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Safety glasses are a type of eyewear that provide extra protection around the eye for certain activities, such as welding or working with chemicals, that could be potentially hazardous to the eyes. (Learn More)
If you work in a physical job that poses risks to the eyes or participate in activities that do, you should wear safety glasses. (Learn More)
Safety glasses are available in prescription and non-prescription varieties. Regular prescription glasses are not a replacement for prescription safety glasses. (Learn More)
Both prescription and non-prescription safety glasses are affordable and widely available. Many different local and online retailers sell all types of safety glasses (Learn More)
With so many options for safety glasses out there, it is important to be sure you are getting quality protection. The Occupational Health and Safety Administration and the American National Standards Institute work together to ensure quality safety standards are met and properly defined. (Learn More)
Finding the right pair of safety glasses depends on the potentially hazardous activity you are engaging in and the level of protection you need. Utilizing eyewear selection guides, speaking with your employer, and consulting your eye care provider can help you select the right safety glasses. (Learn More)
What Are Safety Glasses?
Safety glasses, which are also referred to as protective eyewear or safety goggles, are special types of glasses worn by people doing certain activities that cause them to need extra protection around their eyes. If you work in an environment that poses a risk of foreign debris getting in your eyes, safety glasses can be worn as a shield to protect your eyes from irritation or injury.
Types of hazards that safety glasses are designed to protect the eyes from include:
- Flying debris.
- Splashes from dangerous chemicals.
- Impact from moving tools or machines.
- Sparks, heat, or intense lighting.
The frames of most safety glasses are made from nylon and have shields that wrap around the sides of the eyes. There are many different types of safety glasses you can use depending on the activity.
These types of lenses are commonly used in safety glasses:
Who Should Wear Safety Glasses?
According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), thousands of people become blinded every year because of work-related eye injuries that could have been prevented by wearing appropriate eye and face protection.
Anyone who works in a job or otherwise engages in activities that pose threats to the eyes should wear safety glasses. Employers are required by OSHA to provide eye and face protection to employees in order to shield against any potential chemical, environmental, radiological, or mechanical hazards.
People should wear safety glasses for these activities:
- Auto repair
- Electrical work
Prescription vs. Non-Prescription Safety Glasses
Safety glasses are for everyone — not just for people who already wear prescription glasses. Safety glasses can be purchased with or without prescription lenses.
It is important to note that regular glasses do not qualify as safety glasses. They are not built to sustain impact or to provide enough coverage to prevent harm to the eye.
The American Optometric Association (AOA) explains that the lenses and frames of safety glasses are much stronger than regular glasses. Prescription safety glasses tend to even be slightly thicker than non-prescription safety glasses due to the layers added to the lens to meet specific prescriptions.
If you have a prescription and prefer to wear contact lenses, they can safely be worn with non-prescription safety glasses. AOA supports workers who wish to wear contact lenses but explains that these workers must also wear appropriate safety glasses to prevent harm to the eye.
Where to Buy Safety Glasses
Safety glasses can be purchased from a wide range of retailers and eyewear specialists. Both prescription and non-prescription glasses can be easily purchased at a local retailer or online.
Prescription and non-prescription safety glasses can be purchased from the following stores:
- Walmart: These are available in-store and online. Prices range from about $5 to $40, depending on the type of safety glasses you need.
- Frames Direct: You order these online, and prices range from about $30 to $170.
- Global Industrial: Order online, and prices start under $3.
- Safety Gear Pro: You also order these online. Prices range from $12 to $210 for prescription glasses.
- Amazon: Order online, and prices start as low as $1 per pair.
In addition to the above online retailers, safety glasses can be found at most local hardware stores. The selection may be more limited, but you are likely to find glasses that meet your basic safety needs.
For the most part, safety glasses are very affordable, including prescription safety glasses. The exact cost your glasses will depend on multiple factors, such as the type of lens you need, if you need a lens coating, the frame material, and the level of protection you need to perform your job safely.
How to Ensure You Are Getting Quality Glasses
OSHA and the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) work together to define and enforce safety standards for protective eyewear, among other products. The standard that you want to look for on any safety eyewear product you are considering is ANSI Z87.1.
ANSI Z87.1 certified safety glasses have met certain required standards that refer to the following:
- Performance specifications
- Marking of products
- Materials used
Eyewear specialists encourage everyone looking for safety glasses to only purchase products that have been ANSI Z87.1 certified. Through this certification, proper safety eyewear can then be selected based on the specific hazards being faced and which products have been approved for their use.
How to Select the Right Safety Glasses for You
To help you select the best safety glasses for your situation, the International Safety Equipment Association (ISEA) created the Eye and Face Protection Selection Tool. The goal of this guide is to help you understand the types of eye and face safety wear available, so you can select the best one based on the capabilities of the safety equipment and the hazards you may encounter.
The guide makes suggestions for what safety specifications to look for in your eyewear based on the following hazards:
- Impact: chipping, grinding, machining, masonry work, riveting, and sanding
- Heat: furnace operations, pouring, casting, hot dipping, gas cutting, and welding
- Chemical: liquids, acid and chemical handling, degreasing, and plating
- Dust: woodworking, buffing, and dusty conditions
- Optical radiation: infrared radiation, glare, ultraviolet radiation, and lasers
Potential safety equipment for the above activities includes glasses with side protection, safety goggles, and face shields.
Selecting the right safety eyewear depends on the level of protection you need. Use ISEA’s selection guide to help you determine what type of eye protection to look for, consult your employer, and speak with your eye care provider about the safest and most effective safety glasses for you.
ANSI/ISEA Z87.1-2020 Standard. International Safety Equipment Association.
Eye and Face Protection. Occupational Safety and Health Administration: United States Department of Labor.
Eye and Face Protection: Selection Tool. International Safety Equipment Association.
Protecting Your Eyes at Work. American Optometric Association.
Safety Glasses: Definition. Safeopedia.