What Makes Safety Glasses Safe?

Employees are often required to wear safety eyewear in the course of their duties.  In the past safety glasses were uncomfortable and bulky.  Newer safety glasses are more comfortable to wear and can even be quite stylish.

OSHA requires workers to use appropriate PPE for any job which may pose a threat to a person’s health.  Eye or face protection shall be worn when workers could be exposed to flying debris, particles, or hazardous liquids.  Any lenses or frames stamped with “ANSI Z87” will meet or exceed OSHA standards.  The ANSI (American National Standards Institute) standard sets forth requirements for the design, construction, testing, and use of eye protection devices, including standards for impact and penetration resistance.

The standard designates that lenses will be divided into two protection levels, Basic Impact and High Impact as dictated by test criteria.  Basic Impact lenses must pass the “drop ball” test; a one inch diameter steel ball is dropped on the lens from 50 inches. High Impact lenses must pass “high velocity” testing.  Here 1/4″ steel balls are “shot” at velocities from 150 ft/sec for spectacles to 300 ft/sec for face shields.  All eyewear frames, face shields, or crowns must comply with the High Impact requirement.

The impact protection level must be indicated on the device. Basic Impact spectacle lenses will have the manufacturer’s mark and the Z87.  High Impact spectacle lenses will also have a plus + sign following the Z87.  (Note: Lenses/windows may have additional markings. Shaded lenses may have markings denoting a shade number such as 3.0, 5.0 etc… Special purpose lenses may be marked with “S”. A variable tint lens may have a “V” marking.)

Side shield coverage, as part of the lens or as an individual component, has been increased rearward by 10-millimeters via a revised impact test procedure. While side protection in the form of wraparound lens, integral or attached component side shield devices is not mandated in this standard, it is highly recommended.  Further, OSHA does require lateral protection on eye protection devices when a flying particle hazard may exist, and flying particle hazards are virtually always present in any occupational environment. All current safety spectacles meet the requirements of OSHA and Z87.1 for side protection.

As you can see the testing process is rigorous and not all glasses are safety glasses. Employers must conduct a PPE assessment and then provide employees the appropriate protection, including eyewear.

Written by: John DeRoia