Vision Conservation and Readiness

Personal Protective Equipment - Eye Protection Types

Last Updated: September 17, 2018
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 Eye and face protection includes protective equipment such as spectacles, goggles, face shields, or welding shields that are designed to protect the wearer against a variety of hazards.  As stated on other pages, employers are required to assess the potential for eye safety hazards in the workplace and to take measures to ensure the safety of their workers with compliance with regulations by having employees use proper eye protection.  OSHA requires that eye and face protection is provided whenever necessary to protect workers against any chemical, environmental, and radiological hazards or mechanical irritants that have been found during the hazard assessments.   The proper eye protection for each work site depends upon:

  • The type of hazard
  • The circumstances of exposure
  • The other protective equipment that the worker needs to use
  • The individual vision needs of the worker

To assist in selection of the proper devices, OSHA has an Eye and Face Protection eTool External Link that provides compliance assistance information to both employees and employers and assists in selection based upon the hazards found in the assessment.  it is always important to remember that the eye protection available do not protect against all types of hazards.  Eye and face protection must be selected based upon the specific hazards that the worker is exposed to.  In addition, eye and face protection must comply with the ANSI Z87.1 standards which states:

  • Eye and face personal protective equipment (PPE) shall be distinctly marked to facilitate identification of the manufacturer.
  •  All protectors must:
    • Provide adequate protection against the particular hazards for which they are designed.
    • Be of safe design and construction for the work to be performed.
    • Be reasonably comfortable when worn under the designated conditions.
    • Fit snugly and not unduly interfere with the movements of the wearer.
    • Be durable.
    • Be capable of being disinfected.
    • Be easily cleanable.
    • Be distinctly marked to facilitate identification only of the manufacturer.

Which issue of ANSI Z87 do you need to comply with?   OSHA issued a Final Rule concerning PPE requirements and stated that employees must comply by using and providing eyewear that are constructed in accordance with any of the last three standards even though some documents on the OSHA website state that you can use the 1989 standard.  The newer standards are organized by the nature of the hazard rather than the original product type standard used in the past.  As a result, the product marking requirements have changed.  So, it is recommended that older eye protection still needs to meet the 2003 standard and can be used.  However, when purchasing new protection, it is recommend that you only purchase items that meet the ANSI Z87.1-2015 or the 2010 standards whenever possible.  The new marking requirements are listed at the bottom of this page.

In addition to supplying the devices, training, at least annually in required for each employee who is required to wear personal protective equipment and must include at least the following:

  • When and why PPE is necessary.
  • What PPE is necessary.
  • How to properly don, doff, adjust, and wear PPE.
  • Limitations of the PPE.
  • Proper care, maintenance, useful life, and disposal of the PPE.

Other items to remember regarding the use of PPE include:

  • When employees are assigned protective equipment for extended periods, the equipment should be cleaned and disinfected regularly.
  • Eye and face protection equipment that has been previously used should be disinfected before being issued to another employee.

The following is a discussion of some of the currently available eye and face protection.  For information regarding requirements for military personnel, go to Personal Protective Equipment - Military Eye Protection.  As always, if you have any questions, feel free to:

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As stated, the employer must ensure that each affected employee uses appropriate eye or face protection when exposed to eye or face hazards from flying particles, molten metal, liquid chemicals, acids or caustic liquids, chemical gases or vapors, or potentially injurious light radiation.  After completing a hazard assessment, it is recommended that you utilize the tools available to you that provide compliance information and aids in the selection of eye and face protective equipment such as OSHA's Eye and Face Protection eTool External Link or use ANSI's Eye and Face Protection Selection and Use Guide External Link. The current ANSI standards are the organized by the nature of the hazard and OSHA breaks them down into five types of hazards and makes recommendations for suggested appropriate eye protection for the task..

