The Manufacture and Selection of Eye Protection at WorkPosted on by
The blog content comes from the NIOSH Manufacturing Mondays series.
June 6th was National Eyewear Day (and May was Healthy Vision Month). To celebrate we are highlighting eye protection at work. Thousands of people each year experience work-related eye injuries that could have been prevented with the proper selection and use of eye and face protection. Ensuring that workers wear proper eye protection and have it available is an important aspect of work safety management programs. Different eyewear products are manufactured to protect from a variety of hazards such as flying objects and particles, dust, wind, heat, splash, abrasive materials, glare, and bright light. Eye protection products are important around large machines, tools, and with many tasks in all industries and personal activities every day.
Each year many workers suffer eye-related injuries. According to WorkRISQS (a NIOSH Data tool), in 2019 approximately 118,000 occupational injuries in and around the eye were seen in emergency rooms. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, from 2011 through 2019 there were over 219,000 occupational eye injuries involving days away from work; nearly 41,000 of these eye injuries were in production occupations. The OSHA Safety Pays site estimates the direct and indirect cost of an occupational vision loss incident to be $159,358 using data for 2015-2017.
Direct injury to the eye leading to a possible loss in vision can occur in multiple ways including small particles or objects striking the eye, blunt force trauma, chemical burns, and thermal burns. The eye must be protected from many seemingly safe situations that would be non-injurious to any other part of the body. With any eye injury, later infection can also lead to loss of vision in one or both eyes as the optical nerve from each eye joins together. Prompt treatment of any eye injury is important.
Regulations and Standards
Protective eyewear is required by OSHA regulations under General Industry 1910.133.a(1) Eye and Face Protection where it states: “The employer shall ensure that each affected employee uses appropriate eye or face protection when exposed to eye or face hazards from flying particles, molten metal, liquid chemicals, acids or caustic liquids, chemical gases or vapors, or potentially injurious light radiation.” OSHA 1910.133.a(2) requires side shields for flying debris and OSHA 1910.133.a(3) requires safety glasses with a prescription or able to be used over prescription glasses. OSHA 1910.133.a(5) requires proper shade number (standardized tint level) for protection from light radiation. OSHA 1910.133 requires safety protective eyewear conforming to ANSI/ISEA Z87.1-2010/2003/1989/1998 American National Standard for Occupational and Educational Personal Eye and Face Protection Devices or better standards. The standard covers safety eyewear, high impact eyewear, face shields, welding face shields and the required and recommended shade numbers.
For selection of type of eyewear, face shield, goggles, etc. and the proper identification associated with its use, [see the ISEA (International Safety Equipment Association) Guide (excerpt from Z87 standard) at Eye-and-Face-Selection-Guide-tool.pdf (safetyequipment.org)]. Industrial safety eyewear and face shields will be marked or stamped with Z87 (or Z87-2 prescription) for normal safety wear and Z87+ (or Z87-2+ prescription) for high impact. Older Z87 versions may have had marking differences from the newest standard. The rating is required for both the frame and lens. Other markings under Z87 such as D, U, and R indicate dust, ultraviolet tint, and infrared tint and a review of these standards may be needed to properly address hazards. Regular eyewear is usually stamped with an ANSI Z80 which is a set of ophthalmic standards and requirements for qualities such as clarity and while important, ANSI Z80 does NOT indicate an industrial protection level.
It is important to note that the Z87 Eye-and-Face-Selection Guide does not have recommendations for: hot sparks; irritating mist; Lasers referred to ANSI Z136-2014 Safe Use of Lasers; electric arcs referred to NFPA 70E-2018; and welding referred to ANSI Z49.1-2012 Standard Safety in Welding and Cutting. Other occupational or military standards may be required in specific occupations such as: fire and emergency services (may need NFPA 1500, 1999 or other); military (MIL-PERF-31013 or MIL-PERF-4351D); or aviation fields (possible FAA requirements); These may require multiple certifications with or without Z87 depending on the industry and use. Other OSHA industries are covered under 1915.153 for Shipyards and 1926.102 for Construction. Links to OSHA 1910.133 are provided below and other standards can be found from there.
ISEA updated Z87 to ANSI/ISEA Z87.1-2020, however, its adoption by OSHA is not immediate. As previously stated, current 1901.133 requirements are ANSI/ISEA Z87.1-2010/2003/1989/1998, though newer Z87 versions, such as 2015 and 2020, are acceptable and may be required by an employer. Additional OSHA guidance for specific operations is made in other sections of 1910, for instance in 1910.261 Special Operations, 1910.335(subpart I), or 1910.502-1910.509 and are incorporated by reference using different versions of Z87; OSHA 1910.509 being newer references Z87-2010/2015/2020. Older Z87 versions may be allowable under one OSHA requirement, and not another, though most Z87 references are the same as 1910.133. This can cause confusion in product selection, as the year is not always marked on products, but may be referred to in literature, and some manufacturers have quality products still certified to older versions.
Also recently, ISEA released ANSI/ISEA Z87.62-2021 American National Standard for Occupational and Educational Eye and Face Protection Devices for Preventing Exposures Caused by Sprays or Spurts of Blood or Body Fluids. For protection from blood or body fluids under this standard, the protection will be marked Z87.62. See OSHA guidance for when this level of protection is required and the standard for the level of protection provided by the equipment. It may take time before OSHA adopts requirements of Z87.62 through reference, inspection directive, or interpretation; it may also take some time for manufacturers to make products that are compliant with the standard.
