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OSHA Eye and Face Protection

Thousands of people are blinded each year from work-related eye injuries that could have been prevented with the proper selection and use of eye and face protection. Eye injuries alone cost more than $300 million per year in lost production time, medical expenses, and worker compensation.


Personal protective equipment (PPE) alone should not be relied on to protect against hazards. Use PPE in conjunction with guards, engineering controls, and sound manufacturing practices.


OSHA requires employers to ensure the safety of all employees in the work environment. Eye and face protection must be provided whenever necessary to protect against chemical, environmental, radiological or mechanical irritants and hazards. Eye and face protection is addressed in specific standards for the general industry, shipyard employment, longshoring, and the construction industry. This page highlights OSHA standards, Federal Registers (rules, proposed rules, and notices), standard interpretations (official letters of interpretation of the standards), and national consensus standards related to eye and face protection.


Workplace Eye Safety

Why is eye safety at work important?

Eye injuries in the workplace are very common. More than 2,000 people injure their eyes at work each day. About 1 in 10 injuries require one 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 eye protection could have lessened the severity or even prevented 90% of eye injuries in accidents.


What are the common causes of eye injuries?

Common causes for eye injuries are:
·         Flying objects (bits of metal, glass)
·         Tools
·         Particles
·         Chemicals
·         Harmful radiation
·         Any combination of these or other hazards


What is my best defense against an eye injury?

There are three things you can do to help prevent an eye injury:
·         Know the eye safety dangers at work-complete an eye hazard assessment
·         Eliminate hazards before starting work. Use machine guarding, work screens, or other engineering controls)
·         Use proper eye protection.

When should you protect my eyes at work?

You should wear safety eyewear whenever there is a chance of eye injury. Anyone working in or passing through areas that pose eye hazards should wear protective eyewear.  

What type of safety eyewear is available to you?

 Safety eyewear protection includes: 
·         Non-prescription and prescription safety glasses
·         Goggles
·         Face shields
·         Welding helmets
·         Full-face respirators  

What type of safety eye protection should you wear?

The type of safety eye protection you should wear depends on the hazards in your workplace. If you are working in an area that has particles, flying objects, or dust, you must at least wear safety glasses with side protection (side shields). If you are working with chemicals, you should wear goggles. If you are working near hazardous radiation (welding, lasers, or fiber optics) you must use special-purpose safety glasses, goggles, face shields, or helmets designed for that task.


What is the difference between glass, plastic, and polycarbonate safety lenses?

All three types of safety lenses meet or exceed the requirements for protecting your eyes.  

Glass lenses

·         Are not easily scratched
·         Can be used around harsh chemicals
·         Can be made in your corrective prescription
·         Are sometimes heavy and uncomfortable  

Plastic lenses

·         Are lighter weight
·         Protect against welding splatter
·         Are not likely to fog
·         Are not as scratch-resistant as glass  

Polycarbonate lenses

·         Are lightweight
·         Protect against welding splatter
·         Are not likely to fog
·         Are stronger than glass and plastic
·         Are more impact resistant than glass or plastic
·         Are not as scratch resistant as glass 

Eye and Face Protection - Hazards and Solutions

Many workers are unaware of the potential hazards in their work environments making them more vulnerable to injury. The following references aid in recognizing and evaluating eye and face hazards in the workplace.

§  Personal Protective Equipment. OSHA Publication 3151, (2003). Discusses the types of equipment most commonly used to protect the head, torso, arms, hands, and feet. Additional topics include requirements, hazard assessment, selection, and employee training.

§  Toolbox Talk: Eye Safety. Electronic Library of Construction Safety and Health (eCLOSH). Discusses how and why eye injuries occur in the workplace and what to do to prevent them.

§  Eye and Face Protection. OSHA eTool. Provides a comprehensive hazard assessment, information about selecting protective devices for the workplace, as well as OSHA requirements.

§  Selecting PPE for the Workplace. Provides a hazard assessment to determine the risk of exposure to eye and face hazards, including those which may be encountered in an emergency, and offers controls.

§  Eye Protection for Farmers. National Ag Safety Database (NASD), University of Main Cooperative Extension, (2002, April). Provides an overview of causes of injury, eye protection, and basic first aid.

§  How Much Eye Protection Is Enough? Electronic Library of Construction Occupational Safety and Health (eCLOSH), (2002, February). Provides help in determining when more eye protection is needed.

§  Eye Protection in the Workplace. OSHA Fact Sheet 93-03, (1993). Provides information about eye protection in the workplace including causes and prevention of eye injuries.

Possible Solutions

Personal protective equipment (PPE) for the eyes and face is designed to prevent or lessen the severity of injuries to workers when engineering the administrative controls are not feasible or effective in reducing these exposures to acceptable levels. The following references provide possible solutions for eye and face hazards.

§  Eye and Face Protection. OSHA eTool. Provides a comprehensive hazard assessment, information about selecting protective devices for the workplace, as well as OSHA requirements.

§  OSHA Requirements. Focuses on PPE requirements, training and qualification, and the ability to anticipate and avoid injury from job-related hazards.

§  Eye Washes & Deluge Showers. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Discusses the need to install and maintain an emergency eye wash unit wherever a chemical or physical hazard may pose a serious risk of injury to someone's eye.

§  Emergency Eyewash Equipment. Manitoba Labour Department, Workplace Safety and Health Division WorkSafe Bulletin No. 104, (2002, December), 175 KB PDF, 2 pages. Includes a summary of the ANSI requirements.

§  Eye Safety: Emergency Response and Disaster Recovery. National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), (2001, September). Includes information about eye safety, types of eye and face protection, and first aid for eye injuries.

§  Personal Protective Equipment Program. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Office of Health and Safety (OHS), (1997). Provides information on eye and face protection including injury prevention, prescription safety eyewear, and emergency eyewash facilities.

§  Contact Lens Use in a Chemical Environment. National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) Publication No. 2005-139, (2005, June). Provides safety guidelines for contact lens wearers working in chemical environments.


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