Hazard Assessment
Hazard typeExamples of HazardCommon Related Tasks

Impact

Flying objects such as large chips, fragments, particles, sand, and dirtChipping, grinding, machining, masonry work, wood working, sawing, drilling, chiseling, powered fastening, riveting, and sanding

Heat

Anything emitting extreme heatFurnace operations, pouring, casting, hot dipping, and welding

Chemicals

Splash, fumes, vapors, and irritating mistsAcid and chemical handling, degreasing, plating, and working with blood

Dust

Harmful dustWoodworking, buffing, and general dusty conditions

Optical Radiation

Radiant energy, glare, and intense lightWelding, torch-cutting, brazing, soldering, and laser work

​Everyday prescription eyewear are not adequate for providing adequate protection for workers so employers must make sure that employees with corrective lenses wear either protective eyewear that incorporates the prescription into the design or wear additional eye protection over their prescription glasses.  If using the latter, it is important that the protective eyewear does not disturb the proper positioning of the prescription lenses.  Prescription lenses in safety spectacles are not necessarily a requirement. In most cases, placement of safety goggles over a worker's eyewear meets the requirements.  However, comfort over an entire workday must be considered so it is recommended that employers purchase prescription safety eyewear for workers whenever possible.  Also, remember that employees who wear contact lenses still must wear eye or face PPE when working in hazardous areas.

Most types of eye and face protection can be divided into the following categories.

  1. Safety spectacles are intended to shield the wearer's eyes from impact hazards, exposure to high temperatures, splashes of molten metal, or hot sparks. 
    1. Workers are required to use eye safety spectacles with side shields when there is a hazard from flying objects. Non-side shield spectacles are not acceptable eye protection for impact hazards.  
    2.  Working with heat hazards requires eye protection such as goggles or safety spectacles with special-purpose lenses and side shields. However, many heat hazard exposures require the use of a face shield in addition to safety spectacles or goggles. When selecting personal protective equipment, consider the source and intensity of the heat and the type of splashes that may occur in the workplace.  To adequately protect the eyes and face from high temperature exposure, use safety spectacles in combination with a heat-reflective face shield in most cases.
    3. Laser work and similar operations create intense concentrations of heat, ultraviolet, infrared, and reflected light radiation.  The key for protection from hazards from these operations is the determination of the maximum power density, or intensity and selecting the appropriate filter lenses against the maximum intensity.  For welding, only filter lenses with the appropriate shade number which coincides with the appropriate radiant energy exposure will suffice. 
    4. Special purpose lenses are used for tasks that require an unusual filtering of light, including photochromic lenses, didymium (for forging and glasswork) or cobalt (furnace observers) containing lenses, and uniformly tinted lenses.
    5. Spectacles are not recommended for protection from chemicals or harmful dust.
  2. Safety goggles fit the face immediately surrounding the eyes and form a protective seal around the eyes. This prevents objects or liquids from entering under or around the goggles protecting the wearer's eyes from impact hazards such as flying fragments, objects, large chips, and particles as well as when working with dust particles.   This is very important when working with or around liquids or with molten metals that may splash, spray, or mist.  With high temperature exposure, consider goggles with a heat-reflective face shield for exposure to high temperatures.   When selecting goggles, consider specific lens, frame and ventilation options available for specific tasks.  Non-ventilated goggles prevent splash entry but may fog and require frequent splash entry.  Direct ventilation goggles prevent fogging but only resist direct passage of large particles.  Indirect ventilation allows for air circulation, preventing fogging and protects against splash entry,
  3. Hybrid Eyewear are essentially safety spectacles with additional features such as foam or rubber linings with the intent to provide additional protection like a goggle does.  It is designed to reduce the chance of airborne dust particles from reaching the eyes such as in outdoor windy environments.  These spectacles must meet the ANSI Z87.1 standard for spectacles.
  4. Face shields are intended to protect the entire face.  However, when worn alone, they do not protect employees from impact hazards so they should be used in combination with safety spectacles or goggles when working with impact hazards.  Face shields are made with different transparent materials and levels of thickness to meet specific hazard requirements.  For heat hazards, heat-reflective and wire-screen face shields are available as secondary protectors. 
  5. Welding shields are usually fitted with a filtered lens and protect the eyes from infrared or intense radiant light as well as protecting the eyes and face from flying sparks, metal spatter and slag chips.  OSHA requires the filter lenses to have a shade number appropriate to protect against the specific hazards of the work being performed.  To view the OSHA requirements, go to the OSHA Fact Sheet External Link on Eye Protection against Radiant Energy during Welding and Cutting in Shipyard Employment.   It is strongly recommended that welders also wear eye protection under the shield because they often inspect their work with the shield up.
  6. Respirators are designed to protect the wearer from irritating gases and biological agents, vapors and flying particles.  In order to select the appropriate respirator you mush determine the type and amount of hazardous exposure and take into account the factors such as job site and worker characteristics.  Remember that not all provide eye protection and may fit over the nose and mouth only.  OSHA again provides assistance in the proper selection of respiratory protection and change schedules for the cartridges to help you in complying with OSHA respirator standards.  To view, go to Respiratory Protection eTool.

