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How to choose your safety glasses

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OUR eyes are crucial to so much of what we do in everyday life and are among our most precious and sensitive features. This makes the use of safety glasses advised, or even mandatory, in many potentially dangerous domestic and commercial environments. The NHS reports that 90% of all eye injuries can be prevented.

From carpentry to plumbing and machine operation, accidents at work are especially common. Such incidents lead to millions of pounds in related costs – legal fees, lost productivity and medical care for example – every year.

Choosing the right pair of glasses for the job can therefore vastly improve safety, productivity and compliance, as well as worker comfort.

There are countless types on the market however, so it pays to do your research and make sure you’re adequately protected. Read our guide to key considerations when choosing safety glasses below.

Photo by Science in HD on Unsplash

What risks can safety glasses protect against?

Conducting a risk assessment is usually the best place to start when selecting PPE as different risks call for different equipment. Whether at home or in the workplace, common hazards to look out for regarding your eyes include:

  • Mechanical risks: Are you at risk from flying sharp-edged particles, or those with high kinetic energy, when operating machinery or using certain tools?
  • Chemical or biological risks: Hazardous chemical liquids, dust and gases are all potential risks in many industrial sectors such as medicine and waste management
  • Optical radiation: Over-exposure to high intensity, ultraviolet and infrared light sources is a common risk with welding, steel works and surgical processes
  • Thermal risks: Splashes of hot liquids and intense heat radiation both fall under this category, be it from ovens, furnaces, molten metal or hot solids
  • Electrical risks: Live contact and short-circuit electric arcs also pose risks to the eyes in the form of burns, lesions and conjunctivitis
  • Hygiene risks: Medical professionals can be frequently at risk of coming into contact with blood and other potential contaminants

Understanding safety glasses standards

As you’d expect, safety glasses are required to conform to higher performance standards than regular glasses. The minimum European reference standard for protective eyewear is EN 166, and various other markings should be present on approved products to denote their protective characteristics.

Frame markings include:

  • Strength designation, with four possible ratings depending on the speed of projectiles protected against. A T rating describes products suitable for extreme temperatures
  • Style and protection, with five possible ratings depending on the hazard protected against

Lens markings are divided into:

  • Radiation protection, with five possible ratings including depending on the level of protection provided
  • Light transmission, with four possible ratings depending on the amount of light allowed to pass through the lends
  • Optical quality, with ratings from Class 1 to Class 3 depending on the level of intended use
  • Lens properties, with seven possible ratings depending on properties such as impact, temperature, fog and scratch resistance

The different types of safety glasses

The extensive range of safety standards described above indicates just how many types of safety glasses exist. It also stresses the importance of choosing a pair that offer the right level of protection for your identified risks.

This is before you factor in types such as over-the-glasses safety glasses, which are designed to fit over prescription glasses. Other options include safety goggles that form a protective seal around your eyes, and full-face shields which are usually worn in conjunction with safety glasses.

Choosing safety glasses may seem like an intimidating process. But observing the key characteristics described above in relation to your environment, while factoring in personal preferences around fit and comfort, will help you identify the perfect PPE for you.