Safety eyewear is a form of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), which is designed to protect the eye area from damage. This damage could be in the form of flying particles in the air, chemical splashes, or other hazards including bright light. When choosing safety eyewear you need to make sure that it is certified to the European Regulation EN 166. Another thing to check for is a Certification Mark (or CE symbol) to confirm that the safety eyewear is manufactured to the correct standard. There are two main types of safety eyewear which we will explore in further detail, safety glasses and safety goggles.
Safety glasses are exactly as the name suggests, glasses that are designed to protect the eyes from damage. They tend to be a simple, yet effective design and they come in a variety of styles to suit your individual preferences. There are some which have a sports design, and others which are simpler and look more like traditional glasses. Safety glasses also have a wide range of different protective coatings for the lenses, which means they offer protection against different hazards. Here are some of the key features of safety glasses:
1. Lens size & shape
The larger the lens, the more of the eye that is protected. There are also lots of different shape lenses available as the safety glasses need to be as close to the wearers face as possible. Most eyewear has a wrap-around lens, which means that the lens is concave and follows the contours of the face. Some of the more advanced designs angle the outside edge of the lens back even further towards the face. One thing to be aware of is some designs can partially obstruct your vision or cause blind spots when being worn.
2. Side-arm style
Of course the priority with safety glasses is to protect the eye, but comfort and fit are also key if you are wearing them for large proportions of the day. You can even add to the level of protection that safety glasses provide by opting for a wider side-arm which can help to protect the temple area.
3. Optical clarity of the lens
Optical clarity refers to how well you can see out of the safety glasses. Class 1 is the highest level of optical clarity, and means that the safety eyewear can be worn continuously. Class 2 are perfect for intermittent use, and Class 3 are only suitable for one-off use (not for lengthy periods of time).
4. Lens protective properties
Now onto the variety of properties that lenses can have. In our safety eyewear standards explained blog you will see we have gone into a lot of detail about these properties, but here are the main ones that you need to be aware of:
- Anti-scratch: this type of lens coating protects the surface of the lens from damage
- Anti-mist/anti-fog: this coating prevents the lens from misting or fogging, which is particularly important if you are wearing a face mask.
- Anti-glare: this is often applied to safety glasses which are designed for outdoor use.
- Welding filters: these protect wearers from the bright light associated with welding.
- UV filters: these are different from anti-glare filters, as they actually protect the eyes from UV radiation specifically.
5. Mechanical strength
This refers to the level of mechanical impact that the safety glasses can withstand. The maximum level of protection is Low Energy Impact Rating ‘F’. This would protect a wearer from a 6mm thick, 0.86g ball travelling towards their face at a speed of 45m/s. So a fairly substantial level of protection! It isn’t just the lens that is tested for mechanical strength, the side-arms must also be able to withstand the test.
Safety goggles differ from safety glasses in two main ways: they are secured to the face with an elasticated strap that runs around the back of the head, and they have an inner seal to close the gap between the lens and the wearer’s face.
These two differences straight away provide more protection:
- The mechanical impact protection moves up from Low Energy Impact Rating ‘F’ in safety glasses, to Medium Energy Impact Rating ‘B’ with safety goggles. This means they can protect a wearer from the same size and thickness ball, but travelling at a speed of 120m/s instead of 45m/s.
- As the seal fits closely to the wearer’s face, safety goggles provide extra protection against airborne particles and liquid splashes.
Optical clarity doesn’t differ that much between safety glasses and safety goggles, so you should still choose a safety goggle with an Optical Clarity Class 1 rating. The range of lens properties isn’t quite so extensive with safety goggles either, so you will be a little more limited for choice.
Ventilation is a key feature to look out for with safety goggles. As they have an inner seal, airflow is limited and therefore air easily accumulates and turns into mist. In order to avoid this, most safety goggles have some form of ventilation built into them either around the side or at the top of the goggle frame. There are two types of vents to be aware of:
- Direct vents – these are open and uncovered so allow for a higher volume of airflow. However, it is important to remember that this will mean the wearer is more exposed to chemical splashes.
- Indirect vents – these are covered vents which give you the best of both worlds. They allow airflow, but prevent any liquid splashes from entering the vents.
We briefly mentioned that when choosing safety eyewear you should check for both the EN 166 safety standard, as well as a certification mark. Here are some other safety standards that you should be aware of:
- EN169 – filters for welding and related techniques
- EN170 – ultraviolet filters
- EN172 – sunglare filters
As you will notice all of these safety standards have ‘EN’ in front of them, which means they are European Standards. Choosing safety eyewear marked to these standards gives you peace of mind that they are manufactured with the basic Health & Safety requirements in mind. Each code has a specific set of guidelines that must be adhered to when they are manufactured.
How BETAFIT can help
As well as being a specialist UK manufacturer of safety eyewear and other types of PPE, our in-house team are experts when it comes to the latest regulations and requirements. We have technical data sheets available for all of our products, which show how they are compliant with all the required global standards. If you would like any further help on choosing the right safety eyewear for your needs, give us a call on 01472 867 467, or email us on [email protected].