist employers in making informed product selections."
  • Establish the requirements for testing, classification, and labeling for gloves providing back-of-the-hand impact protection in the workplace. To achieve compliance, the gloves’ capability to dissipate impact forces on the knuckles and fingers are evaluated and classified accordingly.
  • Create a reliable method of classification for employers to objectively compare different products when selecting hand protection products.

Impact Protection Evaluation

ANSI/ISEA 138 uses an impact-protection scale to measure impact resistance. The scale goes from 1-3. Level 1 is used for people less likely to encounter impacts whereas 3 is applicable for personnel more likely to encounter impact hazards. Multiple spots on an impact resistant glove are given a number on the impact protection scale, but the entire glove is rated based on the lowest number. This means that if a glove’s finger protection is rated a 3 on the impact protection scale and a 2 for knuckle protection, overall the glove will receive a rating of 2.

The impact protection test is administered by dropping a falling mass on the impact points of the gloves and recording the force transferred. This test is conducted eight times for the knuckles and 10 times on the fingers.

During evaluation, the energy absorbed by an impact resistant glove is measured in Kilonewtons (kN) as shown in the table below. At first glance, the impact-protection scale may seem counterintuitive – the kN value decreases as impact protection increases. This is because as impact protection increases, the amount of kN absorbed by the glove also goes up, leaving less kN to be recorded during evaluation.

Performance Level

Mean (kN)

All Impacts (kN)


< 9

< 11.3


< 6.5

< 8.1


< 4

< 5

The adoption of this new standard means that manufactures can no longer claim their own impact protection scores, but rather must have their impact resistant gloves tested by a third-party lab. After testing, any impact resistant gloves claiming a level of protection under the ANSI/ISEA 138 standard must have a pictogram depicting the level of protection offered (shown below). This image must be visible and remain legible through a glove’s normal use period.

ANSI/ISEA 138 will help reduce workplace injury by pushing for functional innovation in impact resistant gloves, rather than just cosmetic changes and by establishing an objective way to compare choices in impact resistant gloves.

Check out Stauffer Glove & Safety's wide array of impact resistant gloves.