Introduction

It only takes a few moments to imagine how drastically your life would change if you lost your vision. So, we're sure you don't need us to explain how important your eyes are. 

However, you might need us to explain how best to go about selecting and buying safety eyewear.

That's a much trickier business.

(You can also download this free guide as a PDF to read later!)

  • Did You Know?

    2,000

    people injure their eyes at work each day

  • Did You Know?

    90%

    of all workplace eye injuries are preventable with the use of proper safety eyewear

  • Did You Know?

    10-20%

    of work-related eye injuries will cause temporary or permanent vision loss

Know Your Enemy

The Best Way To Stay Protected Is To Know What You're Up Against

We know it seems obvious but the first step to keeping your eyes safe is to identify the hazard that's putting you in danger.

The most effective way to do this is to carry out a full risk assessment.

To help you along the way, we've rounded up some of the most common types of eye hazards below.

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Goodbye fussy formatting, hello safer workplace!

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Mechanical Hazards

Is there a risk of flying fragments/debris hitting you in the face as you work? We're not talking about accidentally flicking your pen into your face, but rather the kind of debris/particles generated through the use of power or hands tools.

So, those involved in grinding or polishing work - beware! It's definitely time to get yourself some eye protection.

However, do keep in mind the velocity, size and temperature of the debris which could fly your way. This is because safety glasses might be suitable for protecting you against low impact particles, but not so much against high impact particles. We'd recommend either safety goggles or a visor for those.


Thermal Hazards

Does your work activity involve a risk of super hot particles, liquids or metals splashing onto your face? If so, we think your work sounds awesome, but also you'll need some solid eye protection featuring anti-fog lenses.

Chemical Hazards

These include harmful or corrosive dusts, gases, aerosols, liquids and vapours.

Aside from the obvious splashes you'll want to avoid, chemical hazards also include particles which are too small to be seen by the naked eye. As such, whenever you're working with chemicals, it's worth popping on some safety eyewear. Goggles and visors are recommended, but a face shield would provide the most protection.


Optical Radiation

This hazard is more common than it sounds!

While the liklihood of you dealing with lasers in your day to day job is probably quite low, we're sure there's lots of you out there who encounter Ultraviolet (UV) radiation in sunlight. This can cause a whole host of eye problems, such as cataracts and corneal damage.

Additionally, we bet any welders reading this will have to stay safe against welding arcs which produce UV and Infrared (IR) radiation.

Whatever you do - you're going to need shaded glasses to keep your eyes protected!


Additionally...

The Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992 provides a guide list of activities and sectors which might require eye protection:

  • Welding, grinding and separating work
  • Caulking and chiselling work
  • Rock working and processing work
  • Work with bolt-driving tools
  • Work on stock removing machines for small chippings
  • Drop forging
  • The removal and breaking up of fragments
  • Spraying of abrasive substances
  • Work with acides and caustic solutions, disinfectants and corrosive products
  • Work with liquid sprays
  • Work with, and in the vicinity of, molten substances
  • Work with radiant heat
  • Work with lasers

Types of Safety Eyewear

Now You Know The Hazards, It's Time To Gear Up.

So, you've done your risk assessment and realised your eyes might be in more danger than first thought.

Not only that, but there are so many different safety eyewear options available you don't know which to choose.

Should you wear glasses, goggles or a visor? What differing levels of protection do they offer? Which colour lenses are required? Why are some lenses coloured in the first place? What do all the weird eyewear symbols and markings mean?

It's overwhelming for the best of us.

But have no fear - we're here to help you select the right type of eye protection for the job at hand!

  • Safety Glasses

    Protect against low energy impacts; higher impact levels may force the glasses into the face or penetrate the lens. Safety glasses only cover the eyes but can come with side shields. They're the most cost-effective option for protecting against mechanical and optical risks.

    View The Range In Our Catalogue

  • Safety Goggles

    Protect against medium energy impacts. They come in ventilated or sealed unit varieties and offer protection against many different hazards, including high speed particles. However, they can suffer from misting unless adequately ventilated or anti-fog treated.

    View The Range In Our Catalogue

  • Safety Visors

    Protect against medium energy impacts. These cover most or all of the face and provide the most protection against flying debris and fluids. Available in different materials, such as acetate, polycarbonate or metal mesh. Visors are usually easy to attach to safety helmets.

    Get In Touch For More Info

  • Additionally, it's good to keep different materials in mind when choosing eyewear, as they each have very different properties.

