By Eyecare NG

Safety eyewear, also known as protective eyewear is an equipment or device worn to safeguard the eyes from substances, materials or conditions that have the potential to cause eye injuries or infection.  These substances, materials or conditions are known as eye hazards and their potential to cause injuries or infection is known as risk.

Examples of eye hazards include projectiles or thrown objects like concrete, metals, nails, broken material and balls; chemicals, dust particles, toxic fumes, radiation , heat, and splashes of biological fluids like blood and urine.

The risk that an eye hazard will cause an injury depends on factors such as the type of hazard, how much of the hazard an individual is exposed to, how often the exposure occurs, the effect of exposure and the duration of exposure.

Safety eyewear and the major types (e.g. safety glasses, safety goggles, eye shields, face shields and welding helmets) are discussed in another material. Learn more about them here.

While it is essential to wear a safety eyewear while performing activities that expose the eyes to hazards, it is important that the appropriate eyewear is worn. The wrong safety eyewear will not provide maximum eye protection and in some cases may cause more harm than not wearing one at all.

For protection from dust

There is need for a safety eyewear that forms a secure seal around the eyes. This is because dust particles are small and light and in extreme conditions can act like fumes which can easily pass through any space around an eyewear. In this case, safety goggles are the most suitable eyewear. However, some people wear wraparound safety glasses or safety glasses with side shields for protection in mildly dusty environment.

For protection against impact hazards

Impact hazards are solid objects that can cause eye injuries if they hit your eye or if you collide with them.  They include work tools, sports equipment, elbow, fist and other objects that can easily fly up into the air or fall from a height during work, sports and other activities. The risk of injuries from these hazards increase as their speed or your own speed of movement increases.

For protection against these hazards, safety glasses or eye shields are sufficient in most cases. However, if impact hazards include small particles, safety goggles would offer better protection due to their tighter fitting around the eyes.

For protection against heat hazards

Heat hazards are hot substances or any equipment that emits heat that is high enough to cause eye injuries. They include splashes of boiling water or hot oil, steam, open flames, open heated oven or furnace. Damage by these substances can occur quickly and so wearing heat-resistant safety eyewear is essential. High-temperature face shield worn over a safety glasses or goggles will protect the eyes and other parts of the face.

For protection against chemical hazards

Chemical hazards are often in the form of smoke, fumes, dust and other particulate substances that can become easily airborne. Hence, there is need for a safety eyewear that form a complete seal around the eyes. It may also be necessary to prevent inhalation by putting on respiratory safety device.

The most suitable protective eyewear for chemical hazards is the safety goggles. However, in cases where chemicals do not emit fumes safety glasses with side shields may be worn.

For protection against radiation hazards

These hazards emit intense (blinding) lights and glare. Since these lights can easily enter the eye and cause damage like retinal burns, cataract and macular degeneration, protection of the eyes require devices that adequately filter out the harmful light in each case. The filter on the protective eyewear should depend on the type and intensity of the radiation hazard. In this case of welding for instance, welding helmets worn over UV- protection safety glasses or goggles would provide adequate protection.

Related Resources

Safety Eyewear (Protective Eyewear)