15 Oct 10/15/2020
ANSI standards have crucial value to the safety programs used in a variety of industries nationwide. Although consumers are not always familiar with ANSI standards, they protect the environment and people's health and safety. Plus, they ensure that different products are compatible under one set of instructions, making people's lives easier, safer, and more enjoyable.
The ANSI standards drive the decision-making and development of all personal protective equipment (PPE), so they deserve some time in the spotlight. This article will take a more in-depth look at the standards and how they serve such a critical role in protecting people at work.
What is ANSI? Founded in 1918, the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) is a nonprofit organization that oversees and sets U.S. standards, conformity, and norms for products found in nearly every U.S. sector.
The organization was initially called the American Engineering Standards Committee (AESC) and was primarily focused only on engineering standards. Then, in 1928, the organization was reorganized and named the American Standards Association. Over time, it developed partnerships with numerous global organizations, such as the International Organization for Standardization (ISO), and was eventually renamed in 1969 to its current ANSI title.
Today, ANSI standards are present in virtually every industry and regulate standards and qualitiy control in over 270,000 different companies, promoting U.S. safety standards worldwide.
What are ANSI standards? As ANSI explains in their literature, a standard is an agreed-upon way of doing something. For PPE, this agreed-upon way ensures that the PPE workers wear equipment designed to keep them safe, with an adopted minimum standard and performance level. Those who work on the front line do not want to simply take a company's word that a protective device works. Instead, they want to know it meets specific performance requirements. ANSI standards provide:
One example of a current standard implemented for gloves is the new ANSI ISEA 138 impact standard. Before its adoption, companies and workers had thrown at them a new wave of gloves that incorporated impact-reducing material on the back-of-hand created by multiple companies. However, there was little guidance as to what different materials did and what protection they offered, which, over time, led to increased confusion as numerous companies began developing impact gloves providing varying degrees of protection.
Thanks to the new standard's ANSI publication, wearers can now choose gloves rated on an impact-protection scale from 1-3. Workers can do their jobs more confidently and focus on their tasks as they worry less about their hands' safety. Similar standards have been established around other glove performance areas, such as puncture, abrasion, and cut-resistance. We will cover each of these performance areas more in-depth below, but first more on the overall process itself.
ANSI does not create or even enforce standards (for example, OSHA enforces ANSI standards). They are simply the organization that develops and oversees ongoing collaborative partnerships between industries and the government to address specific standardization needs and identify gaps in existing standards. ANSI coordinates the work of the organizations responsible for developing and writing national standards. There are more than 240 ANSI-accredited standards developing organizations (SDOs), including groups like ASTM International, Underwriters Laboratories, Inc., NFPA International, and the International Safety Equipment Association (ISEA).
ANSI's involvement in the initial process only ensures transparency and due process amongst all the different stakeholders. They work to create an open and transparent medium of communication and information exchange between the various parties involved in bringing a product or service to the market.
The four steps to getting a standard adopted are explained here.
Setting a standard initially begins when an industry works to determine specific, agreed-upon guidelines, requirements, and best practices around products produced for human use. For the impact glove standard mentioned above, a subgroup of the International Safety Equipment Association's (ISEA) hand protection group worked on developing a voluntary standard for over three years, starting in 2016. This work took place in conjunction with seven leading glove manufacturing companies. The guidelines set encompass all aspects of the industry, from the design, operation, manufacturing, and servicing of equipment pieces.
Once a standard is agreed upon, ANSI then supports these voluntary standards to ensure that products from any company also meet the adopted standard and performance level. This requires the cooperation of technical professionals, companies, industry groups, academics, and government and consumer representatives. For the impact glove standard, final adoption took place in 2019. Once approved, an ANSI standard has a five-year duration, then must be reaffirmed every five years.
Why use ANSI standards for PPE? The American Society of Safety Professionals (ASSP) recommends using ANSI standards for PPE in the workplace, ensuring workers are wearing protection that meets minimum performance and labeling requirements. For safety managers establishing a companywide safety program, products' performance scores pave the wave for deciding what PPE is suitable for the hazards their workers face.
