Why wear eye protection

It seems anymore that we are told to wear eye protection for almost any and all jobs. Nothing wrong with that. I would rather be wearing eye protection even if the risk of eye injury is infinitesimaly small than not be wearing it when I need it and go through the rest of my life either blind or with only one good eye.

That being said, all eye wear is not created equal and in order to be properly protected, you need to identify the hazard or risk an eye injury even if you are wearing eye protection.

OSHA identifies five hazards when it comes to possible eye injury:

1. Impact – This is probably the first one that people can identify. There are a myriad of safety glasses out there in all sizes, styles, shades and shape that are designed to protect your eyes from flying objects. Additionally, depending on the work being done, faceshields or goggles might be a better choice (if, for example, you need to protect the whole face rather than just the eyes, a faceshield would be a better option).

2. Dust – Safety glasses have been found to be extremely ineffective in protecting against eye injuries where there is dust in the air. The dust particles simply flow under, around or over the lens and find their way into your eye. Goggles are the obvious choice in this instance.

3. Chemicals – If the hazard is a chemical rather than a flying piece of debris, safety glasses are not going to be adequate. A chemical splash might result in the liquid dripping down into the eyes in spite of the fact that the glasses protected against immediate splash contact. Chemical splash goggles and/or a faceshield would be the best manner of protection.

4. Heat – If the hazard is extreme temperatures, a heat shield, welding goggle or welding helmet is needed. If you are using a heat shield in instances of molten metal or chemicals that may splash, you will need to double up with a heat goggle under the heat shield.
Electrical arc flash is a good example of this type of application. Arc flash kits (like this one from National Safety apparel) come complete with a high heat faceshield because of the extreme temperatures generate by an arc flash.

5. Optical Radiation – Even the briefest of contacts with optical radiation or lasers can permanently damage the eye. In this instance, you will need special “laser eyewear“. Here again, not all laser eyewear is equal in protection. You will need to identify the filter type, the laser type, the wavelength, the lens color and the VLT% in order to get the correct protection factor.

Note: if you are wearing a faceshield that can be pivoted up, as most faceshields do, OSHA requires that you wear safety glasses or googles under the faceshiel. The idea being that the hazard might occur while the faceshield is in the “up” position.