Imagine having to cope with painful eye injuries, facial scarring, a dangerous pathogen in your bloodstream, or even partial or total blindness simply because you failed to protect your eyes while working. Would your quality of life plummet? Would you find yourself unable to earn a living for an extended period of time?

It sounds melodramatic, but eye injuries can and do happen every day, both in the workplace and among do-it-yourselfers working on home projects. A simple pair of safety glasses or goggles could make all the difference between business as usual and significant pain and suffering. Let’s take a closer look at the world of on-the-job eye protection and how it can benefit you or your workers.

Why Would You Need Eye Protection?

A surprisingly wide range of occupations can pose a threat to the eyes and surrounding facial tissues. Many industrial jobs require workers to apply a drill, cutting blade, welding torch or other tool to a substrate. This action typically causes sparks, wood shavings, bits of metal or other potentially dangerous materials to fly back in the direction of the worker’s face.

Without sturdy, shatter-resistant protective glasses or goggles that cover the eyes by a wide margin, these flying materials can cause significant injury. A worker who forgets to wear eye protection in such circumstances should count himself lucky to receive nothing more serious than a black eye, superficial burns or facial lacerations. If the materials fly into the eye itself, they can scratch the cornea, producing a condition called conjunctivitis that requires immediate medical attention. Worse, a larger piece might actually embed itself in the eye, causing permanent damage and/or blindness.

But industrial workers are not the only individuals who need to use eye protection on the job. People who work with corrosive chemicals — including many substances commonly used in medical, high-tech and scientific fields — must also protect their eyes from the possibility of burns. Workers in the bio-hazard or medical fields also risk having a blood-borne pathogen enter their eyes while working with a patient, a cadaver, laboratory specimens or medical waste.

What Makes Safety Glasses Safe?

To ensure that a pair of safety glasses or goggles provides the level of protection it should, the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) has prepared a detailed set of standards to which these items should conform. The most recent version of these standards, known as ANSI Z87.1-2003, applies to all industrial glasses except for certain types of sports, radiation and pathogen protection. ANSI-compliant glasses must meet requirements for either basic or high-impact protection. You can identify these models by the Z87 marking, which only compliant items can display.

Different Safety Glasses for Different Applications

Now that you know you need protective glasses for your work environment or home project, what kind should you get? You may see a dizzying array of products, brands and styles to choose from, but fortunately they fall into a few broad categories:

Safety glasses – If your work only occasionally involves momentary exposure to dust chips or other particulate matter, then you can probably get away with a simple pair of wrap-around glasses such as Olympic Optical’s 30-6 Readers (which also include different levels of magnification).

Look for durable, hard-coated glasses made with polycarbonate or Trivenex; these lenses won’t shatter into your eye, the way normal glasses might, if a small piece of metal or wood hits them. Bear in mind that these glasses will not usually protect you from threats that might infiltrate from underneath the bottoms of the frames, such as chemicals or blood. Some safety glasses, however, actually convert to goggles for this purpose.

Safety glasses wrap around to protect you from the front and the side.

Goggles – Goggles represent the next step up in eye protection. These devices not only cover the broad area of flesh surrounding the eyes, but they also offer a rubberized seal to keep you safe from even the tiniest airborne irritants, such as fine dust or gases.

Goggles tend to fog up if they don’t permit any venting at all, however, so many models have direct or indirect venting to help you see what you’re doing. Some models, such as the Pyramex V2G, even come with tinting or magnification. Goggles may also offer less-than-ideal peripheral vision, so if you need an especially wide viewing angle for your work, consider the safety glasses-goggles hybrid style instead.

Face shields – Face shields worn over safety glasses or goggles give you the best possible protection against flying debris on the job. These items protect the entire face and neck from any danger coming at you from the front or from either side. You can even get tinted or heat-resistant face shields for occupations that demand those features.

For serious welding, however, you need a specially designed welder’s shield. These shields, composed of metal and containing a safety-glass viewing window, protect you from the blinding ultraviolet light of welder’s flash, which can damage or even destroy the cornea. They come in different degrees of shade, from 1.5 to 14, to protect against the light intensities of different types of welding torches.

Welders must protect their eyes against high-intensity UV light.

Full-face respirator masks – Full-face respirator masks combine the eye protection of safety glasses and the complete facial seal of goggles with the full-face protection of a face shield. They play an essential role in protecting the eyes, nose and throat from smoke, dust, and toxic or corrosive fluids. But you may need more than just a respirator mask if you also have concerns about impact protection, because these devices don’t necessarily meet the ANSI specifications for that feature.

Don’t Forget More Casual Eye Protection


Don’t Forget More Casual Eye Protection

It is always wise to do a little research about companies that offer eye protection gear. The Internet makes this a simple task; whether you are seeking reputation.com reviews or information about a company that provides eye protection gear, a visit to the Better Business Bureau website can be helpful. Even when you don’t need industrial-class protective eyewear, remember that many simple everyday tasks at work or at home can expose your eyes to flying debris or ultraviolet light. Consider buying street glasses equipped with tough polycarbonate lenses and UV coating so your eyes will continue to enjoy an extra degree of safety — wherever you may go, whatever you may do.

William Reynolds has worked as a freelance copywriter since 1997. William has written countless articles for a variety of businesses and situations.

William Reynolds has worked as a freelance copywriter since 1997. William has written countless articles for a variety of businesses and situations.