Happy young mechanic repairing airplane while wearing safety eyeglasses

Eye Safety at Work

Surprisingly, approximately 2,000 U.S. workers sustain job-related eye injuries requiring medical attention every day.1 Experts believe eye protection could lessen the severity of these injuries, or even prevent them outright 90% of the time.1 If you value your sight, protecting  your eyes should be a priority.

Cuts or scrapes to the cornea as well as chemicals or foreign objects in the eye are common injuries people can experience at work. Avoid these common eye injuries by protecting your eyes while on the job.  Not wearing eye protection or not wearing the correct eye protection can result in permanent injury and vision loss.

Types of Safety Eyewear

OSHA (the Occupational Safety and Health Administration) requires the use of eye and face protection for workers when there is a reasonable probability of such injuries. Protective eyewear includes face shields, goggles, full-face respirators, and safety eyeglasses. The eyewear style depends on the type of hazard(s) faced, the length of exposure, what other protective gear is required, and the worker’s vision needs.

In general, the American Optometric Association (AOA) recommends the following:

  • for work environments with “particles, flying objects, or dust,” workers must at least wear safety eyeglasses with side protection (side shields)
  • for work environments with exposure to chemicals, workers must at least wear goggles
  • for work environments near “hazardous radiation (welding, lasers, or fiber optics),” workers must use special-purpose safety glasses, goggles, face shields, or helmets designed for that task.

What To Look for When Selecting Safety Eyewear

If you need safety eyewear for your work, you can purchase them in either non-prescription or prescription form, depending on your needs. Keep in mind, employer and some labor organizations are required to provide those employees and members who are exposed to eye hazards at work, with safety eyeglasses that comply with American National Standard Institute (ANSI) and OSHA requirements.

Your prescription safety eyeglasses should meet the ANSI Z87.1 standard for manufacturing and carry the Z87 logo on each component of the frames and eyeglass lenses. Safety lenses can use plastic, polycarbonate, or Trivex materials that meet or exceed the minimum requirements for eye protection. Of those three, polycarbonate lenses provide the highest level of impact protection and are usually the favored material. 

Your NVA vision benefit may cover safety eyeglasses, check with your employer or labor organization to find out.

1. N.A. “Protecting Your Eyes at Work.” American Optometric Association. (https://www.aoa.org/patients-and-public/caring-for-your-vision/protecting-your-vision#:~:text=The%20type%20of%20safety%20eye,chemicals%2C%20you%20must%20wear%20goggles.) Last accessed 6/22/2020
2. Shirley Dang. “Preventing Workplace Eye Injuries.” American Academy of Ophthalmology, Feb. 25, 2020. (https://www.aao.org/eye-health/tips-prevention/injuries-work) Last accessed 6/22/2020