When Should Safety Glasses Be Worn?

When it comes to protecting your eyesight, there is no such thing as being too cautious. Wearing safety glasses is one of the simplest and most effective ways to safeguard your vision. But when exactly should you be wearing them?

In this blog post, we’ll answer that question and give you some tips on how to choose the right pair of safety glasses for the job. Read on to learn more!

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Situations That Call For Protective Eyewear

situations that call for safety glasses

There are many situations that call for the use of safety glasses. Here are some of the most common:

  • Working with any kind of airborne particulate matter, such as sand, dust or wood chips
  • Handling any kind of harmful liquid substance, including acids, caustics and solvents
  • Being in an environment where there is a potential for flying objects, such as balls or tools
  • When you are working around heat sources that could cause objects to become hot enough to cause burns
  • In any situation where there is a risk of serious eye injury, such as explosions or chemical splashes

In short, any circumstance where you could potentially get something in your eye or where there is a risk of serious eye injury is a situation where you should be wearing safety glasses.

DeWalt Anti-Fog Safety Goggle

Safety goggles are preferable in some instances because they provide a full seal around the eyes. They provide maximum protection against airborne particulates, liquid splashes, and projectile debris.

Goggles are typically used in situations where completely enclosing the eye area is necessary, such as in laboratories, working with dangerous chemicals, or playing contact sports.

Pyramex Convertible Safety Glasses

If you can’t decide between safety glasses or goggles, a pair of convertible safety glasses can convert between glasses and goggles by removing or attaching the strap. Some of them also have removable eye gaskets too.

Convertible safety glasses have the added benefit of being more streamlined than traditional goggles, which can be bulky and cumbersome to wear for several hours at a time.

Eye Injury Can Occur Wherever, Whenever

man doing diy paint job at home

According to the American Academy of Ophthalmology, almost half of all eye injuries happen at home. This includes activities like cleaning with chemicals, DIY home improvement projects, and yard work.

Even at work, where employees who work in hazardous environments are required to wear protective eyewear, about 2,000 American workers suffer from job-related eye injuries every day.

Sports is another common reason for eye injury, whether you’re playing football, hockey, baseball, or participating in any other activity where there’s a risk of being hit in the face.

According to Prevent Blindness, over 26,000 sports-related eye injuries were treated in the U.S. in 2021.

guys playing ice hockey

Most of these injuries are preventable by simply wearing protective eyewear. Whether you’re working around the house, on the job, or playing sports, it’s important to wear safety glasses or goggles to protect your eyes from potential harm.

Hazards in the Workplace

While employers might require and provide protective equipment for their employees, eye injuries still occur because employees weren’t actually wearing safety eyewear at the time of the injury.

Why is that? In many cases, it’s simply because they didn’t think they needed it for the particular situation.

smiling young worker wearing safety helmet with crossed arms

“Most people think about workplace hazards when it’s too late.”

This is a major problem since many eye injuries could have been prevented if the person had just taken the time to put on some safety glasses or goggles.

Hazards at Home

You might not think that you need to wear safety gear while performing common household tasks, but many of them actually pose a risk to your eyes.

home diy project

For example, when painting or working with power tools, there is a chance of toxic chemicals or flying debris and sparks getting into your eyes.

If you’re cleaning up a spill, you could get dangerous irritants in your eye that might burn or even lead to blindness if severe enough.

Hazards Playing Sports

Besides work and home, the other main contributor to eye injury is participation in sports. In the U.S. alone, it’s estimated that more than 100,000 doctor visits per year are due to sports-related eye injuries.

While any sport has the potential to cause an eye injury, some are associated with a higher risk than others.

2 guys and 2 gals playing racquetball

These include baseball and racquetball (because of the high speeds involved), basketball (due to the close proximity of other players), and paintball (where most injuries require surgical intervention).

Water sports is actually the number one cause of eye injury in children and youth, so make sure your kids wear goggles while swimming or playing in the pool.

Safety Eyewear and Children

Speaking of children, they’re just as vulnerable to eye injuries as adults, whether they’re playing sports, goofing around at home, or participating in outdoor activities such as watching or playing with fireworks.

