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Protect Your Eyes with Safety Glasses and Goggles

Types of Protective Eyewear Types of protective eyewear
Protective eyewear is available in a variety of styles for different household, sport, and workplace uses. Depending on the task you are performing, you may need eyeglasses, goggles, a face shield, or a more specialized form of protection.

Safety glasses are available with both prescription and non-prescription lenses, while goggles and face shields would be worn over your existing prescription eyewear.

In order for a pair of glasses or goggles to qualify as protective eyewear, both the frames and the lenses must meet specific criteria established by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI). ANSI is a non-profit organization which oversees the creation and use of such standards for many products in a variety of industries.

In the United States, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) uses these and other standards to create safety regulations for employers. It also inspects workplaces and enforces these regulations to ensure the safety of the nation's workforce.

Testing and Marks
Each pair of protective eyewear must undergo a series of tests to verify that it meets certain requirements. For some of these tests, the frames and lenses are tested alone, for others they are tested together as a unit. Tests include those for impact (basic impact, high mass impact, high velocity impact) and durability (such as flame or chemical resistance).

If the lenses have passed high impact testing, there will be a plus sign (+) mark on them. High impact frames will be marked Z87+ (non-prescription eyewear) or Z87-2 (prescription eyewear). Safety frames not rated for high impact will say only Z87, and lenses which have not passed high impact testing should have a warning label to indicate this.

Other markings you might see include V, which indicates photochromic lenses, and S, which means the lenses have a special tint. Photochromic lenses are those which darken when exposed to UV rays (sometimes called "transitions lenses"). On tinted lenses, the S mark may be accompanied by a number which signifies how much light is blocked by the tint. If you require eyewear for a bright job like welding or soldering, be sure to look for lenses with an appropriately dark tint.

Protective eyewear in the workplace
It is estimated that 1,000 eye injuries occur daily in American workplaces, resulting in $300 million per year in lost production time, medical expenses, and workers compensation. Every employer is responsible for providing proper safety equipment to its workers, including protective eyewear.

All protective devices provided must:

  • Provide adequate protection against the particular hazards for which they are designed
  • Be of safe design and construction for the work to be performed
  • Be reasonably comfortable when worn under the designated conditions
  • Fit snugly and not unduly interfere with the movements of the wearer
  • Be durable
  • Be capable of being disinfected
  • Be easily cleanable
  • Be distinctly marked to facilitate identification only of the manufacturer

Employers often must take cost into consideration when providing safety gear for their workers and frequently only the minimum protection necessary is provided. Cost is less of a factor if you are working alone as an independent contractor, and thus it is in your best interest to purchase eyewear that offers the most protection possible. Look for safety goggles or glasses that have been rated for high impact. These will be marked with a plus sign (+) on the lenses, and Z87+ or Z87-2 on the frames.

Personal uses for safety goggles and glasses
Protective eyewear is not only essential in the workplace, it is also important for various household tasks, such as mowing the lawn or using power tools; hobbies like fishing, hunting, and shooting; and various sports.

When purchasing safety glasses or goggles for personal use, look for eyewear that is rated for high impact, to ensure maximum protection. A plus sign (+) on the lenses and Z87+ or Z87-2 on the frames indicates eyewear that has passed high impact testing.

Certain coatings may also be helpful, depending on what activities you will be using the eyewear for. Polarized lenses reduce glare from water during fishing or other sports, while yellow tint improves contrast. Anti-reflective coating minimizes distracting reflections, and photochromic lenses keep your eyes comfortable in a range of brightness conditions.

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