You might wear glasses for any number of reasons. Maybe you need them to see the board at school, or maybe you need them to see your computer screen at work. Whatever the reason, if you wear glasses, you probably don’t want to be without them.
But what happens when you’re working (or playing) in a situation where safety glasses are required? Can you use your prescription glasses as safety glasses?
Unfortunately, the answer is no. Here’s why:
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Prescription Glasses are Not Safety Glasses
Safety glasses are designed to protect your eyes from flying debris, chemicals, dust, and other potential hazards. Prescription glasses are designed to help you see clearly. The two functions are not the same.
Safety Requirements and Markings
Safety glasses in a work environment must conform to certain safety standards set by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI). This ensures that safety glasses made to these standards will provide adequate protection in the event of an accident.
The ANSI Z87.1 standard specifically covers the standards for Occupational and Educational Personal Eye and Face Protection Devices. Hence, safety glasses must be marked with “Z87” to be approved for work in certain environments.
Most prescription glasses are not made to meet these safety standards and therefore are not considered safety glasses.
Safety Frame and Lens Materials
Prescription glasses are not always made of impact-resistant materials like safety glasses are. If a fast-moving projectile hits your prescription glasses while you’re wearing them, there’s a good chance that they’ll shatter and cause even more damage to your eyes.
Both the frame and the lenses of safety glasses are made of materials that can withstand impact. This is usually polycarbonate, a type of plastic that is lightweight yet very strong.
Types of Protective Eyewear
There are different types of safety glasses, each designed to protect your eyes from specific hazards. The three main types of safety glasses are:
Impact-resistant safety glasses, which protect your eyes from flying debris
Chemical-resistant safety glasses, which protect your eyes from chemical splashes
Dust-resistant safety glasses, which protect your eyes from dust and small particles
While you can get regular prescription glasses with polycarbonate lenses, the frame is definitely not going to be made to the same safety standards as actual safety glasses.
Frame Design and Coverage
Standard prescription glasses don’t always cover your eyes from all sides like safety glasses do. This leaves gaps through which debris and other particles can enter and injure your eyes.
Many safety glasses are designed with side shields to help protect your eyes from the sides. Others have a wraparound design that provides even more protection from the sides and bottom.
Some also have rubberized temples and nose pieces to help keep them in securely place, even if you’re sweating.
For all of these reasons, it’s important to wear safety glasses that meet ANSI standards instead of relying on your prescription glasses for protection. There are many different types and styles of safety glasses available that can be worn over regular eyeglasses, as well as safety glasses that can be customized with prescription lenses.
What About When Playing Sports?
While prescription glasses are not made to the same safety standards as actual safety glasses, there are some sports where you may be able to wear them. For example, in basketball, if your prescription glasses have polycarbonate lenses, they may be able to withstand impact better than regular lenses.
However, most prescription glasses won’t stay as securely in place as safety glasses designed for sports, so it’s still best to wear actual sports safety glasses.
The same goes for other sports such as football, hockey, baseball, and lacrosse. In general, it’s always best to wear the proper safety gear for the specific sport you’re playing.
While you might be able to get away with wearing your regular glasses in some situations… it’s really not worth the risk. After all, you’ve only got one set of eyes! Your best bet is to invest in a good pair of safety glasses that meets the appropriate safety standard for the activity or work environment you’re in.