In fact, The Vision Council estimates that about 200,000 eye injuries in children happen during sports each year. And since children’s eyes are still developing, they are even more susceptible to serious injury.

young boy holding sparkler

That’s why it’s so important for parents to make sure their children are wearing appropriate safety gear when engaging in activities that could potentially lead to an eye injury.

This includes sports goggles for activities like baseball, basketball, and racquetball; safety glasses for tasks like woodworking or using power tools; and sunglasses to protect their eyes from the sun’s harmful UV rays.

Appropriate Safety Glasses For Various Hazards

Now that you know what situations call for safety eyewear, it’s important to choose the right type of eye protection for specific potential hazards.

Flying Objects

When it comes to flying debris or projectiles, safety glasses that can withstand impact are a must. Look for safety glasses that are ANSI Z87.1-certified for impact and a wraparound frame to protect your eyes from all angles.

tactical gun training lineup

If you’re in a tactical field, you may need the more stringent U.S. military MIL-PRF-31013 standard for impact protection. This standard meets a much more rigorous set of impact protection requirements for use in combat situations.

Radiation & Welding

For work that involves exposure to optical radiation, such as cosmetologists who perform laser hair removal, you’ll need special safety glasses designed to protect your eyes from ocular injury in case of a misdirected laser beam.

These glasses typically have side shields and are made to fit over your regular glasses with varying shades of protection depending on your needs.

Welding safety glasses are a special breed of safety glasses as they must protect the eyes from photokeratitis, or “welder’s flash.” This condition is caused by exposure to intense ultraviolet (UV) light that is generated during welding.

welder with arc welder

Welding safety glasses have a filter that blocks out the harmful UV light while still allowing you to see what you’re doing.

They also typically have wraparound lenses or side shields to protect your eyes from sparks and debris.

For welding, look for a shade number that’s appropriate for the level of protection you need. For example, if you’re doing general welding with an arc welder, you’ll most likely want a shade number between 8 and 13.

Airborne Particles and Liquid Chemicals

If you’re working with chemicals, choose safety glasses that provide a good seal around your eyes. A removable or permanent foam gasket can help keep out airborne particles or liquid splashes.

man holding test tube and dropper filled with red chemical

It’s also a good idea to get lenses with anti-fog coating. This will help to keep your vision clear, even if you’re working in a humid environment.

For work that generates a lot of dust or debris, such as grinding or sanding, safety glasses with side shields can help keep debris out of your eyes.

You may also want to consider getting a pair of goggles for this type of work.

Electrical Hazards

When it comes to electrical hazards, dielectric safety glasses are a must. This type of gear features non-conducting frame material with no metal parts.

MCR Dielectric Safety Glasses

This ensures that the glasses will provide insulation against electricity, helping to protect you and your eyes.

Dielectric safety glasses are available in a variety of styles, with most having wraparound lenses to help protect your eyes from all angles.


When Should I Use a Face Shield?

A face shield should be worn any time there is a potential for flying debris, chemicals, or other liquids or solids to come into contact with your face. This type of gear provides additional protection for your eyes, nose, and mouth.

Do I Need Special Safety Glasses for Working With Lasers?

Yes, you will need special safety glasses that are designed to protect your eyes from the harmful effects of laser light. These glasses typically have a very dark filter that blocks out most, if not all, of the visible light.

Can I Wear My Prescription Glasses Under My Safety Glasses?

Unless you have fit-over safety glasses that are specially designed to be worn over regular glasses, you won’t be able to wear standard safety glasses over your prescription pair.

If you need vision correction, you’ll need to get prescription safety glasses. Many safety glass frames can be customized with prescription lenses.

Do I Need Special Safety Glasses for Working With Chemical Hazards?

Yes, you will need special safety glasses that provide a good seal around your eyes to keep out airborne particles or liquid splashes.

A removable or permanent foam gasket can help with this. It’s also a good idea to get lenses with an anti-fog coating.

Does My Employer Have To Provide Prescription Eye Protection?

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) only requires employers to provide safety eyewear to employees who work in conditions where their eyes are at risk.

This does not include prescription eyewear in most cases unless the employee only uses their safety glasses at work and doesn’t bring it home with them.

However, some companies may cover the cost voluntarily or offer a vision or health insurance plan that covers the cost of prescription safety glasses.

If not, all prescription eyewear is FSA or HSA-eligible for reimbursement. Be sure to check with your employer or HR department to see what benefits are available to you.

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