PPE 101: Eye Protection

Roughly 2,000 eye injuries occur daily at workplaces across the U.S., and construction workers experience one of the highest eye injury rates out of all occupations. When it comes to eye safety, even seemingly minor injuries can cause life-long vision problems. Common hazards include flying particles or fragments, chemical splashes, and sparks from welding – just to name a few.

While working in potentially hazardous areas on the job site, there are two categories of personal protective equipment: primary protective devices and secondary protective devices. Primary devices are always needed, while secondary devices are required in conjunction with other gear if there’s an increased chance of exposure to severe hazards. Learn more about the differences:

Spectacles (primary protectors)

Safety spectacles should be used any time there are impact hazards such as flying fragments, objects, large chips, or particles. Whenever impact hazards are present, spectacles must have side shields, otherwise, they are not considered to be up to code. The frames of safety spectacles should be either metal or plastic and fitted with plano lenses or, if needed, prescription lenses.

Goggles (primary protectors)

An alternative to spectacles is goggles, which feature a protective seal that can prevent objects from entering under or around the eyes. Goggles have various types of ventilation options – direct, indirect, and non-ventilated. Direct ventilation generally offers more air circulation while still resisting direct passage of large particles into the goggle. Indirect ventilation has slightly less circulation, but still prevent fogging while also protecting against liquid or chemical splash entry. Non-ventilated goggles may fog but provide the best protection against any type of liquid. 

Face Shields (secondary protectors)

Face shields are classified as secondary protectors because when worn alone, they do not protect employees from impact hazards. Instead, face shields should be worn in combination with safety spectacles or goggles – even in the absence of dust or potential splashes – for added protection. There are two types of face shields: windows and headgear. Windows extend from the brow to below the chin and across the entire width of the face, while headgear supports the window shield and secures the device to the head. They are made with different types of transparent materials in various levels of thickness, depending on the task at hand.