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You probably remember them from your high school chemistry class – big, bulky plastic googles that never fit right, were constantly fogging up, and would get you yelled at by the teacher if you took them off during a lab project. They may have been a pain to deal with, but your chemistry teacher was right on about one thing – eye protection is an absolute must if you’re engaging in any activity that could result in any type of foreign object getting into your eye.

Eye protection is one of the most necessary pieces of protective gear that most people will ever need to wear, but it is also, unfortunately, one of the most commonly neglected. This month, we’ll look at the importance of wearing eye protection during many everyday activities, how to choose the proper goggles or safety glasses for you, and how to wear them for maximum protection.

Who Needs Eye Protection?

You do, probably. Eye protection is essential for people doing all sorts of things, from mowing the lawn to pouring drain cleaner into a balky sink. If you are active or engage in almost any kind of DIY work, you probably do at least one thing a week for which you should wear safety glasses.

Eyesight hazards can come in hundreds of different forms, but they all fall into roughly three categories:

  • Impacts: Things moving at high speed and striking the eye
  • Chemical irritants: Drops or vapors from chemicals getting into the eye
  • Dust: Dust of any size getting into the eye and causing abrasions or other irritation

While most people are reasonably cautious around some of these threats, few of us take all of them as seriously as we ought.

When Should I Wear Eye Protection?

Generally speaking, you should wear eye protection any time you’re engaging in an activity that can cause any foreign body to enter your eye or if you’re doing something that puts you at risk of being impacted by a flying object, including debris, sports equipment, or anything else.

In other words, you should be donning safety glasses for these and thousands of other activities:

  • Using any type of lawn, garden, or landscaping equipment, including your lawnmower
  • Working with any power tool whatsoever, including pneumatic tools.
  • Using hammers, picks, mattocks, or any other striking tool.
  • Sawing, drilling, or sanding wood, or doing any type of metalwork.
  • Cutting anything harder than paper or cardboard, especially metal and hard plastic.
  • Using firearms, fireworks, or any other explosive or propellant.
  • Playing sports that put you in close proximity to high-velocity balls or other sports equipment – like racquetball, baseball, or hockey.
  • Working with any corrosive, toxic, or irritating chemical, including household cleaners, fuel, paints and stains, and solvents.
  • Spraying any chemical.
  • Doing anything that exposes you to a large amount of dust, like sandblasting, working in a wood shop, playing a sport on sandy ground, or performing demolition work.

Can’t I Wear My Eyeglasses or Sunglasses for Eye Protection?

No, no, a thousand times no! Sunglasses are great at protecting your eyes from harmful ultraviolet rays, but they’re definitely not designed to protect your eyes from impacts, dust, debris, or other foreign matter.

In fact, if you need impact-rated eye protection, wearing your regular eyeglasses or sunglasses by themselves may be more hazardous than going without altogether. An impact from something like a cut-off piece of metal or an errant racquetball can cause glass lenses to shatter into your eyes or force metal or plastic frames into the surface of your eye, causing severe damage.

If you wear eyeglasses, make sure to select goggles or safety glasses that will comfortably fit over your prescription glasses. If you wear eye protection daily, you may want to consider ordering prescription safety glasses, which will eliminate the need for you to “stack” goggles on top of your regular glasses. If you’re working out in the bright sun, choose polarized goggles or glasses that will protect your eyes both from the sun and from impacts and debris.

Not All Eye Protection Is Equal

Just like not all sunglasses are the same, not all safety glasses are the same. Some are rated for high-velocity impact, some are rated to protect against dust, others against chemicals, and some aren’t actually rated at all – they’re just plastic glasses that don’t offer any assurance of eye protection whatsoever.

Safety glasses are rated by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI), a nonprofit organization founded in 1918 that today sets standards for thousands of products. When shopping for eye protection, you want to make sure that the solution you choose has been rated by ANSI to protect against the hazards your chosen activity will generate.

ANSI maintains standards for dozens of different eye protection ratings, but the five most common are:

  • 1 – This rating is the most common and indicates that a pair of safety glasses has been tested to protect against impact at normal velocities.
  • Z87+ – This rating indicates that a pair of safety glasses has been tested to protect against high-velocity impacts. This rating is what you’ll need if you’re working with power tools, lawn equipment, or performing other activities that can throw debris at high speed.
  • D3 – This rating does not speak to impact resistance but rather to the fact that the glasses have been proven to protect against chemical droplets and splashes. You’ll need this protection if you’re working with any chemical, even household chemicals like ammonia or drain cleaner.
  • D4 – This is another foreign-body rating, indicating that the glasses are proven to protect against dust. This rating is appropriate for woodworking and activities where sand and dirt can get thrown up and into the eyes.
  • D5 – This is a more stringent rating that indicates that the glasses protect against fine dust, including things like sanding dust, some abrasives, and any other fine, powdery dust that can irritate the eyes.

When you’re shopping for eye protection, make sure to choose goggles or safety glasses that carry the appropriate ANSI rating(s) for the activities you’re planning to do. The ANSI ratings should appear on the glasses’ packaging and should also be stamped or printed on the frame and lenses of the glasses themselves.

Your Eyes Are Important – Keep Them Safe and Healthy!

Wearing eye protection is the best way to keep your vision safe from impacts and debris. Regular eye exams are the best way to keep your vision safe from conditions like glaucoma, cataracts, and other diseases of the eye – give us a call to schedule an eye exam: 478-923-5872.

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