Standards for safety eyewear explained

Safety eyewear is an important form of PPE that protects one of the most important, exposed and sensitive parts of the body. Up to 2,000 people injure their eyes at work each day and about 1 in 10 injuries require 1 or more missed workdays to recover from.

Of the total amount of work-related injuries, 10-20% will cause temporary or permanent vision loss. Experts believe that the right safety eyewear protection could have lessened the severity or even prevented 90% of eye injuries in accidents.

So how can safety eyewear help to prevent these accidents? By meeting the relevant EN standards to make sure they’re up to the job.

What are the standards for safety eyewear? 

EN standards—European standards—relate to products, services or systems within the single European market. They set out requirements for a specific item, material, component, system or service. They represent a model specification and a technical solution against which a market can trade.

European Standards for Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) have been developed as the preferred means of demonstrating equipment conformity with the basic health and safety requirements (BHSRs) of the EC Personal Protective Equipment Directive (89/686/EEC).

PPE, such as safety eyewear, is subjected to stringent testing to ensure it complies with all the necessary requirements and for each form of PPE an EN code is provided. Each code/number has a specific set of guidelines that must be adhered to throughout the creation and supply process.

All PPE is required to be marked with the specifications of its standard, with lettering/numbering acting as an indication of capability. Lens and frames are tested and marked with the appropriate value.

Personal eye protection – EN 166 

EN 166 is known as the minimum standard requirement for all Safety Eyewear.  The main categories of this standard relate to the Optical Class and the Mechanical Strength of the eyewear, and there can also be other categories tested such as those relating to the Fields of Use and Lens properties.

The standard reached by an individual pair of safety glasses will be indicated by a series of letters and numbers that are marked on the lens and the frame of the glasses. These markings and what they mean are detailed further down this article.

safety goggles

Filters for welding and related techniques – EN169 

EN 169 standard defines requirements for lens filters intended to protect employees during:

  • Light flame cutting
  • Hard soldering
  • Welding
  • Arc gouging
  • Plasma cutting

Ultraviolet filters – EN170 

EN 170 is intended for wearers who are exposed to ultraviolet light. UV rays are pretty unavoidable in general life and in the workplace. Long days spent outside can lead to heightened exposure.

Short-term exposure to UV radiation without wearing protective glasses will most likely cause short-term effects similar to sunburn in your eyes. Fortunately, these symptoms are usually only temporary. However, if your eyes are exposed to long-term UV rays you stand a greater risk of developing cataracts or degeneration.

The EN170 standard of filters ensures that the protection levels and transmittance requirements for ultraviolet filters are met so damage to the eyes is minimised.

Just as sunscreen stops UV rays from penetrating and burning the skin, UV glasses are coated with a layer that absorbs the harsh rays and stops them from reaching the eyes.

A common misconception with glasses is that the colour of the lens impacts the amount of UV protection. However, the colour of the lens has more to do with light visibility. For example, our Xcel, Clear Anti-Scratch Eyewear is fully compliant with EN170 and has no tint at all.

The fit of the glasses is also important and full coverage all around the eye can depend on the work environment. UV rays can come from any direction and the different environments will require different fits. BETAFIT design their glasses to fit with the face, to keep out the harmful UV rays wherever they’re coming from.

EN166 eyewear

Sun glare filters – EN172

EN 172 is intended for protection against sun glare and is a unique regulation for personal eye protection. It dictates the required physical properties of filters used to reduce sun glare whilst on-site.

Sun glare is reduced by applying an Anti-Reflective (or “Anti-glare”) coating to the lens, which improves vision, reduces eyestrain and also gives the eyewear a better appearance.  It does this by virtually cancelling out the reflections from the inner and outer surfaces of the lens.

EN 172 lenses often have a tint, or shade, as well – most often a Smoke-Grey colour, but Blue and Light-Gold colours, amongst others, are also available.  The tint is used to adjust the Visible Light Transmission (VLT) of the lens – the amount of light it lets through – and so is often used in conjunction with an Anti-glare filter.

Safety eyewear frame markings: what do they mean? 

Safety eyewear frame markings are a simple but clear way of displaying the capability of individual pairs of glasses. That way consumers, employers and distributors can ensure that their employees remain protected against challenges and risks in the workplace and remain compliant.

