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An Insight Into Eye Safety

Published: 27th Nov 2013 in OSA Magazine

An overview of hazards, standards and kinds of eye protection

Eyesight is one of nature’s most precious gifts to humankind.

Vision is one of the primary senses used by human beings to conduct their normal lives and it enables them to achieve extraordinary things. Vision impairments – whether genetic or acquired – can be a serious setback. Protection of one’s eyes should therefore be of paramount concern for each individual. 

In the workplace, employers must provide adequate protection for workers’ eyes – especially where workers lack the awareness or the means to protect against hazards themselves.

The eye is an extremely delicate organ, but luckily it comes with its own build in protective ‘gear’. This includes tears, cornea, sclera, eyelids, eyelashes and eye sockets. Tears keep the eyes moist and clean whereas eyelids help spread the tears evenly across the cornea.

In addition, the eyelids and eyelashes protect against light and debris providing a basic level of protection.

The cornea itself also has several layers and provides protection to the more delicate interior parts of the eye such as the retina. The sclera is the white part of the eye and provides protection to the eye internally, while the eye sockets protect the eye from getting hit.

Hazards to the eyes

With all the natural protection that the eyes have, people can safely live their lives through most ordinary situations without fear of harming them. Even in ordinary situations, however, risks are always there and one should assess the possibility of danger and secure protection accordingly.

Below is a list of common hazards to eyes and an outline of appropriate protection.

1. Impact
Impacts occur when flying objects come into contact with the eyes. Under normal circumstances the eyelids will respond to an incoming object by covering the eye, but sometimes the response is not fast enough, or the eyelid is not a safe enough barrier. 

Flying objects like chips, fragments, particles, sand or dirt can be projected straight at the eyes in a variety of basic work tasks.

Even very small flying objects can cause a breach in the natural defences of the eye, and cause serious damage such as punctures, abrasions or bruises. 

The best protection against impact is to wear protective eyewear that meets relevant standards, and this can be reinforced by wearing a face shield where there is greater exposure. 

2. Heat
Imagine impact injuries but with red hot flying objects instead. In all likelihood, the eye’s natural defences will be no match for this kind of ammunition fired from the environment. 

In addition to heated impacts from molten splashes or hot sparks, prolonged exposure to high heat can also cause eye damage over time. Thankfully, special eyewear and face protection is available that protects the eyes in high heat situations. 

3. Chemicals
Now imagine, instead of a regular or hot flying object, we have a droplet of corrosive chemical coming at the eye. Chemicals are a bit trickier because they can enter the eye in various forms such as splashes, mists, vapours or fumes. 

Damage from chemical substances contacting the eyes can often be extremely serious and even irreversible.

The appropriate PPE should protect the eye from chemicals in any form. There are different chemical goggles that provide safety by sealing in the eyes, yet allowing the necessary ventilation to prevent the eyes from dryness irritation. In addition, PPE to guard against chemicals should be made of appropriate materials so that vision is not significantly impaired through lens distortion. Unclear or distorted vision can obviously be a serious health risk.

Apart from PPE, in the event of a chemical accident, emergency eyewash stations are a key consideration for protecting users in chemically hazardous environments. Training to use these stations is also a must as users have to be able to find and use these stations in case of an accident – without getting involved in or causing any other accidents in the process.

4. Dust
Dust is prevalent in many work environments. In some environments the dust is a natural occurrence; in others it can be a result of a work activity – dust can consist of particles from many different sources. The natural reaction of the eye when exposed to dust is to keep shut, but as this restricts us from performing any tasks in a dusty environment, manmade PPE comes into play.

Where there is significant exposure to dust, people should wear dust goggles to seal and protect their eyes. Depending on the type of dust, direct or indirect vented dust goggles should be used. In special cases such as sandblasting, a protective hood can be worn with built in respiratory protection. 

Cleaning the lenses regularly during the course of work will ensure clear vision and reduce the risks of harming eyesight. Anti-fog coatings make sure that the lenses will not fog up easily. Anti-scratch coatings will significantly slow down and reduce lens distortion from regular cleaning.

5. Optical radiation
Optical radiation results from all sources of light, including sunlight. Radiation from high concentrations of heat, ultraviolet rays, infrared rays and reflected light are also potential eye hazards. In the workplace, unprotected exposure may result in retinal burns, cataracts or permanent blindness.

To have the best level of protection, we should ascertain the maximum level of optical radiation and wear filtered lenses to reduce or eliminate optical radiation from reaching our eyes. 

Different kinds of work may require different lenses of different shades and colours. For example, a welding application may require shade ten dark green lenses to be worn, whereas someone working in the sunlight might need to wear simple smoke shaded lenses. 


Safety standards are an import factor in ensuring that eye protection equipment can be worn in a variety of environments with peace of mind. Complying with standards and the testing processes is costly, so many untested products make it to market in regions where legal restrictions are not in place. This does not mean that the product won’t provide any protection, but there is no surety that it will either. Is it worth the risk?

EN standards

The European standards for PPE are one of the most comprehensive sets of standards globally – and the standards that cover eye and face protection are among the most comprehensive of all the standards for items of PPE. 

EN166 – Technical performance standard – This is the core technical standard which defines several factors to which all eye protection articles must comply for accreditation. 

They include:

a) Optical class – There are three levels of refractive power to which lenses can comply. In general, lenses should be ±0.06 diopters at most and any rating above ±0.25 is considered non-compliant

b) Mechanical strength – Different levels of impact resistance are defined here and also defined is an additional factor of impacts of objects at temperature extremes

c) Fields of use – Defines various types of hazards/protection from hazards provided by the article

The standard defines markings on the frame and lenses which denote level or class of compliance. EN166 markings must be present on the lens/frame for the product to be compliant. 

