Protecting the Most Important Muscle: the Eye


Whether you are an employer or a team leader of a small business, it’s up to you to make sure everyone on the job follows the proper standards in accordance to the state’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) regulations.


Because if you don’t…


The consequences of not wearing eye protection aren’t exactly pretty. Without the right protective eyewear, you and your team have a greater chance of:


  • Suffering vision loss or blindness


  • Losing an eye


  • Experiencing permanent eye damage, numbness, and/or scarring


In fact, according to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), about 2,000 eye injuries occur in the workplace each day.1 These types of hazards can be a variety of dangerous but easily avoidable situations — from someone kicking up sharp sawdust into their eyes, to accidental exposure to laser light or ultraviolet (UV) radiation, to chemicals that can cause burning of the eyes.


While these may appear to be rare situations, OSHA has reported that workplace eye injuries can cost more than $300 million per year in lost productivity, treatment, and workers’ compensation.2


It’s safe to say that practicing good safety saves more than just your health.



How Does Safety Eyewear Do Its Magic? It’s All in The Material


Employees usually experience eye injuries in the workplace when either not wearing protective eyewear or wearing the wrong kind of eye protection.


The key standard for effective safety eyewear is a thick lens that withstands impacts, scratches, and other elements such as water and chemicals. Most lenses are made of a lightweight yet dense material, such as Polypropylene, that reduces pressure on the user’s face and provides a thick, clear barrier over the eyes.



It’s All in The Rating, Too


Proper ratings and certifications are also incredibly important. If you come across protective eyewear that looks great but is not listed as American National Standards Institute (ANSI) certified, then you may experience issues when using eyewear in situations it was not designed or intended for ― increasing your risk of suffering an eye injury in the workplace. This is where ratings and certifications come into play.


Chances are you’ve come across ANSI markings while searching for all sorts of personal protective equipment, including eyewear protection. ANSI communicates with OSHA to ensure a safety product meets the requirements of OSHA standards. To be considered protective against eye injuries, look for ANSI-rated safety eyewear that has Z87+ (indicates a high-velocity impact rating) or Z87 (a basic impact rating) marked on the lens and frame.


The following are additional lens and frame markings that can be found on ANSI certified safety eyewear:


Splash and Droplet: The D3 marking indicates the product is designed for splashes and droplets. The D4 marking indicates the product is designed for dust.


Fine Dust: The D5 marking indicates the product is designed for fine dust, which can contain small but more hardened micro-size particles inside, such as soot.


Welding: The W marking, plus the shade number, indicates the product is designed for welding.


UV: The U marking, plus the scale number, indicates the product is designed for UV radiation.


Infrared light: The R marking, plus the scale number, indicates the product is designed for infrared light.


Visible Light Filter: The L marking, plus the scale number, indicates the product is designed with a light filter.


Prescription: This is identified as Z87-2, located on the front of the frame and on both temples.


Head Size: The H marking indicates the product is designed for smaller head sizes.


Other Features: The V marking indicates the product is designed for photochromic; the S marking indicates the product is designed for special lens tint.


All safety markings for ANSI Z87.1-2020 safety eyewear must be permanently and clearly marked on the frame of the lens. The marking requirement includes googles and face shields, as well as safety glasses.



A Basic Checklist for Eye and Face Protection


When selecting eye and face protection that’s right for the job, it’s important to have a clear understanding of the basic characteristics. Protective eyewear should align with the following criteria:


  • Must protect against the specific hazards encountered in the workplace, such as impacts, splashes, and harmful rays


  • Ideally comfortable to wear for long periods of time


  • Must not restrict vision or movement


  • Durable and easy to clean and disinfect


  • Must not interfere with the function of other required personal protective equipment (PPE)


  • Should be worn in combination with face shields when impact hazards are present


  • Meet requirements of ANSI Z87.1-2020



Eye Protection Checklist for Users Who Wear Eyeglasses


For workers on the job who wear glasses, the approach to finding the right eye protection will vary. Remember that basic eyeglasses will not protect you and should not double as PPE equipment, no matter how thick the lenses may be. You’ll want to look for:


  • Prescription spectacles, with side shields and protective lenses meeting requirements of ANSI Z87.1.
  • Goggles that can fit comfortably over corrective eyeglasses without disturbing their alignment.
  • Goggles that incorporate corrective lenses mounted behind protective lenses.



Eye Protection Lenses Decoded: What They Mean



Limits the amount of light that passes through the lens, reducing the amount of glare that can cause eye strain and fatigue.



Blocks virtually all violet and blue light while enhancing bright colors; perfect for inspection work.



Clear lens with silver mirror coating that limits light passing through the lens. Great for workers going indoors to outdoors.



Reduces glare and brightness in outdoor environments. Some glasses may meet traffic signal recognition requirements.



Reduces glare from artificial light such as halogen and fluorescent.



Provides excellent optics for general applications allowing light to pass through while not distorting visible spectrum.



Reflects and reduces light that passes through the lens. For use in situations where sunlight and glare can cause eye strain and fatigue.



Reduces eye fatigue by absorbing blue and green light. Excellent for indoor/low light applications.



Training Your Employees? Here’s the Rundown


A workplace training program covering the basics of eye and face protection should include the following topics:


  • Why eye protection is necessary, i.e., the workplace hazards that threaten a worker’s eyes


  • How eye protection can help protect users who wear them


  • The limitations of eye protection


  • How to put the protective eyewear on properly


  • How to adjust straps and other parts for a comfortable and effective fit


  • How the protective eyewear can fit over an employee’s corrective lenses


  • How to identify signs of wear, such as:
    • Chipped, scratched, or scraped lenses
    • Loss of elasticity or fraying of headbands


  • How to clean and disinfect the safety eyewear


While we may not think about it often, with low visibility, 100% of the most basic tasks can become 100% more difficult to do — some even impossible to complete. Certainly, nobody wants this situation to become a permanent struggle in their workplace, but what if this issue wasn’t from low visibility, but from vision loss due to an accident that could have been easily avoided?


Understanding how often eye injuries occur in the workplace, and how preventable they can be with the right protective eyewear and training, is an important step to cultivating a safer work environment for you and your employees. After all, there are more than 600 muscles in the body and without just two ― the eyes ― your world could easily change forever.


Looking for protective eyewear? We can supply that.® From lightweight face shields to goggles with a wraparound design, we’ve got you covered:


1. National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), "Eye Safety,"


2. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA),


The information contained in this article is for informational, educational, and promotional purposes only and is based on information available as of the initial date of publication. It is the reader’s responsibility to ensure compliance with all applicable laws, rules, codes and regulations. If there is any question or doubt in regard to any element contained in this article, please consult a licensed professional.  Under no circumstances will Global Industrial® be liable for any loss or damage caused by your reliance on this article.



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