Conductance measurements for determining microorganism leakage on protective gloves

Project No. IFA 3121


completed 02/2013


At present, no standardized method exists in Europe for testing protective gloves for their resistance to penetration by microorganisms. In the USA, a complex test involving bacteriophages has been used for some time for this purpose. In the EU, the protection offered against microorganisms is determined by substitute methods in the form of simple penetration tests (water and air-leak test to EN 374). The relationship between the resistance to penetration demonstrated by the water and air-leak test and the microbiological protection is not scientifically founded.

The purpose of this project was to compare the bacteriophage test with the penetration methods used to date in Europe and with a conductance measurement that has already been used successfully for many years in condom manufacture. Were the conductance measurement to prove as sensitive as the bacteriophage-based leakage test, it would serve as a simple, robust and low-cost method for determining the resistance to penetration by microorganisms. The existing normative penetration methods could also be replaced. Following successful completion of the project, the method was to be established as a part of a standard (EN 374-X) for determining the protection offered by protective gloves against microorganisms.


Gloves were tested by means of the three methods stated (water-leak, bacteriophage and conductance tests). During the tests, measurements were also performed on gloves that had not been penetrated but that had been deliberately manipulated, for example punctured by means of a capillary tube.


For the conductance-based method, reproducible measured values could not be obtained by experimentation, since the reproduction of defined leakage in the micrometer range on elastomers is not possible at the present time. The tests were performed on standard chemical protective gloves. In order for this method to be integrated into a standard, the measurement results must be reproducible and the method robust. The results obtained experimentally lead to the conclusion that the selected strategy will not lead to a solution with reasonable investment of time and personnel.

The call for a further suitable test method, possibly not based on conductance, to be developed for testing the leaktightness of chemical protective gloves, particularly against microorganisms, remains topical. EN 374 does not contain a method for testing the resistance to penetration by microorganisms.

Last Update:

22 Nov 2013


Financed by:
  • Deutsche Gesetzliche Unfallversicherung e. V. (DGUV)
Research institution(s):
  • Institut für Arbeitsschutz der Deutschen Gesetzlichen Unfallversicherung (IFA)
  • Berufsgenossenschaft Nahrungsmittel und Gastgewerbe

-cross sectoral-

Type of hazard:

biological agents, dangerous substances


protective measure, biological agents, measuring methods

Description, key words:

leak test, protective glove, glove, microorganisms, bacteria, viruses, conductance, phages, water-leak test, air-leak test