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Your Guide to Protective Eyewear in the Workplace

3/7/22 - Zoro Staff

 

Though you may not think about them often, your eyes are not just extremely important organs that make vision possible—they're also a highly vulnerable part of your body that can easily be injured in the workplace. Debris, chemicals, hazardous materials, and airborne bits of wood and metal are just some of the small items that can enter the eye and cause serious damage. 

That's why wearing proper eye protection—and providing safety eyewear for your employees and team members—is so vitally important. In this guide, we'll explore some common types of PPE for the eyes, and the regulations you may be required to follow on the job to ensure adequate protection.

 

What Are Safety Glasses and How Are They Used?

Safety glasses (also referred to as work glasses, work safety glasses, eye protection glasses, or PPE glasses) are more than just a common-sense form of protection that keeps yourself and your employees safe in potentially hazardous conditions. In certain workplaces, they’re an essential everyday item—and may even be required by Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) regulations. In these workplaces, it’s critical that every employee wears their safety glasses 100% of the time, even if they may occasionally feel uncomfortable or cumbersome. After all, having to remember and wear your safety glasses is much better than an eye injury that could cause permanent issues.

Generally speaking, safety glasses are worn by any workers who may come into contact with chemicals, dust, or other hazardous materials. They also protect against eye injuries from flying particles, splashes, chemical sprays, and even radiation. They’re commonly worn in construction, manufacturing, auto repair, carpentry, and laboratory jobs, though this is far from a comprehensive list.

 

Why Are Safety Glasses Important and What Is Their Purpose?

Safety glasses protect employees’ eyes from flying debris, small particles, chemicals, and other hazards at work. They should be worn by anyone who works around dangerous machinery or substances that could cause injury to the eye. If you wear them correctly, they will greatly reduce the risk of eye injuries on the job. Protective eyewear should always be worn when working around dangerous machinery, welding, cutting tools, and any other equipment that could cause injury to the eyes. In addition, some hazardous materials can enter the bloodstream through the eyes, so proper protection is essential for more than just your vision.

 

What Are the Differences Between Safety Glasses and Safety Goggles? 

While they may commonly be confused, there are actually distinct differences between safety goggles and safety glasses—both of which are important protective tools in the workplace. 

Safety glasses are more common and can be considered a minimum level of eye protection for many jobs and work environments. They are generally rated to be able to withstand a certain level of impact from flying objects without breaking and can fully protect your eyes from head-on debris.

However, because safety goggles include a strap and sides that form a complete seal over the eyes, goggles are able to provide more complete protection from debris, objects, and other materials that may come at the eye from the sides, from above, or even from below. In addition, safety goggles may be more useful for workers who require prescription lenses because their everyday eyewear can be worn underneath the goggles.

That being said, you should always make sure to comply with any relevant safety regulations when choosing which type of eye protection to provide in the workplace. In some cases, glasses or goggles may be preferable, but some workers actually use both at different times depending on the circumstances.

 

What Are the OSHA Regulations for Protective Eyewear?

In the U.S., OSHA requires employers to ensure that their employees use proper eye protection in specific circumstances, including when exposed to eye or face hazards and when there is a hazard from flying objects. The glasses or goggles used should incorporate eyeglass prescriptions in their design and must be "distinctly marked" by the manufacturer to ensure their appropriateness for workplace use. For more information, you can view OSHA's information on PPE, eye, and face protection here.

 

What Are the Different Types of Safety Glasses?

Safety glasses come in many different styles and materials, but all share one thing in common: they protect your eyes from hazards on the job. Here are a few of the most common types and their distinct characteristics.

 

1. Clear Safety Glasses

The most common type of safety glasses are clear (often wraparound) glasses that protect against flying particles like sand, dust, and debris. These are typically made of polycarbonate plastic, which is shatterproof and impact resistant. Others may include side protection or use specialized materials to protect against other hazards.

2. Reading/Bifocal Safety Glasses

These specialized safety glasses are very similar to typical plastic eye protection, but also include magnification for reading on the job. By serving both functions, they allow wearers who use reading glasses to work without wearing an additional pair of glasses underneath.

3. Antifog Safety Glasses

These safety glasses are designed to provide maximum protection from debris and hazards, while also keeping your glasses from fogging up on the job due to humidity, warm breathing, mask wearing, and other causes.

4. Polarized Safety Glasses

Designed for outdoor work in sunny conditions, polarized safety glasses keep your eyes protected while making it easier to see in very bright, sunlit conditions. These glasses can also include features such as antifog lenses, shatterproof eye protection, and more.

 

5. Mirrored Safety Glasses

Glare can be a big problem for construction workers, foresters, and others who work outdoors. Mirrored glasses help solve this problem. These glasses bounce away light rays, reducing glare and making it easier to see in bright conditions without distorting vision. These glasses can also include features such as antifog lenses, shatterproof eye protection, and more.

6. Safety Goggles

Necessary in certain environments with many eye hazards, safety goggles allow for complete protection from debris that is above or below the eyes. They are also more likely to stay in place than safety glasses because the strap keeps them from falling off. They may also be used when wearing safety gear over prescription lenses. Some goggles have built-in ventilation to prevent fogging.

 

Conclusion

Eye protection is of the utmost importance in the workplace to protect the eyes and to ensure that adequate PPE is used, as required by OSHA regulations and legal requirements. Thankfully, high-quality eye protection designed for every type of job is readily available for your team members. You can use our guide to ensure that you're choosing the right type of eyewear for the hazards specific to your industry, but you should always review any relevant regulations as well. While you're here, don't forget to check out our full selection of personal protective equipment (PPE) from trusted brands.

 

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Product Compliance and Suitability 

The product statements contained in this guide are intended for general informational purposes only. Such product statements do not constitute a product recommendation or representation as to the appropriateness, accuracy, completeness, correctness, or currentness of the information provided. Information provided in this guide does not replace the use by you of any manufacturer instructions, technical product manual, or other professional resource or adviser available to you. Always read, understand, and follow all manufacturer instructions.