Winter conditions present many many hazards for anyone working outdoors. Lower temperatures, higher wind chill, and contact with cold or freezing water make it harder for our bodies to maintain a normal temperature — which makes it harder to get the job done. Cold stress (hypothermia, or frostbite) occurs when our bodies can no longer maintain that temperature; the potential consequences of cold stress range from shivering, numbness, cramps, and pain to permanent tissue damage and even death.
Wear the Right Gloves for Winter Protection
Wearing protective clothing and following safety best practices can eliminate or reduce cold stress. Layers of clothing provide ventilation and insulation, absorb sweat, and prevent wind from stinging the skin.
One important way to reduce cold stress is choosing the right pair of gloves. At Armor Guys, our work gloves adhere to European Glove Standard EN 511, which describes the requirements for manufacturing winter gloves and the procedures used for testing those gloves. When applying Standard EN 511 to our gloves, we use performance levels for each classification to rate our gloves for different applications.
How Does EN 511 Protect My Hands?
The EN 511 Standard tests the physical integrity of gloves. While the ability to protect against the cold is a priority, work gloves must also be able to withstand abrasion and tearing when used in cold conditions. In addition, the materials that protect our hands from extremely cold temperatures must also remain flexible enough to use.
Our manufacturing processes use Standard EN 511 to assess the cold resistance of our gloves in three ways. With performance levels ranging from 0 to 4, winter gloves must have thermal insulation that protects against convective cold, or the loss of body heat to the surrounding air. Convective cold occurs when air moves across the skin (or glove material), and as wind speed increases and temperature decreases, convective cold increases as well.
Testing for resistance to convective cold requires a special setup that places our gloves on a heated mechanical hand in a chamber with a defined air flow rate. During the test, the temperature in the chamber drops to 20 degrees Celsius below the temperature of the heated hand. The test measures the amount of electrical power needed to maintain a constant temperature between the surface of the heated hand and the environment within the chamber; gloves that have a low thermal insulation value require more electrical power to maintain normal temperature.
Winter gloves must also resist contact cold (again using performance levels ranging from 0 to 4). The greatest amount of heat loss occurs when our hands come into direct contact with a cold object; this is called conductive (or contact) cold. The contact cold test places glove materials between metal plates of different temperature. Then, the measured temperature drop across the material becomes the benchmark for calculating contact cold thermal resistance.
The third aspect of Standard EN 511 testing involves the capacity of gloves to resist water penetration. Gloves that receive ratings of “0” allow water to penetrate after 30 minutes, and gloves rated “1” do not allow water penetration after 30 minutes.
A Quick Example
Our Extraflex 04-012 gloves are a safe, comfortable choice for cold weather work or other applications that involve cold storage. These gloves comply with EN 388:3243 standards for cuts, abrasions, tears, and punctures as well as the EN 511 standards for cold temperature safety. Our Extraflex 04-012 gloves feature a poly-acrylic fleece liner and Hybrid Coating Technology MicroFoam Latex.