Both the frame and lens are tested so both must include the CE symbol and the logo. The CE marking certifies that a product has met EU consumer safety, health or environmental requirements. If EN166 is not stamped on the frame then look elsewhere as all Safety glasses need this standard at least.

The further markings are split into categories:

Field of Use: 

  • 3 – Protection against liquid droplets and splashes. This is usually only found on Goggles where a full seal is made around the eyes.
  • 4 – Protection against large dust particles over 5 microns in size.
  • 5 – Protection against dust and fine dust particles smaller than 5 microns.

Optical Class – (the first digit seen after EN166):

This refers to the clarity of the lens, indicating how long and how often the glasses can be safely worn.  The relevant number will be marked on the lens. It is divided into three levels:

  • Class 1:  Best optical quality (distortion free) and can be worn continuously without harming the eyes.
  • Class 2:  Lesser optical quality.  Suitable for intermittent use.
  • Class 3:  Lowest optical quality.  Suitable for occasional use but should not be worn for any lengthened period of time.

safety PPE

Mechanical Strength:

This refers to the level of impact the glasses can withstand, also including a test for impact at extreme temperatures.  The different markings that can be found on the lens and frame and what they mean are as follows:

  • S:  Increased Robustness.  Resists a 22mm 43g ball falling 1.30m at 5.1m/s.
  • F:  Low Energy Impact.  Resists a 6mm, 0.86g ball travelling at 45m/s.  Maximum protection for Glasses.
  • B:  Medium Energy Impact.  Resists a 6mm, 0.86g ball travelling at 120m/s.  Maximum protection for Goggles.
  • A:  High Energy Impact.  Resists a 6mm, 0.86g ball travelling at 190m/s.  Maximum protection for Face Shields.

Optional Requirements:

  • K: Resistance to surface damage by Fine Particles.  Often referred to as “Anti-Scratch”.
  • N: Resistance to Lens Fogging.  Referred to as “Anti-Fog” or “Anti-Mist”.
  • T:  Mechanical Resistance at Extreme Temperature of -5°C and +55°C

If the eyewear has a different mechanical strength rating for the lens and the frame, then the lower of the two ratings must be used.

Radiation Protection: 

  • 2 – UV Protection (EN170). The number 2 indicates the filter may effect colour recognition
  • 2C or 3 – UV Protection (EN170). The number 2C (previously 3) indicates the filter allows good colour recognition.
  • 4 – Infrared Protection (EN171). i.e. protection from heat
  • 5 – Solar Protection (EN172). i.e. 100% UV sun glare protection with no infrared (IR) protection.
  • 6 – Solar Protection (EN172). i.e. 100% UV sun glare protection with infrared (IR) protection.

Light transmission: 

  • 1.2 – 74.4% – 100%
  • 1.7 – 43.2% – 58.1%
  • 2.5 – 17.8% – 291.%
  • 3.1 – 8.0% – 17.8%

For more information on the markings of specific regulations, check out the EN standards and markings for eye and face protection.

workplace PPE

Why these standards are important? 

In the workplace, health and safety regulations are essential to the day to day protection of the employees and the employer. Many hazards are present in today’s work environments, and it’s the employer’s job to keep their employees safe from these hazards.

These standards help various parties to understand the capability of their selected equipment and increase their awareness of its suitability for different situations in the workplace.

Where to buy fully compliant safety eyewear? 

BETAFIT are a customer-centred PPE manufacturer that specialises in the key four aspects of personal protective equipment. We constantly strive to outperform required regulations with innovative and secure design. Every product of PPE we create is done in such a way that it exceeds the basic required standard to keep individuals safer in the workplace.

BETAFIT products have been designed by wearers, for wearers. The greater the comfort, the greater the use. The better the fit, the better it will protect you. Technical data sheets are available for all BETAFIT products so that we can demonstrate our compliance with all relevant global product standards and give our consumers peace of mind about their safety.

Interested in staying safe in the workplace with PPE that works? Find your closest BETAFIT PPE distributor and pick up some of our amazing PPE products. Have a question about Regulation and conforming PPE? Give us a call on 08455 444 000 or email [email protected]