Eye Protection: Safety Glasses: How Do You Decide between Safety Glasses and Safety Goggles?

By Deck, Anita; Roy, Ken | Technology and Engineering Teacher, November 2017 | Go to article overview

Eye Protection: Safety Glasses: How Do You Decide between Safety Glasses and Safety Goggles?


Deck, Anita, Roy, Ken, Technology and Engineering Teacher


The Bureau of Labor Statistics (2008) reported that almost three out of five workplace eye injuries are due to not wearing appropriate eye protection--either not wearing eye protection at all, or wearing the wrong type of eye protection. Safety glasses and safety goggles are not always interchangeable, as there are several stark differences that separate the two types of protective eyewear. When it comes to eye safety, there are some situations in which regular safety glasses will work adequately for the needs of the STEM education classroom or laboratory. However, there are certain instances in which safety goggles must be used for safer protection. How do you decide between safety glasses and safety goggles?

Safety Goggles or Safety Glasses?

The type of eye protection required for a teacher, student, or visitor in a makerspace, shop, or laboratory setting is dependent upon the hazards and resulting risks present in that area. Appropriate eye protection should be determined by performing a hazard analysis and risk assessment. The risk assessment should take into account the hazards that will be present in the makerspace, classroom, or laboratory during the activity. The assessment should also take into consideration the work of the student group as a whole, not just that of an individual.

Safety Glasses

In technology and engineering education, safety glasses are usually the eyewear of choice for many laboratory activities. Safety glasses are intended to shield the wearer's eyes from high-impact hazards such as flying fragments, objects, large chips, and particles. The safety frames, safety lenses, and side shields normally provide adequate protection and safety from these flying objects. Safety glasses help protect eyes from objects that could bruise, pierce, or damage the eyes and are tested to withstand high-velocity impacts. Appropriately rated safety frames and lenses have been found to withstand the impact from a 1/4" steel ball traveling at 150 fps (feet per second) without dislodging the lenses. Safety glasses should be used when there are solid product hazards resulting from chipping, grinding, sawing, drilling, sanding, soldering, plating, buffing, working in dusty conditions, machining, riveting, or performing other similar hazardous tasks. Wear safety glasses for the duration of an activity--prior to setting up until cleanup is finished. Even activities such as hot-gluing require the use of safety glasses in the event that a student were to accidentally get this item near someone's eyes during use or while moving around in the laboratory. For activities such as welding, brazing, casting, or involving lasers, specially rated face shields, goggles, or helmets are required. Safer Makerspaces, Fab Labs, and STEM Labs: A Collaborative Guide (Roy & Love, 2017) provides further details regarding the appropriate rated eye protection for these types of activities.

The frames of safety spectacles are constructed of metal and/or plastic and can be fitted with either corrective or piano impact-resistant lenses. Side shields may be incorporated into the frames of safety glasses when needed. Consider each component of safety glasses (frames, lenses, side shields) when selecting the appropriate eyewear for the STEM education classroom environment. All safety glasses should have a minimal ANSI/ ISEA Z87.1 D3 rating.

Safety Goggles

While safety glasses protect from high impact, complete eye protection from most elements in the air is not provided because there are small gaps around the top, sides, and bottom. Safety goggles provide 360-degree coverage around the eyes and include a strap to hold the goggles securely against the face. For younger or smaller students, long straps should be trimmed or tied back to avoid creating additional safety hazards. Safety goggles also usually contain breathing or ventilation holes to help with air flow and prevent fogging. …

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