Eye protection means more than just wearing the contact lenses or glasses you may use for vision correction. The type of eye protection needed will depend on what you are doing, from attending public protests to playing paintball. Your regular eyeglasses do not protect your eyes from impact, debris or damage. In fact, some eye glasses can shatter if damaged, causing even more eye injury. Protective eyewear should be made from polycarbonate material because it resists shattering and can provide UV (ultraviolet light) protection.
For most repair projects and activities around the home, it's enough to wear protective eyewear that meets the criteria set by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI). For many work situations, that same protection is enough, but there are important exceptions. Sports eye protection should meet the specific requirements of that sport. The sport's governing body may set and certify these requirements. The American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) may as well. In some cases, both organizations may be involved.
Protection at Home
Every household should have at least one pair of ANSI-approved protective eyewear. You should wear it when doing projects or activities that could create a risk for eye injuries at home.
Choose protective eyewear with "ANSI Z87.1" marked on the lens or frame. This means the glasses, goggles or face shield meets the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) Z87.1 safety standard. You can buy ANSI-approved protective eyewear from most hardware stores nationwide.
You should use eye protection if the activity involves:
- Hazardous chemicals or other substances that could damage your eyes upon contact
- Flying debris or other small particles that could hit participants or bystanders
- Projectiles or objects that could become projectiles and fly into the eyes unexpectedly
Bottom line: use common sense, especially if there are children around. You should protect them and set an example by making a smart choice.
Protection at Work
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) determines the eye protection needed to do your job safely. Check with your company's human resources department or whoever oversees OSHA compliance. They will tell you what standards apply to your job.
OSHA standards often require the same ANSI-certified eye protection at work that you should use at home. An exception is welding, which requires more eye and face protection.
Protection at Play
ASTM sets the standards that eye protection must meet to prevent eye injuries in your sport. We have listed some eye-safety standards by sport below. This is not a comprehensive list.
Wear protective glasses or goggles with UV protection when snow or water skiing. They will help shield your eyes from sunburn and glare.