Safety eyewear is an integral component of safety programs on countless job sites across the country.

American workers suffer more than 100 eye injuries a day that result in days away from work. According to OSHA, employers spend approximately $300 million annually in related costs – and these don't include legal fees, productivity loss, and various other indirect expenses.

Choosing the right safety eyewear and lens coating, then, can make a big difference. It can not only improve safety, but also increase functionality, comfort, and compliance.

Before choosing your eye and face protection, it’s important to look around the work area to identify which hazards are present. Is there dust? Metal chips? Dirt particles? Liquid splash? Chemical splash? Once you've made a note of all the hazards that put your eyes at risk, you can choose the best level of protection.

Choosing the Right Type of Eyewear

Safety Glasses

Safety glasses are intended to shield your eyes from impact hazards, such as flying fragments, objects, large chips, and particles.

Safety Goggles

Safety goggles shield your eyes from flying fragments, objects, large chips, and particles.

They fit your face immediately surrounding your eyes and form a protective seal around your eyes. This prevents objects from entering under or around the goggles.

Safety goggle frames must be properly fitted to your face to form a protective seal around your eyes. Poorly fitted goggles won’t offer the necessary level of protection.

Different styles are available, offering various levels of protection:

  • Safety Goggles with Eye Cups: Completely cover your eye sockets, are available in direct or indirect ventilation, and may be rigid or flexible
    • Direct Vented: Prevents large particles from passing into the goggle, allows airflow, and prevents fogging
    • Indirect Vented: Protects against liquid and chemical splash entry, allows airflow, and prevents fogging
    • Non-Ventilated: Prevents splash entry and does not allow passage of air into the goggle (may fog and require frequent lens cleaning)
  • Cover Safety Goggles: May be worn over corrective eyewear without disturbing the adjustment of the eyewear

Face Shields

Face shields are designed to protect your entire face (or portions of it) from impact hazards, such as flying fragments, objects, large chips, and particles.

When worn alone, however, face shields do not protect you from impact hazards. They must be worn with ANSI-approved safety glasses or goggles to comply with OSHA standards.

Choosing the Right Lens for Your Safety Glasses or Goggles

Choosing the right lens coating or lens color for your safety goggles or glasses is also an important decision.

What’s the best lens coating for your job site? Here’s a breakdown of different coatings and what they’re best used for.

Anti-Fog Lens Coating

When the lenses of your safety glasses fog, it temporarily interrupts your field of vision, leading to a potentially dangerous situation. In order to minimize fogging, manufacturers apply anti-fog coatings to improve the performance of your safety eyewear.

Scratch-Resistant Hardcoat

Scratch-resistant hardcoat extends the life of the lens and improves visual clarity. Even with a protective hardcoat, safety eyewear is still susceptible to damage from everyday wear and tear, and should be replaced if it becomes scratched or damaged.

Mirror Coating

Mirror coatings are most often used to provide greater protection and comfort for your eyes when you’re exposed to infrared radiation in hot environments. Mirrored lenses are frequently used in conjunction with a tinted lens. They’re great for general purpose sun and glare protection for outdoor work environments.

Indoor/Outdoor Lens

Indoor/outdoor lenses are ideal for a variety of lighting conditions. They’re perfect if you move from inside a facility to the outdoors throughout the day.

Gray Lens

Gray lenses protect against sunlight in outdoor work environments.

Amber Lens

Amber lenses are perfect for low-light work applications. It blocks the blue part of the light spectrum, which maximizes contrast and helps you see the objects in your environment.

Vermilion Lens

Vermilion lenses are pink-colored lenses that sharpen visual acuity. This lens is ideal for inspection and detail work.

Blue Lens

Safety glasses with blue lenses are great for use in work conditions with sodium vapor lighting and excessive glare.

Copper Blue Block

Copper blue block lenses block glare similar to gray or mirrored lenses, but they provide a brighter field of vision than these other shades.

Green Shade 3.0 and 5.0

These lenses are especially useful around welding, brazing, or cutting applications. They’re not to be used while welding, however.

Polarized Lens

Polarized lenses eliminate glare, which makes them ideal for outdoor workers in bright, sunny conditions.

Maximize Daily Use with the Right Eyewear

Supervisors often get frustrated when they see that their staff isn’t wearing their safety glasses and goggles.

Posting signs provides the workers with helpful reminders that eye protection matters and it shows that safety is an important part of the company's culture (find out Why Creating a Safety Culture Is Better than Relying on Compliance).

Instead of just hoping they'll comply, it's wise to ask why they're not using their safety eyewear. If it's an issue with fit, eyewear with ratchet inclination can help. If the strap on the goggles is too irritating, look for styes made with a different type of fabric.

By supplying workers with the right protection in a proper fit, you can improve compliance and make the workplace safer.

Check out the rest of our content about Personal Protective Equipment here.