Choosing Protective Eyewear

Eye Injury Statistics

  • The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) reports that every day about 2,000 U.S. workers sustain job-related eye injuries that require medical treatment.
  • Safety experts and eye doctors believe the right eye protection can lessen the severity or even prevent 90 percent of these eye injuries.

What is Safety Eyewear?

  • Any face or eye covering designed to protect the wearer’s eyes from contact with flying objects, hazardous liquids, gases or other materials that may be hazardous to the eye.  
  • Safety eyewear is designed to resist impact and shattering when struck by flying objects or hazardous materials.  
  • Safety eyewear may include glasses, goggles and face shields.

Who Should Use Safety Eyewear?

  • Examples of professions that should use protective eyewear include carpenters, electricians, machinists, plumbers, sheet metal workers, sanders, grinding machine operators, welders, chemical handlers and laser device / machine operators.  

Safety Eyewear Considerations

When evaluating safety eyewear, the following points should be considered:

  • Ability of the safety eyewear to protect against specific workplace hazards.
  • Proper fit and comfortability level when wearing.
  • Unimpaired visibility level and amount of movement when wearing.
  • Durability and ability to clean after use.
  • Safety eyewear should not interfere with or restrict the function of any other PPE worn by the user.

Eye Hazard Risk Assessment & Guidance

Employers, supervisors and employees should take the following steps: 

  • Evaluate all jobs and tasks to be performed by employees and identify potential eye injury hazards.
  • Determine appropriate feasible controls, including engineering controls, work practices and safety eyewear.
  • Provide safety eyewear to all employees whose jobs pose identified injury hazards where engineering and work practice controls are infeasible or insufficient to provide adequate protection.  
    1. Examples where safety eyewear is needed include potential exposure to eye and face hazards from flying particles, molten metal, liquid chemicals, acids, caustic gases, vapors or injurious light radiation such as lasers.
  • Provide safety glasses with prescription corrective lenses according to the provision of this guidance for employees who normally use prescription corrective lenses at work.    

Employer Responsibility

  • Employers are responsible for providing appropriate non-prescription safety eyewear based on the hazards involved in a particular job or task and other required guidance provided by the Environment, Healthy and Safety Department.  

Types of Protective Eyewear

  • Safety Glasses / Spectacles
    1. Protective eyeglasses that have safety frames constructed of plastic or metal and impact-resistant lenses.  
    2. Some models may include side shields or wrap around lenses.   
  • Goggles
    • Tight fitting eye protection that completely covers the eyes, eye sockets and the facial area immediately surrounding the eyes.
    • Goggles provide protection from impact, dust, splashes and vapors.  
    • Some goggles will fit over prescription glasses.
    • Goggles offer the most complete impact protection due to the seal they form around the eye area keeping dangerous objects out.  
    • Goggles are available in two main types, Vented and Non-Vented.
      • Vented:  Available with direct and indirect vents.  
      • Direct Vent Goggles:  Only offer impact protection.  Fit snug around the eye area to prevent flying objects from striking the eyes.  Offer more comfort because they allow air to flow in and out reducing lens fogging.
      • Indirect Vent Goggles:  Feature “caps” to allow air to move freely in and out without allowing liquid splash or particles into the eye area.  Offer the same protection as direct vented goggles.  Allow less air flow which may increase the potential for fogging.   Some models may provide an anti-fog coating to alleviate potential fogging.
      • Non-Vented:  Lenses and frames with no holes for air to seep through.  Offer a higher level of protection against vapors and fumes.  Can be used to keep harmful vapors out of sensitive eyes.  Must have an anti-fog coating to keep them from steaming up while working.  
  • Face Shields
    • Typically transparent sheets of plastic that extend from the eyebrows to below the chin and across the entire width of the user’s head.  
    • Some models may be tinted for glare protection.  
    • Face shields protect against nuisance dusts and potential splashes or sprays of hazardous liquids but will not provide adequate protection against impact hazards.  
    • Face shields are supplementary protective devices worn to shield the wearer’s face from certain hazards.  
    • Face shields are a secondary level of protection and must be used in combination with safety glasses or goggles as stated in the ANSI code.   
    • Face shields used in combination with goggles or safety glasses will provide additional protection against impact hazards.

Protective Eyewear Materials and Variations

  • Polycarbonate is the recommended lens material as it provides the best impact resistance against flying objects.  The lightweight plastic absorbs 99% of UV light and is highly impact resistant.  
  • Glass lenses are also available.  Glass offers a higher resistance to chemicals and solvents used for cleaning.  It is a good choice when repetitive cleaning is required, such as spray booths.  Glass has a significantly lower impact resistance compared to polycarbonate.  
  • Protective eyewear is available in varying sizes and may include a single or double lens.  When considering glass size options, proper fit is critical.  The closer the eyewear fits to the user’s face, the less chance of an object getting in around the edge of the eyewear and striking the eye.  Proper fit and comfort is also important as it reduces the likeliness the user will remove the protective eyewear and expose themselves to an injury.  It only takes a split second for tragedy to occur!
  • Safety eyewear is available in a wide variety of styles and colors to appeal to any taste and preference.  Employers should allow workers to choose their own eyewear as it will increase their acceptance and wear time, while decreasing the risk of costly and harmful injury.  

First Aid for Eye Injuries

The type of eye injury will determine the recommended first aid treatment and response.  Following are some common types of eye injuries and recommended response measures to take:

  • Specks in the Eye:
    1. Do not rub the eye.
    2. Flush eye with large amounts of water.
    3. Visit a doctor is the speck does not wash out or if pain or redness continues.
  • Cuts, Punctures and Foreign Objects in the Eye:
    1. Do not wash out the eye.
    2. Do not attempt to remove a foreign object stuck in the eye.
    3. Seek immediate medical attention.
  • Chemical Burns:
    1. Immediately flush the eye with water or any drinkable liquid.  
    2. Open the eye as wide as wide as possible.  
    3. Continue flushing for at least 15 minutes.
    4. For caustic or basic solutions, continue flushing while on way to medical care.
    5. If contact lens is in the eye, begin flushing over the lens immediately.  Flushing may dislodge the lens.
    6. Seek immediate medical attention.
  • Blows to the Eye:
    1. Apply a cold compress without pressure or tape a bag of crushed ice to the forehead and allow it to gently rest on the injured eye.
    2. Seek immediate medical attention if pain continues, if vision is reduced or if blood or discoloration appears in the eye. 

Click Here to visit the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) Blog for more information on Occupational Health and Safety standards.

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