Special Considerations

Optical radiation - Understanding the risks arising from the intensity and length of exposure time to optical radiation is important whether working outside or indoors.  Glare, for example, can cause discomfort and impact the clarity of the task.  Long term ultraviolet light exposure accelerates the formation of cataracts and the blue/violet portion of the light spectrum has been found to cause retinal damage.  Finally, long term infrared exposure from heat energy can also cause cataracts.  Protective lenses that reduce the amount of these wavelengths reaching the eye should be considered.

Sunglasses - OSHA Regulation Part 1910.132(h)(4) states that the employer is not required to pay for items used solely for weather which is why there is not a requirement to provide sunglasses to workers who work outside except possibly in regions where the intensity of solar radiation is very high and the time of exposure long.  The rule of thumb is that, if an item can be utilized outside of the work environment, its purchase becomes the responsibility of the employee and not the employer.  However, if eye protection is required, either variable transmission lenses or tinted lenses should be considered as an option.

Working with Chemicals - While OSHA has standards for protection against splashes and the Z87.1-2015 has the "D3" marking for splash protection the standard does not address the protector performance against specific chemicals.  While splash protection is an important first step remember to address the properties of the chemicals and the complications caused by local environmental factors.  Remember that some chemicals can damage plastic and an actual chemical splash can impair the effectiveness of the device.  In short, no your chemicals and have eyewash stations nearby when necessary.

Working with Lasers - This will be covered on another page but recommendations for eye and face protection are covered in ANSI Z136.1 Safe Use of Lasers.

Working around Electricity - Under conditions where an arc flash may occur, there are PPE categories for the type of PPE needed and what protection level is required.  This can be found in NFPA 70E, Standard for Electrical Safety in the Workplace.  It requires that all eye and face protection meet ANSI Z87.1 standards because arc events almost always include flying particles and objects.  For a manufacturer to state that it protects against arc flashes , they need to test the device in accordance with ASTM F2178, Standard Test Method for Determining the Arc Rating and Standard Specification for Eye and Face Protection Products.

Barriers to Eye PPE Use - The three biggest barriers to workers using their PPE include:

  1. Lack of comfort and fit;
  2. Fogging; and
  3. Lens scratching.

There are many remedies for these issues but currently there are not any solutions that work in every situations.

Contact Lens Wearers - Contact lens wearer also must wear eye protection in hazardous areas.  While contact lens wear is allowed in most areas, it is important that the chemicals and other hazards that preclude contact lens wear are identified and all workers are notified that they cannot wear them.  For chemical and biological agents, it is also important to know if a worker is wearing contact lenses in case they need to be removed in an emergency situation.  Also, when a contact lens wearer does not wear them, they still need a prescription to see so it is important that they have eyeglasses and eye protection available and/or extra pairs of contact lenses available if they happen to need to take them out or lose one.


ANSI Z87.1 Current Marking Requirements to meet the ANSI Z87.1-2015 Standard

Lens Markings:

  • All lenses will have the manufacturer's logo​
  • Coverage for small heads will have: "H"
  • Impact rated will have a "+"
  • Specific lens types need to be marked as noted:
    • Clear: no mark
    • Welding" "W" and Shade Number
    • UV Filters: "U" and Scale Number
    • Visible light filter: "L" and Number
    • IR Filter: "R" and Scale Number
    • Variable tints: "V"
    • Special purpose: "S"

Frames and shield Markings:

  • All frames will have the manufacturer's logo
  • Frame size markings
  • Impact rated frames will be marked "Z87-2+" on the front and on one temple
  • Smaller frames will be marked with the letter "H"
  • All detachable sideshields will be marked "Z87+" if impact rated.

Use Markings:

  • Splash/Droplet: "D3"
  • Dust: "D4"
  • Fine dust: "D5"

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