According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, more than 20,000 workplace eye injuries happen each year. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) reports that workplace eye injuries cost an estimated $300 million a year in lost productivity, medical treatment and workers compensation.
90% of all eye injuries can be prevented with proper eye protection.
Regular prescription eyeglasses don’t qualify as safety glasses. Safety eyewear must conform to a higher standard of impact resistance. This applies to both the lenses and the frames of safety glasses and goggles, and OSHA has adopted safety eyewear standards established by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI).
ASNI Z87.1 Requirements Tests
- Basic impact
- In this test, a one-inch diameter steel ball is dropped onto the lens from a height of 50 inches. To pass, the lens must not crack, chip or break.
- High mass impact
- A 500g pointed projectile is dropped from 50″ in this test.
- High velocity impact
- The high velocity test is performed by shooting a quarter-inch diameter steel ball at the lens at a speed of 150 feet per second. To pass, the lens must not crack, chip or break, and it must not become dislodged from the lens holder.
- Distortion, light transmittance, and lens thickness are also tested.
How to Choose the Best Safety Eyewear
First, look for the Z87.1 certification. Safety glasses that pass all of ASNI’s tests will carry the Z87+ mark, indicating that your new eyewear provides protection from impact, non-ionizing radiation, and liquid splash exposure.
Next, know what hazards are near you and assess the activities you’re involved in. The type of eye protection you choose needs to match your specific situation. For instance, some activities may require side shields, goggles or full-face protection.
Look for safety glasses with hard-coated polycarbonate lenses. Polycarbonate is the strongest lens material available.
Comfort is key. If they’re not comfortable, you won’t wear them. Look for soft rubber nosepieces and adjustable temples that will hold well without pressure to your head. Lightweight is an excellent feature, and sticky rubber at the nose and temples to help with slippage when you’re sweating.
Decide which lens coating will work for you.
- Anti Fog Coating provides excellent fog prevention in humid environments where sudden shifts in temperature occur.
- Anti Scratch Coatings extend lens life in abrasive environments where scratches are possible.
- Anti-Static Coatings reduces dust and particulate attraction to the lens.
- Hard Coatings are permanently bonded to lens to extend lens life.
If you work outside, consider safety sunglasses with natural color balance (NCB) and gray lenses that provide protection from ultraviolet light (UV) and infrared (IR) and blue light. A clear lens with a slight mirror coating serves the same purpose as gray lens, yet allows more visible light through the lens for indoor/outdoor use, and reduces glare from artificial light. Safety glasses with polarized lenses will eliminate light reflected off surfaces, significantly reducing glare.
Ultraviolet and infrared radiation can be generated when working with molten metal, in welding, cutting, soldering and brazing operations. For these activities it’s important to have filter shade safety glasses.
- Shades 5–3 for torch soldering
- Shades 3–4 for torch brazing.
- Shades 3–6 for cutting.
- Shades 4–8 for gas welding.
- Shades 10–14 for electric arc welding.
While some prescription safety eyewear is available, you may be able to avoid the hassle of changing out your glasses or contacts throughout the day with corrective eye surgery.