Safety Eye Protection

Selecting the appropriate safety eye protection for your environment, the specific type of work and its potential hazards is critical.


Using safety eye protection can reduce the risk of eye injuries in the workplace.  The type of safety eye protection that should be worn in the workplace depends on the hazards associated with the work area.

Eye injuries in the workplace are very common. Studies conducted on the frequency of eye injuries show that 1 in 10 injuries require one or more missed workdays to recover from the injury according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention. Each day approximately 2000 U.S. workers sustain some kind of work-related eye injuries which is more than 700,000 Americans injuring their eyes at work each year. This staggering number of workplace eye injuries calls for solutions to protect workers from accidents that result in damage to the eyes or ‒ worse ‒ permanent loss of vision.

To prevent eye injuries, the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) created uniform testing standards and guidelines for a variety of products and equipment used by businesses in nearly every sector. The standards help ensure that eye and face protection products provide the necessary protection from hazards. Each product must go through rigorous third party testing that simulates hazards, such as impact from flying objects and debris, high mass impact, and sharp object penetration. One important standard for eye protection (ANSI Z87.1) was revised in 2010 and again 2015. The current standard (ANSI Z87.1-2015) differentiates eye protection according to risk and enables users to select appropriate protection based on work environments and hazards. OSHA suggests eye protection for workers in the construction industry involved in demolition, excavation, painting jobs, chemical work etc. that expose workers to serious eye injuries and employers can use or refer to ANSI/ISEA Z87.1-2015 eye and face protector selection guide to select the appropriate eyewear for their employees.

ANSI/ISEA Z87.1-rated safety glasses (Photo courtesy of FastCap LLC.)

Safety glasses with bifocal diopter options (Photo courtesy of FastCap LLC.)

Ninety percent of eye injuries can be prevented by wearing the appropriate safety eyewear for the task at hand. The Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) is responsible for setting and enforcing protective workplace safety and health standards. OSHA mandates the use of ANSI Z87.1-certified safety eyewear, as shown in Fig.1, and requires employers to provide the eye protection appropriate for the particular hazards involved with the work task. A “Z87+” inscription indicates the eyewear meets the high velocity impact requirement; “U6” means the eyewear has a UV rating of six, which is the highest rating; and “S” indicates a special lens tint.

Risks Addressed:

Risk Addressed

According to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics (BLS), more than 40% of workplace eye injuries take place among craft workers (plumbers, repairers, carpenters, mechanics, etc.), and around 33% among equipment operators (assemblers, sanders, etc.). Of the total number of injuries, almost half take place in manufacturing and just over 20% happen in construction. BLS records also show that 70% of eye injuries in the workplace involve flying or falling objects or sparks, while about 20% of workplace eye injuries involve contact with chemicals. Other causes of frequent eye injuries come from swinging objects like tree limbs, ropes, and chains, as well as tools other workers are using in the work area. 

Working in different environments, whether in construction, manufacturing, or laboratory, exposes workers to a variety of hazards to their eyes. The most common types of hazards include:

·         Flying objects (bits of metal, glass)

·         Blunt impact

·         Radiation

·         Splashes and droplets

·         Dust

·         Small particles

·         Chemicals

·         Welding flashes

·         Any combination of these hazards


Without proper eye protection, workers are at risk of suffering permanent eye damage.

How Risks are Reduced:

How Risk Is Reduced

Most eye injuries recorded are minor, but some workplace accidents can result in serious injury, vision loss or blindness. Any job that involves airborne particles or hazardous substances carries a risk for eye injury. Ordinary eyewear does not adequately protect workers against eye injury; the need for proper eye protection glasses is paramount to the safety of the eye. Safety glasses are different from regular glasses because they are made from polycarbonate, a lightweight but strong material that is designed to have high impact resistance. The risk of workplace injuries can be reduced by paying attention to the working environment and always wearing the right eye protection when workers are required to do a high-risk job. Ninety percent of eye injuries can be prevented by wearing the appropriate safety eyewear for the task ( thereby providing the proper shielding reducing the risk of eye injury.  

Hazards involve any potential danger or risk that exists not only in workplaces, but also at home and during recreation activities. These threats include physical, chemical, and biological hazards. Eye hazards exist in every workplace, but some jobs pose a higher risk for eye injury than others do. The most important way to protect the eyes is to wear appropriate eyewear. In the work place, this means following recommendations of the safety experts at OSHA, as well as performing safety audits. Injuries to the eye due to the lack of protective glasses incur costs that include medical expenses, treatments, surgery, compensation for damage or loss, and reimbursement for lost wages. Regular use of protective eyewear saves money and resources by preventing injuries and reducing injury severity.

Other benefits of safety eyewear include enhanced vision, increased comfort, and protection from sunlight. In addition to offering a high level of protection against acute injuries, newly manufactured polycarbonate lenses provide 99% protection from harmful UV-A and UV-B rays. This helps to prevent eye disease caused by long-term exposure to the sun, such as pterygium, photokeratitis, macular degeneration, benign eye growths, and peri-ocular skin cancer.

How Risk Is Reduced Detailed

1.       Jankovic, John, Burton R. Ogle, Tracy L. Zontek, Michael D. Biegalski, Scott M. Hollenbeck, and Tina M. Wells. “Suitability of Polycarbonate Safety Glasses for UV Laser Eye Protection.” Journal of Chemical Health and Safety 23, no. 2 (March 1, 2016): 29–33.

Effects on Productivity:

Effects on Productivity

Workers have a right to a safe workplace. The law requires employers to provide appropriate safety equipment and accessories. Providing a safe workplace is not only required by law, it also increases productivity. A report by the Bureau of Labor Statistics in 2014 showed that a total number of 23,730 cases of eye injuries or illness resulted in two median days away from work. A similar report by BLS in 2008 also show that out of a total of 27,450 eye injuries or illness, the construction industry accounts for 5,510 (20.1%) of the eye injuries. 

Additional Considerations:

Other factors that can potentially contribute to accidents to the eye include:

·         Failure of the employer to enforce the use of eye protection

·         Failure of the employer to train workers on proper use of eye protection

·         Underestimating the risk of eye injury and the value of using eye protection

·         Inadequate eye protection, especially when the job requires a face shield.

·         Limiting the use of eye protection to equipment operators only, even though anyone in the area is also at risk.

·         Improper use of tools and equipment

·         Lack of regular maintenance for tools and equipment


Dr.Behzad Esmaeili, Tomay Solomon 

Hazards Addressed:


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