26 April 2016

AQL and Disposable Glove Protection

AQL and Disposable Glove Protection

If you were to google Nitrile Exam Gloves, you would no doubt come up with hundreds of web sites selling a vast range of disposable gloves from £1.00 a box to probably £20 a box. It can be a minefield for the uninitiated trying to work out the real differences between all these prices and terminology, when all you want is a good quality examination glove for use in your ambulance or in your company first aid room or your doctor's surgery.

Is the £1.00 box a good deal? probably not; but that doesn't mean you have to spend £20.00 either.

Hopefully this short article will help you understand the basics of the glove world and know what to look out for when choosing your supplier or brand. Obviously we are hoping you will choose or continue to use our SP range but I will let you make up your own mind about that. 

AQL stands for "Acceptable Quality Level" and refers to an internationally used quality standard for measuring the % of pinhole defects in disposable gloves. Yes you heard that right, all gloves can have some tiny pinholes in them; this includes all nitrile, latex, sterile and non sterile gloves. The test process involves checking batches of gloves during manufacturing to see how watertight they are. 

In simple terms, when choosing a supplier and brand for your disposable gloves,  the most important thing to remember is that the lower the AQL number, the greater the amount of the protection you will have for your hands. However, the downside is that the lower the AQL, then the higher the price will be because the quality & manufacturing costs are considerably higher. And we all know that quality costs more, and gloves are no exception.

The most common AQL numbers in the UK and Europe are 1.5 and 4.0 but you can also get 1.0 and 0.65 which are often used in some specialist areas such as chemotherapy clinics and micro biology labs. Some gloves that are imported from the USA often have a AQL of 2.5 as they have a poorer standard acceptable for non sterile examination gloves (FDA).

SP's Purple Nitrile Examination Gloves have an AQL of 1.5, this means that they are significantly less likely to have critical defects than gloves that just meet the industrial grade 4.0 AQL requirement or the USA's 2.5 AQL. You're £1.00 box on Google or Ebay is most likely not going to be 'medical grade' 1.5 AQL or it's short dated or expired stock and therefore not suitable for use by most healthcare professionals. 

1.5 AQL is by far the most popular standard in the medical world across Europe as it is the international standard for medical grade disposable gloves. Yes 1.0 and 0.65 will give you more protection but for general pre-hospital, emergency and first aid use, 1.5 has been proven to be more than suitable. Gloves with an AQL of 4.0 are not suitable for medical use, they are for industrial and domestic use e.g. cleaning, garages, engineering, dirty factory jobs etc.

All glove manufacturers are obliged to print the AQL on each box if their gloves are registered for protection against chemicals and micro organisms.

Gloves from quality manufacturers will also be made in accordance with EN 455. This standard specifies requirements and tests for gloves for medical purpose.

EN 455 Part 1: 2002 - Requirements and testing for freedom from holes. This standard specifies requirements and gives the test method for single use medical gloves in order to determine freedom from holes. The compliance level for freedom from holes shall be an AQL of 1.5. 

EN 455 Part 2: 2011 - Requirements and testing for physical properties. This standard specifies requirements and gives test methods for physical properties of single use medical gloves in order to ensure that they provide and maintain in use an adequate level of protection from cross contamination for both patient and user. 

EN 455 Part 3: 2006 - Requirements and testing for biological evaluation. This standard specifies requirements for the evaluation of biological safety for single use medical gloves. It gives requirements for labelling and disclosure of information relevant to the test methods used. 

EN 455 Part 4: 2009 - Requirements and testing for shelf life determination. This standard specifies requirements for shelf life for medical gloves for single use. It also specifies the requirements for labelling and the disclosure of information relevant to the test methods use

To summarise:
1) Only choose gloves that have an AQL of 1.5 or less
2) Make sure the gloves conform to EN 455
3) Beware of cheap foreign imports or clearance lines
4) Only buy from reputable UK suppliers who hold an internationally recognised quality system such as ISO 13485

If you would like to discuss how the SP team we can help with you glove requirements, then we'd love to hear from you. Just drop us an email at

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