MCR Safety takes the guesswork out of determining how products perform by adhering to ANSI standards across our product lines. Below, we highlight each of the different criteria we utilize.
American National Standard for Hand Protection
Abrasion Taber Test Machine
ASTM F2992-15 Cut Test Method
Conductive heat test using a sensor to determine heat energy transferred to the glove.
Puncture-resistance test using a stylus pushed through the glove's material.
American National Standard for Performance and Classification for Impact-Resistant Gloves
Watch a video highlighting this standard.
American National Standard for High-Visibility Safety Apparel
American National Standard for Occupational and Educational Eye and Face Protection
ANSI/ISEA Z87.1-2020, the sixth revision of the voluntary eye and face protection standard, establishes performance criteria and testing requirements for devices used to protect the eyes and face from hazards that can potentially cause eye injuries. It also clarifies testing consistency in applying dark-state tolerances for automatically darkening welding filters and determining the minimum coverage area of head forms while it expands welding filter shades.
You can read up more on this entire standard in our article, Understanding ANSI Z87.1.
Once a user understands the concept of standards and how important they are in developing PPE, they become the driving force of the entire purchasing process. At MCR Safety, we recognize our customers' needs, which is why you will find ANSI filters on our online catalogs' left-hand side, allowing quick navigation to specific products meeting the exact performance level required.
Any company can sell a cut-resistant glove. However, the question you should be asking is, has it passed the quality management testing process of an ISO 17025 laboratory, which validates established performance levels? Neither OSHA nor any government agency audits these tests, so it's up to the purchaser to determine testing accuracy.
At MCR Safety, we don't expect you to put your life on the line based on third-hand promises of protection, so we test our products ourselves, and we offer free testing for our customers. Our Innovations Technology Center (ITC Lab) has been in operation since 2010, testing PPE for cut, abrasion, heat, puncture, impact, and tear resistance. In July of 2016, our commitment to excellence led to the ITC becoming one of the first North American testing labs to receive ISO/IEC 17025:2005 accreditation for Hand Protection. It's an international standard that requires companies to demonstrate a high degree of accuracy and consistency in testing protective equipment.
MCR Safety takes pride in being one of the few accredited testing laboratories in the world. Laboratories accredited to the ISO/IEC 17025:2005 standard have demonstrated they are technically competent, meaning they can produce precise, reliable, and accurate test data.
There are over 9,000 ANSI standards that have been developed. We recommend searching ANSI's website for specific criteria you may want to review. You can enter keywords that will take you directly to your area of interest.
ANSI/ISEA safety standards cover a wide range of PPE. All these protective products are essential to ensuring your workers are the safest they can be at their worksite. For those interested in all PPE standards, including those for products outside of what MCR Safety offers, you can view all ISEA standards here. Some you might recognize include:
You also can view the standards from a macro perspective. Here are all of ANSI's primary category standards: https://asq.org/quality-resources/ansi-standards.
Are ANSI standards referenced in OSHA?
Can ANSI standards be enforced?
What is the ANSI standard for protective eyewear?
How are ANSI standards cited?
Standards establish the minimum performance, classification, and labeling requirements for PPE designed to protect individuals while performing occupational tasks. At MCR Safety, we raise the overall bar and test products to meet specific standards in our very own testing lab.
We welcome any comments, feedback, or suggestions for how we can best protect people at work.
For over 45 years, MCR Safety has proven to be a world leader in gloves, glasses, and garments. Whether it’s on the shop floor, an oil rig, or a construction site, we are there providing solutions to workplace hazards. It’s all part of our commitment to protect people.
No matter your industry, we have the personal protective equipment you need.
Learn more about MCR Safety by checking out our most recent video. For more information, browse our website, request a catalog, find a distributor, or give us a call at 800-955-6887.