• EN167 – Methods for optical tests – Defines how to assess the optical class of a particular lens for EN166 compliance purposes
• EN168 - Methods for tests other than optical – Defines how to assess compliance level to the non-optical factors of EN166 accreditation. These methods cover both the lens and the frame. Some of the other standards in the EN set of standards which relate to eye protection in the workplace are as follows:
• EN169 – Filters for welding and related techniques – Transmittance requirements and recommended utilisation
• EN170 – Ultraviolet filters – Transmittance requirements and recommended utilisation
• EN171 – Infrared filters – Transmittance requirements and recommended use
• EN172 – Solar radiation filters – Sunglare filters for industrial use
• EN175 – Equipment for eye and face protection during welding and allied processes
• EN379 – Specification for welding filters with switchable and dual luminous transmittance
• EN207 – Filters and eye protection against laser radiation
• EN208 – Eye protection for adjustment work on lasers and laser systems
• EN1731 – Mesh type eye and face protectors for industrial and non-industrial use against mechanical hazards and/or heat

ANSI standards

ANSI/ISEA Z87.1:2010 is the American National Standard for Occupational and Educational Eye and Face Protection Devices.

This Standard’s last major revision was in 2010, when it was completely reorganised to be hazard based rather than protector based. This was done keeping in mind the simple logic that users should evaluate the type of hazards they are faced with and select protection devices based on these hazards.

In particular it defines the major categories of hazards as impact, optical radiation, droplet and splash, dust and fine dust particles. It does not, however, define eye and face protection against blood borne pathogens, X-rays, high energy particulate radiation, microwaves, radio-frequency radiation lasers, masers, and sports and recreation hazards.

The standard contains a section on selection, use and maintenance, defining most types of eye and face protectors.

Other standards

Where ANSI is primarily the standard of the United States and EN is the standard used in Europe – and these are dominant in many other regions as well – some countries have their own standards. Canada, for example, has CSA Z94.3-07 and Australia and New Zealand have the AS/NZS 1336, 1337 and 1338 series.

Types and materials

Eye and face protective wear comes in a variety of forms and shapes. Basic spectacles, goggles and face shields are the most common types and protect against the majority of hazards. These items come in a multitude of designs, shapes and composite materials.

Polycarbonate is a material worth mentioning at this point as it is the most commonly used material in protective lenses and visors. It is used in most applications where glass cannot be used due to its low impact resistance. It’s clear, lightweight, moldable and impact resistant but can get scratched easily. Protective coatings are used on the lenses to improve scratch resistance. Polycarbonate lenses also have UV protection. 

These articles have to conform not only to the requirements as per the hazards being faced, but also to the wearers’ comfort.

This is the reason manufacturers are constantly innovating and coming up with new designs to improve the way our eyes are protected, enabling us to work more freely in ever changing conditions. Factors that top what manufacturers focus on are:

• Ergonomics and how the lens fits with the shape of the face, e.g. protection for smaller and larger heads
• Better component materials and lens coatings, e.g. increased scratch, fog, heat, UV resistance
• Application specific eye protection, e.g. sandblasting hoods, smelter’s spectacles
• Protection for those with existing vision impairments, e.g. Goggles with RX inserts, toughened glass powered lenses

Encouraging eye safety

Although safeguarding one’s eyesight should be among the top priorities for anyone faced with potential hazards, this is not always the case. Often people are unable to perceive the risks in their environment and perform tasks without adequate protection. 

Training can help alleviate this. In particular, scare tactics are very effective – people are able to better grasp the risks if they can see the consequences. Unfortunately, there is no shortage of examples of the consequences of not wearing adequate eye protection. The internet is full of video clips, news clippings and articles.

Hopefully, with awareness and product innovation we will see a significant reduction in eye injuries – and fewer and fewer people will be deprived of the beautiful sights of the world we live in.

Published: 27th Nov 2013 in OSA Magazine


Huzefa Lotia

Huzefa Lotia is the business manager at HSS Safety, which is a Pakistani business dealing in all kinds of personal protective equipment and safety products. After graduating from the University of Toronto with a double majors in Commerce and Computer Science, Huzefa gained valuable experience in sales and consulting before heading towards the family business dealing in PPE and industrial safety items. He plays a key role in the planning and execution of business strategy. Huzefa is solely responsible for local and international procurement and production outsourcing. Having a personal interest in the field of PPE and safety, Huzefa is always keen to share his knowledge and experience on the subject, and to gain new understanding and perspective. About HSS Safety HSS Safety is a safety products dealer based in Karachi, Pakistan. The business is primarily focused on head to toe protection for the local market. HSS Safety has gained more than a decade of experience dealing exclusively in all kinds of PPE and safety products. It is an offshoot of a large family owned trading house that enjoyed a position of excellence and pride in the country for many decades before restructuring into smaller independent units. HSS Safety is now driving on to the future with new zeal and vigor, with the aim of becoming a market leader. The product range includes both local and imported products, Local goods are mostly produced in collaboration with local manufacturers, while imported goods are primarily sourced in the Far East. A key part of operations includes trade in all kinds of leather, cotton and latex gloves. HSS Safety always endeavors to take a consultative approach with customers to fill their needs, rather than just sell products to them. HSS Safety currently seeks to venture into export of local products and are happy to work with foreign buyers in this regard, while growing in terms of knowledge and experience in the process. They are also keen to discuss ways to work together with foreign companies working on projects in Pakistan and the region to help them fill their safety needs, while gaining a fresh perspective from them. HSS Safety has so far been fortunate enough to work with companies and individuals from Turkey, China, Nigeria, Mozambique, Tanzania, Malaysia, Philippines and look forward to working with many more on its way to becoming a global entity.

Huzefa Lotia



+ 92 21 32425883

+ 92 21 32425883

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