Motorcycle gloves

Safety standards for motorcyclists' protective clothing.
by Peter Doughty
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Figure 1: Impact abrasion testing

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It is well known that riding a motorcycle involves the potential for injury due to falling off or being in a collision with another vehicle or obstacle. Good rider training in defensive techniques can go some way to reducing the risks. However, regardless of who is responsible for accidents involving motorcycles, it is a fact that the rider can be seriously injured.

Gloves worn by motorcyclists are often required by the rider to perform a number of different functions. For instance, most wearers will rely on them to keep their hands warm and dry. But it is also vital that the gloves do not have an adverse affect on dexterity, which might prevent safe use of the motorcycle controls. Whilst it is desirable that they are capable of providing some protection in the event of a road accident, not all gloves worn by motorcyclists are considered by the manufacturer to be protective, and there are many items of ‘fashion wear’ that either do not provide, or were not designed to provide, any significant level of protection.

The European Directive and motorcyclists' gloves

The European Directive on personal protective equipment (PPE) covers gloves that are intended to provide some protection to the motorcyclist against personal injury during an accident. This legislation requires examples of the gloves which are intended for sale in the EU to be independently tested and approved before the manufacturer applies the CE mark and places them on the market. The PPE Directive is a general piece of legislation that is supported by a large number of product standards specifically developed by CEN, the European standards body. The Directive requires that design aspects of the protective equipment be assessed to ensure that adequate protection is provided and that no additional hazards are being introduced. It also requires that the information provided with the protective equipment meets certain minimum criteria.

Europe currently leads the world in the setting of safety standards for motorcyclists’ protective clothing and there is a technical committee within CEN (TC162/WG9) that is devoted to this specialised work. A list of all of the standards that have been developed by CEN/TC162/WG9 to date is given in box 1. EN 13594:2002 covers motorcyclists’ gloves.
 

Box 1: List of standards produced by CEN/TC162/WG9
EN 1621-1:2012 – This covers the impact performance and dimensional requirements of products worn over rider’s elbows, hips, knees and shoulders to provide some protection during impact with a hard object.

EN 1621-2:2003 – A second part to EN 1621 written to specifically cover back protectors. Whereas Part 1 contains only a single performance level, Part 2 includes two levels.

EN 13595:2002 – This covers jackets, trousers plus one and two piece suits. It has been formatted into four parts. Part 1 includes the requirements and the examination procedures of the clothing while parts 2 to 4 describe the laboratory testing procedures for three of the specialised tests: impact abrasion, impact cut and burst strength.

EN 13634:2010 – The standard for motorcyclists’ footwear that draws on tests from the established industrial footwear standards together with specialised motorcycle type tests from EN 13595. The standard includes two levels of protection which are determined by the abrasion and cut resistance tests.

EN 13594:2002 – The standard for motorcyclists’ protective gloves which, like the footwear standard, is based on both general industrial and specialised motorcycle test procedures.

EN 14021:2003 - The standard for the specialised body protectors generally worn while riding off-road to protect against impact from lofted stones. The standard includes tests for design, dimensions, impact performance and ergonomics.­­

Protection required

One of the most common types of wound caused by a motorcycle accident is an abrasion injury – often jokingly referred to as ‘road rash’ – which is no laughing matter. If any such open wound is then contaminated by dirt and grit, the treatment and healing process becomes far more prolonged and difficult. It therefore follows that one of the most important functions of the glove is to act as a protective layer to prevent open wounds being caused. Tests detailed within EN 13594 can be grouped into the following areas:

  1. Requirements that cover the general design of the glove, such as its overall length.
  2. Tests on the integrity of the whole glove, which include a measurement of the strength of seams or joints between pieces of material forming the protective layer. Clearly this is important as any failure in these joins may lead to splits in the glove that will expose the rider’s hand to abrasion injuries.
  3. Tests on the innocuousness of the materials used to construct the glove. These include pH value and chrome VI content of any leather materials, plus colour fastness to water of all glove materials. The use of hard inclusions such as metal studs or buckles is also restricted and they are only permitted external to the glove’s protective layer.
  4. To ensure that the rider can still ride safely while wearing the gloves, a procedure is included to assess the ergonomics of the glove.
  5. Tests to ensure the glove materials are sufficiently durable include an assessment of cut resistance using a reciprocating circular blade machine and a tear strength test – both of these as defined in EN 388 – plus an assessment of abrasion resistance using an impact abrasion machine which is also used to test material for protective jackets, trousers, suits and boots (see video clip and figure 1 in images this page top right – click image to enlarge).
  6. A test to assess the restraint of the glove on the wearer’s hand is also included as clearly the glove will not offer any protection to the wearer if it is pulled or thrown off the hand during an accident.
  7. Finally, there is an optional property that can be tested if the manufacturer wishes to make specific claims. This covers impact protection to defined areas of the gloves and involves measuring the product’s ability to reduce forces transmitted to the hand caused by an impact.


To affix the CE mark to a particular design of motorcycle glove, it should first be assessed by a Notified Body such as SATRA. The Notified Body will assess the associated technical documentation, often referred to as the technical file – see box 2.
 

Box 2: Contents of a typical technical file
  • name and address of manufacturer
  • EU authorised representative (where relevant)
  • product specifications (drawings and construction details)
  • raw material specifications including supplier details
  • quality control procedures
  • details of product marking
  • copy of user information sheet
  • a checklist against Annex II of EC Directive 89/686 (PPE Directive)
  • copies of relevant test reports.

 SATRA's Essential Guide to PPE is available at www.satrappeguide.com

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Please email ppe@satra.co.uk for further information on the testing of motorcyclists' gloves and publications@satra.co.uk to purchase copies of EN 13594:2002.