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How to Pick the Proper Protective Eyewear

Regardless of which outdoor profession you are in, not all tasks are created equally — and neither is the protective eyewear you can select for you and your employees. Whether you're mixing pesticides, using power tools or dealing with airborne debris, selecting the proper protective eyewear is of utmost importance.

The bottom line is that proper protection is nothing to turn a blind eye to. According to the National Institute for Occupational Safety & Health (NIOSH), roughly 2,000 U.S. workers sustain a work-related eye injury every day. And according to the advocacy group Prevent Blindness, the right protective eyewear could have lessened the severity or even prevented 90% of those injuries.

In other words, it's time to get serious about proper eye protection. Here are some tips to help select the right protective eyewear so you can do just that.

Safety Glasses

Safety glasses are designed to protect the eyes from flying objects or debris. Think about a stone kicked up by a string trimmer, for example. First of all, you want to select a product that meets the ANSI/ISEA Z87.1 standard. Additionally, there are several key features you should also consider in order to select the best product for you or your employees.
Lenses. Certain lens shades are better for certain situations. For example, gray is ideal for very sunny situations, whereas light blue reduces eyestrain caused by sodium vapor lighting indoors. Check out our Protective Eyewear Shade Guide for more insights on lens shades. Also on the topic of lenses, unique coatings can help resist fogging and scratches, adding to the functionality and durability of your safety glasses. Additionally, polarized lenses are best at reducing glare — helping you and your employees to reduce squinting, eye strain and aggravation.

Temples. Adjustable temples allow you to ratchet or extend your safety glasses for a custom fit. Then, cushioned temples further enhance comfort while also helping to prevent slipping.

Nose bridges. Rubber nose bridges also help improve comfort while working to prevent slipping.

Seals. Safety glasses with seals help keep out dust and debris. They often include straps that allow them to be converted into goggles.

Magnifiers. Magnifying safety glasses feature built-in diopters, which make it easier to read fine print.

Over-the-Glasses. Some styles are designed to fit over prescription eyewear, eliminating the need for a visit to the optometrist.

Safety Goggles

Safety goggles form a seal around the eyes and provide additional protection against impacts. They also provide protection against liquid splashes, vapors and dust. Many of today's safety goggles fit over most prescription eyewear, making them especially handy. Here are some other features you should pay attention to.
Indirect vents. These are covered but allow air to circulate while protecting against liquid splashes.
Direct vents. These are best at preventing fogging, but should only be used for impact protection.
Non-vented. Provides the most protection from splashes and vapors, but it also more prone to fogging.
Foam seals. These help keep dust and debris out, but should not be used for chemical splash protection.
Lens coatings. Just like with safety glasses, lens coatings help to resist fogging and/or scratching.

Magnifiers. Magnifying safety goggles feature built-in diopters, which make it easier to read fine print.

Face Shields

Face shields provide great protection from chemical splashes, flying objects and other debris. That said, face shields should not be worn without safety glasses or goggles in most applications. Another thing to point out is that face shields with chin guards provide added protection against flying debris or splashes from below, as could be the case when pouring chemicals into a sprayer tank, for instance.

Full-Face Respirators

Full-face respirators have protective eyewear built in, eliminating the need for safety goggles or glasses.

Additional Information

Working with Pesticides
It's important to recognize that regular safety glasses cannot be worn for pesticide use. However, safety glasses with brow guards and temple protection are allowed under the WPS (Worker Protection Standard). These safety glasses are more comfortable and easier to wear with half-mask respirators than goggles, but do not provide as much protection from splashes.

See related article on how to choose eye protection for pesticide use>

Get Serious About Eye Safety
OSHA provides a wealth of information on eye and face protection standards, hazards and solutions. You can check out their website for more information. It's time to get serious about eye safety. Be sure to check out the ANSI/ISEA Z87.1-2015 standard on eye and face protection.