Safeguarding Your Vision: Why Safety Glasses are a Must on the Fab Shop Floor
By Jamy Bulan, Emily Cull and Frank Stupczy, The Lincoln Electric Company
Eye safety on the job isn’t just something that’s good to practice. It’s necessary and important. Consider this staggering statistic from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Each day, approximately 2,000 U.S. workers receive medical treatment after suffering an eye-related injury on the job.
No Safety Glasses? Danger Ahead
Failing to wear safety glasses poses numerous risks for welders and fabricators. Flying particles -- such as metal, slag from chipping, dirt, sparks and debris from grinding -- cause nearly 70 percent of job-related eye injuries. These small particles can fly into an unprotected eye, causing scratches or other damage. These particles are a hazard that might not always be seen but can easily be prevented through a good pair of safety glasses.
Other potential dangers in a welding or fabricating environment include flying sparks, as well as chemical splashes. Safety glasses can help to protect eyes from both of these dangers, though a face shield is recommended in addition to safety glasses if you’re working with chemicals. There is no such thing as being too cautious when it comes to eye safety.
Regulations and TestingChoosing a Pair of Safety Glasses
OSHA regulations, specifically standards 1910.133 covering General Industry and 1926.102 covering Construction, require employers to protect their employees from known eye and face hazards through the provision of proper PPE. Such equipment must comply with the standards set out in ANSI Z87.1, a standard for eye and face protective equipment issued by the American National Standards Institute. The ANSI Standard is used to certify safety glasses for workplace applications. The most recent version of the standard was released in 2010.
There are a variety of factors to consider when selecting a pair of safety glasses. The first element is sizing and fit. Safety glasses should always have side protection (side shields or wrap-around frames), fully covering the front and sides of the eye area. To find the best fit, try on different styles of glasses to determine the best size and shape for your needs. If you wear prescription eyeglasses, safety glasses are available that are made to fit over prescription lenses, such as Lincoln Electric’s Cover2® Safety Glasses.
Comfort and weight are also important. Most wearers prefer lighter safety glasses for a long day on the job. Such features as padding located at pressure points can also make a big difference in the comfort of a pair of safety glasses. Some safety glasses have padding made of soft rubber or elastomers on the touch points (nose area and the temple tips) to provide a more comfortable and secure fit than uncovered hard plastic.
If you’re working in areas where condensation occurs, consider purchasing a pair of glasses with an anti-fog coating. And, if you need extra help reading or viewing close work, bi-focal safety glasses are available.
Shade is another important aspect of choosing safety glasses. Clear safety glasses should be worn underneath a welding helmet when welding -- the safety glasses will protect the eyes from sparks or other debris, while the shaded helmet prevents eye damage that could be caused by the ultra-bright arc.
In grinding and cutting situations, shaded safety glasses may be required. Typically, these safety glasses, such as Lincoln Electric’s Starlite® IR 5 Safety Glasses, provide shade 5 infra-red protection. Caring for Your Safety Glasses
For the best eye protection – and protection of your investment -- keep your safety glasses in good condition. Examine them regularly and purchase a new pair of safety glasses when needed.
Follow the manufacturer’s maintenance instructions and make sure to clean and disinfect your glasses regularly, especially if another worker has used them. Never wear excessively scratched, dirty or otherwise damaged safety glasses, as they may cause impaired vision and also provide a reduced level of protection. Store glasses in a clean, dust-fee container to protect them from damage in-between uses.
Essentially, care for your safety glasses in the same manner that you would care for your own prescription lenses or sunglasses. In fact, OSHA requires that eye protection be worn in most worksites. Since safety glasses are an inexpensive piece of PPE, it is always better to replace safety glasses than to weld or fabricate with a damaged pair.
Safety glasses are a simple way to protect the eyes, and they should be worn under a welding helmet in every welding and fabricating situation. While some workers may initially dislike the feeling of wearing safety glasses, donning a pair will eventually become second nature, just another integral part of proper PPE practices.