    • Polycarbonate (PC) - Strong, durable material which boasts the highest mechanical impact strength. However, PC is easy to scratch so you should make sure they're supplied with a hardened surface. PC eyewear also protects against UV rays.
    • Acetate - A plastic material which is most suitable for work with solvents and chemicals.
    • Laminated Glass - This consists of two thin plastic sheets glued together with plastic film. Such eyewear has poor mechanical strength but high resistance to scratches.

    Selection Factors

    You'll likely have a good idea of whether you need glasses, goggles or visors. However, the decision making process doesn't stop there.

    And yes, we know what you're thinking - "Can't I just slap a pair a goggles on and be done with it?"

    Unfortunately not! However, by considering the factors below, you'll ensure you get the best eyewear protection and increase the chances of worker buy-in. That's a win-win, right?

    It's Not Just About Eye Protection...

    Discover everything you need to know about PPE in our Ultimate PPE Guide!

    Read Now

    Scratched Lenses

    Some materials, such as polycarbonate, are prone to scratching if placed lens down on an abrasive surface. This can cause the user to remove their eyewear to improve visibility, which rather defeats the point of eye protection! 

    We recommend being diligent in how you're putting eyewear down (not lens first!) and training staff in how to carefully store eyewear. You could also look into purchasing eyewear that's treated during manufacture with a hard coating to lessen lens damage.


    Lens Fogging

    What could negatively impact visibility even more than a scratched lens? 

    A hefty case of lens fogging.

    This occurs when there's inadequate airflow around the lens, causing vapour to condense on the lenses from the wearer's breath. Fogging can also occur if there's a sudden, large temperature/humidity change. Examples of such environments include:

    • Steamy atmospheres found in food processing
    • Workplaces that require a lot of physical exertion
    • Anywhere with changes between low and high temperatures

    Lens fogging is a major issue as it causes wearer's to remove their eyewear to wipe away condensation, and in the worst case scenario they might not put it back on.

    In fact, a study published in Accident Analysis and Prevention magazine demonstrated just how troubling lens fogging can be. During the study, focus groups from a variety of industries identified fogging as the main vision-related issue they faced and many said it was the main barrier to compliance. Over 55% of respondents also suggested anti-fog solutions would be useful for increasing the usage of safety eyewear.

    As such, in environments that are likely to cause fogging, you should ensure any eyewear is treated with an anti-fog coating. Such coatings reduce the amount of droplets of moisture that build up on the lens and can, in some cases, eliminate lens fogging entirely.


    Optical Quality

    Lens and visors should never distort your view. Check what kind of optics the eyewear offers to ensure suitability for day long use.


    Lens Tints

    There's a lens tint suitable for almost any job application out there, whether it's UV protection when welding or a simple tint to protect you from sunglare. We'll go into this in further detail later on, but you should always check with your personal protective equipment (PPE) supplier to get the best lens for your particular work.

    Prescription Lenses

    These should always be preferred instead of over-goggles. This is because wearing goggles over the top of prescription glasses can impact the quality of vision and leave the wearer feeling uncomfortable and awkward, leading to minimised productivity and safety.

    The great thing is, prescription lenses can be manufactured to the users own requirements and incorporated into their desired safety eyewear.


    Design

    Nobody wants to wear bulky, dorky looking spectacles or goggles. We've all been there and done that during school science classes and we don't miss the witty remarks, thanks very much.

    To help promote worker buy-in, you should look to purchase eyewear that's lightweight, stylish and comfortable to wear for long periods of time.


    Comfort

    Loose fitting glasses which need constant attention to keep in place are the worst and usually end up discarded. Similarly, eye protection that's too tight is often removed.

    To find eyewear that's suitable and fits correctly, look for adjustable or self-adjustable features, such as sidearm variations. Eyewear with such properties can help rationalise purchasing as they ensure sidearms apply a similar pressure to heads of different shapes and sizes.

    Glasses can be further improved with cord accessories to hold them more securely in place or hang around the neck when not needed.


    Compatibility

    Do you need to wear your eyewear alongside other forms of PPE, such as head protection, hearing protection or RPE?

    If so, you'll need to ensure all the PPE is compatible with one another - including your eyewear!

    Not Sure If Your Eyewear Is Compatible With Other PPE?

    Check with our safety specialists today!

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    Lens Variations

    Keep your eyes protected, no matter what environment you're working in.

    Clear Lenses

    Best for use in general indoor lighting. They allow the most visible light transmission and should be used for work in mainly low light conditions with no dazzling glare.

    Protection: UV
    Example Marking: 2(C) -1.2
    Transmission: Approximately 91%
    Standards: EN 166, EN 170


    Amber Lenses

    Have high visible light transmission and block blue light to enhance contrast in low light environments. This makes objects appear sharper, making amber lenses a popular choice for quality inspections. They're also suitable for indoor applications or outdoor work when conditions are overcast.