Sports goggles may be manufactured to ASTM F803 Standard Specification for Eye Protectors for Selected Sports, ASTM F3077, ASTM F2713, or others such as ASTM F1776 for Paintball. While various standards may be protective and appropriate for the respective sports, they are not allowed as a substitute for industrial protective eyewear. And likewise, ANSI Z87 ratings may not be correct for these activities.
Manufacture and Testing of Protective Eyewear
Impact safety glasses, lenses, and frames can be made from many different lens materials and must pass a ball impact test as specified in the appropriate safety standard such as Z87.1. The lens must survive and stay intact in the glasses frame so that an unbroken or broken lens doesn’t injure the eye. One way for an unbroken lens to impact the eye is for an inadequately designed frame to allow the lens to pop out during impact or to be impacted so hard that the lens deforms and pops out of the frame in a mode called oil canning. One high impact test is a 1.1-pound object dropped from 50 inches, but tests vary for specific types of eyewear and use.
The most popular forms of protective eyewear (wraparound glasses and protective goggles) involve injection molded thermoplastics and polyurethanes. Manufacturers inject melted plastic into metal molds (See figure 1) that create the lens and/or frame. Other processes are extrusion molding and blow molding. Frames are then smoothed if needed and lenses ground and or polished for optical clarity to the appropriate standard for use and type.
The workers who manufacture the safety eyewear may also face hazards including heated plastics, chemicals, high pressure, electrical, sharp cutting edges, falls, guarding and the need for lockout-tagout. The safety molding machines are typically governed under a standard such as ANSI/PLASTICS B151 family of standards by the Plastics Industry Association, Machine Safety standards by B11 Standards Inc., such as ANSI B11.0 and ANSI B11.19, ISO standards and of course OSHA regulations.
Reducing Eye Injuries
To reduce eye injuries, workers can wear personal protective eyewear, such as goggles, face shields, safety glasses, or full-face respirators. The eye protection chosen for specific work situations depends upon the nature and extent of the hazard, the circumstances of exposure, other protective equipment used, and personal vision needs. Eye protection should be fit to an individual or adjustable to provide appropriate coverage. While peripheral vision can be important, ANSI/ISEA Z87.1 requires wrap around coverage or side‑shields on safety glasses for impact protection (Z87+), which is an OSHA requirement by incorporation of the standard. Because of the OSHA 1910.133.a(2) requirement for side shields with flying objects, nearly all safety glasses will be high impact rated.
Of course, any selection of the proper eyewear or assessment of hazards requires an understanding of the protection afforded by different eyewear ratings and types; we hope we have provided information to assist in this understanding.
To reduce eye injuries and select eyewear and eye-protection employers can:
- Conduct an eye-hazard assessment of all workspaces and remove or reduce all eye hazards where possible, preferably as part of a full risk assessment.
- Select appropriate eye protection for the hazards as assessed, some manufacturers may have specific information for their products.
- Consider hazards due to electric, chemical, heat, dropping of eye protection, etc. and the need for retention, secondary protection, or different specification of materials or other aspects. Consider whether guidance for specific industries or hazards may also be applicable.
- Ensure that eyewear (employee- or employer-provided) is properly rated to at least the selected protection level.
- Be cognizant that work position can change requirements; for instance, working under a vehicle typically requires better fitting glasses or goggles because of falling debris in a direction different than intended.
- Provide appropriate personal protective eyewear for the types of hazards at the worksite, such as: goggles, face shields, safety glasses, or full-face respirators.
- Provide workers with prescription safety eyewear or eyewear that accommodates prescription eyewear as per 1910.133.a(3)
- Assist workers by providing training and assistance with proper selection, use, fit, and maintenance of protective equipment.
- Use signage to remind employees of required eyewear and PPE for areas and tasks.
- Provide emergency sterile eyewash solutions/stations and post first-aid instructions near hazardous areas. (OSHA 1910.151, ANSI/ISEA Z358.1)
- Use caution flags or guarding to identify potential hazards such as hanging or protruding objects.
- Optimize the lighting in the workplace for the tasks being performed.
Protective eyewear is important to reduce eye injuries, trauma, and vision loss. The manufacturing sector does a lot of work to design, test, and create eye and face protection products in a variety of activities. Evaluate your protective eyewear and simply commit to wearing it regularly at work and home, for you and your family.
Please share your experiences with protective eyewear at work in the comment section below.
Richard Current, PE, NIOSH Manufacturing Sector Program Assistant Coordinator.
James Harris, PhD, PE, Chief Protective Technology Branch, Division Safety Research, NIOSH.
Adam Smith, PhD, NIOSH Manufacturing Sector Program Assistant Coordinator.
Gary Roth, MS, PhD, NIOSH Manufacturing Sector Program Co-Coordinator.
Jenny Topmiller, MS, NIOSH Manufacturing Sector Program Co-Coordinator.
RJ Matetic, MS, PhD, NIOSH Associate Director for Manufacturing.
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Eye Safety Resources | NIOSH | CDC (Archived Materials)
Code of Federal Regulations (Annual Edition) | govinfo PDF versions of CFR by Year
One-Screen Data Search (bls.gov) – BLS CFOI