    Protection: UV
    Example Marking: 2(C) -1.2
    Transmission: Approximately 85%
    Standards: EN 166, EN 170


    Grey Lenses

    These are similar to sunglasses with low visible light transmission. Well suited for outdoor work as they reduce brightness and glare in sunny conditions, helping to prevent eye strain and fatigue.

    Protection: UV
    Example Marking: 5-2.5
    Transmission: Approximately 23%
    Standards: EN 166, EN 172

    For those working in an environment with increased horizontal glare (e.g. glare reflecting from tarmac, snow or the sea), polarised lenses might be a better option.

    Mirrored Lenses

    Can come with gold, silver or other mirror lenses. Mirrored lenses have similar visible light transmission to grey lenses but are superior at reducing glare. This makes them good for outdoor work that requires reduced brightness as the mirror coating helps reflect sunlight.

    Mirrored lenses are a popular choice for those working in changing light conditions (bright/dark), such as forklift drivers.

    Protection: UV
    Example Marking: 5-1.7
    Transmission: Approximately 48 - 56%
    Standards: EN 166, EN 172


    Brown Lenses

    Allow low to medium levels of visible light transmission. These lenses also increase contrast and reduce glare from sunlight.

    Protection: UV
    Example Marking: 5-2.5
    Transmission: Approximately 20%
    Standards: EN 166, EN 172


    Green Lenses

    Come in various shade levels for cutting, welding or torch brazing. These provide protection from IR and UV radiation, and also minimise damage from sparks.

    Protection: UV + IR
    Example Marking: 5
    Transmission: 43 - 1%
    Standards: EN 166, EN 169

    Confused?

    Discuss which lens you require today with our friendly team!

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    Eye Protection Standards

    Simplifying the legal mumbo-jumbo.

    EN 166

    The specification for all eye protection against various hazards which are likely to damage the eye or impair vision, with the exception of nuclear radiation, x-rays, laser beams and IR radiation.

    This standard incorporates general considerations such as designation, classification, basic requirements applicable to all eye-protectors, various particular and optional requirements, allocation of requirements, testing and application, markings and information for users.

    The order of markings on oculars, where relevant, is:

    • Scale number (filters only)
      Higher numbers have a stronger filtering effect. Scale numbers consist of a code number and a shade number separated by a hyphen, except for welding filters which have no code number.
    • Manufacturer's mark
    • Optical class
    • Mechanical strength
    • Fields of use
    • Scratch resistance
    • Resistance to fogging
    • Radiant heat

    The order of markings on frames, where relevant, is:

    • Manufacturer's mark
    • EN 166
    • Fields of use
    • Mechanical strength

    EN 169

    The specification for filters for welding and related techniques. Transmittance requirements and recommended use.

    Shade number between 1.2 and 16.


    EN 170

    The specification for ultraviolet filters. Transmittance requirements and recommended use.

    2- or 3- minus code number denoting UV filter without or with good colour recognition respectively, plus shade number between 1.2 and 5.


    EN 171

    The specification for infrared filters. Transmittance requirements and recommended use.

    4- minus code number for IR filters, plus shade number between 1.2 and 10.


    EN 172

    The specification for sunglare filters used in personal eye-protectors for industrial use.

    5- or 6- minus code number for sunglare filters without or with IR specification respectively, plus shade number between 1.1 and 4.1.


    EN 1731

    The specification for personal eye protection: mesh eye and face protectors.

    Symbols & Tests

    It's about to get technical...

    All protective eyewear must conform to EN 166, which includes different levels of impact resistance, indicated by symbols.


    Mechanical Strength Symbols

    • Symbol

      S

      Increased strength (filters only)

    • Symbol

      F

      Low energy impact (45m/s)

    • Symbol

      B

      Medium energy impact (120 m/s)

    • Symbol

      A

      High energy impact (190 m/s)

    Keep in mind...

    • A low energy impact grade (EN 166 F) is the highest level of impact offered by protective glasses.
    • When a medium energy impact grade (EN 166 B) is required, safety glasses shouldn't be used. Goggles or visors must be considered instead and should carry the appropriate EN specifications. This also applies for when there is a requirement for protection against electrical arcs, welding materials and/or corrosive materials.
    • When a high energy impact grade (EN 166 A) is required, visors or face shiels must be used.
    • Toughened glass (commonly thermally toughened) and CR39 (with increased thickness) are materials providing enhanced strength (EN 166 S).

    The Tests

    Grade F (Low energy impact)

    A 6mm, 0.86g steel ball travelling at 45 metres per second.

    Grade B (Medium energy impact)

    A 6mm, 0.86g steel ball travelling at 120 metres per second.

    Grade A (High energy impact)

    A 6mm, 0.86g steel ball travelling at 190 metres per second.

    Grade S (Increased strength)

    A 22mm, 43g steel ball travelling at 5.1 metres per second. This is derived from the practical test which is to drop the ball from a height of 1.3 metres.

    Ocular Symbols

    • Symbol

      8

      Resistant to short circuit electric arc (faceshields only)

    • Symbol

      9

      Resistant to molten metals and hot solids (goggles and faceshields only)

    • Symbol

      K

      Resistant to surface damage by fine particles

    • Symbol

      N

      Resistant to fogging

    • Symbol

      G

      Resistant to radiant heat (EN 1731 faceshields only)


    Frame Markings

    • Symbol

      3

      Resistant to liquid droplets (goggles), or liquid splashes (faceshields, but not mesh)

    • Symbol

      4

      Resistant to coarse dust particles

    • Symbol

      5

      Resistant to gas and fine dust particles

    • Symbol

      9

      Resistant to molten metals and hot solids

    • Symbol

      G

      Resistant to radiant heat (EN 1731 faceshields only)

    Your Eyes Deserve The Best Protection

    View our catalogue to see what safety eyewear we've got to offer!

    Download Our Catalogue

    Eyewear Maintenance

    You've gone to all the effort of getting the right eyewear. Now it's time to keep it fit for purpose.

    There's no reason why your eye protection shouldn't last a long time. All it requires is a little TLC.

    And after working your way through all the standards and symbols above, this bit should be a piece of cake.


    Clean Your Eyewear Daily

    This is as simple as rinsing your eyewear under cool water to remove dust and debris, then drying with a soft cloth. We recommend keeping a cloth handy that's specifically made for cleaning glasses.

    Other options include pre-moistened lens towelettes or even a can of compressed air.

    Abrasive cleaners or rough cloths should be avoided as they scratch lenses, making the eye protection unwearable and ineffective.


    Use Lens Cleaner

    Water is a simple way to generally clean eyewear, but for more stubborn residue you'll need a good lens cleaner.

    Never use soap as this can leave more residue on eyewear, rather than less! Similarly, you should avoid household cleaners, such as glass cleaners. This is because they can damage any special coatings on the lenses (anti-fog, for example).


    Don't Forget To Clean Behind Your Ears

    We might sound like a nagging mum, but you'd be amazed how much grime builds up on the sidearms and ear pieces of eyewear. This dirt can move onto the lenses, so we recommend cleaning these parts as well as the lenses.

    Inspect Daily

    Check your glasses, goggles or visors for any cracks or broken pieces. Eyewear with even a slight crack can fail to provide adequate protection if an incident occurs.


    Think About Storage

    To avoid scratching or other damage, you should invest in a hard case or microfiber pouch made especially for safety eyewear. Microfiber pouches can also double as a cleaning cloth for glasses, making these a great option.


    Use Neck Cords

    When you're on your break it's very tempting to simply pop your glasses down on a table, workbench or even in your lap. This increases the liklihood of damage and can mean your eye protection is out of reach when you need it.

    Neck cords, which let glasses hang from the user's neck, are an easy way to keep safety glasses readily available and reduce the chance of scratches. 


    Replace When Damaged

    Scratched or otherwise damaged eyewear won't be able to provide the necessary levels of protection to keep your eyes safe. Since this rather defeats the purpose of safety eyewear, you'll need to replace your eye protection as soon as you notice any damage.

    Procurement & Conclusion

    You're a safety eyewear pro!

    So, that's it folks.

    By following the guidance above, you'll have the best chance possible of keeping your eyes safe if an accident occurs.

    The only thing left to decide is how you're going to procure your eye protection.

    The supply of prescription eyewear, for example, usually follows these stages:

    1. The manufacture and supply of certified safety frames
    2. An eye test to determine the correct prescription (if necessary)
    3. The insertion of required lenses in a certified laboratory
    4. Fitting and supply of eyewear to the wearer

    As for non-prescription eyewear, you can either opt to purchase from a safety eyewear manufacturer or use a PPE supplier as a single source solution for all your needs.

    Here at Swift360, we're a single source solution with over 20 years experience in supplying great eye protection to our clients. Not only this, but we love to simplify eyewear ranges where possible to streamline your purchasing process and reduce both costs and injuries.

    And don't forget - you can download this guide as a PDF to easily access and read later!

    Download the free guide

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