Saving Sight

July 1, 2009
Thousands of people each year are blinded by 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, according to OSHA. Experts estimate that as many as 90 percent of all eye injuries could be prevented through the use of personal protective equipment (PPE).

OSHA warns that PPE alone should not be relied on to protect against hazards, and advises using PPE “in conjunction with guards, engineering controls and sound manufacturing practices.”

OSHA requires employers to provide workers with eye and face protection whenever necessary to protect against chemical, environmental, radiological or mechanical irritants and hazards. Eye and face protection is addressed in specific standards for general industry, shipyard employment, longshoring and the construction industry.

Section 5(a)(1) of the OSH Act, the General Duty Clause, requires employers to “furnish to each of his employees employment and a place of employment which are free from recognized hazards that are causing or are likely to cause death or serious physical harm to his employees.” Section 5(a)(2) requires employers to “comply with occupational safety and health standards promulgated under this Act.”

Some 24 states, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands have OSHA-approved state plans and have adopted their own standards and enforcement policies. For the most part, these states adopt standards that are identical to Federal OSHA. However, some states have adopted different standards applicable to this topic or may have different enforcement policies.

Information about eye protection can be found in these OSHA standards:

General Industry (29 CFR 1910)

  • 1910 Subpart I, Personal protective equipment

    • 1910.132, General requirements [related topic page]
    • 1910.133, Eye and face protection
    • Appendix B, Non-mandatory compliance guidelines for hazard assessment and personal protective equipment selection
  • 910 Subpart Q, Welding, cutting and brazing

    • 1910.252, General requirements [related topic page]
    • 1910.252(b)(2), Eye protection

Shipyard Employment (29 CFR 1915)

  • 1915 Subpart I, Personal protective equipment

    • 1915.153, Eye and face protection

Longshoring (29 CFR 1918)

  • 1918 Subpart J, Personal protective equipment

    • 1918.101, Eye and face protection

Construction Industry (29 CFR 1926)

  • 1926 Subpart E, Personal protective and life saving equipment [related topic page]

    • 1926.95, Criteria for personal protective equipment
    • 1926.102, Eye and face protection

Several national consensus standards apply to eye protection as well. Although these are not OSHA standards, they do provide guidance from their originating organizations related to worker protection. They include standards from the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) such as:

  • Z87.1-2003, Occupational and Educational Personal Eye and Face Protection Devices. Sets forth criteria related to the description, general requirements, testing, marking, selection, care and use of protectors to minimize or prevent injuries from such hazards as impact, non-ionizing radiation and chemical-type injuries in occupational and educational environments including, but not limited to, machinery operations, material welding and cutting, chemical handling and assembly operations.

  • Z87.1-1989, Practice for Occupational/Educational Eye and Face Protection. American Society of Safety Engineers (ASSE), Secretariat for ANSI Standard (Revised 1998). Recognizes the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) study that revealed the need for angular protection in addition to frontal protection.

  • Z358.1-1998, Emergency Eyewash and Shower Equipment. Provides requirements for eyewash facilities, including location and flow specifications.

Prevent Blindness Offers Workplace Guidance

As health insurance costs continue to rise, employers are looking at ways to cut costs without cutting quality or access to care for their employees. Promoting eye health, in particular, is crucial to ensuring that employers keep their health care costs down. The more vision ailments that employees have, the more medical care they utilize, which generates increased health-related expenditures for the employer.

Prevent Blindness America, the nation's oldest volunteer eye health and safety organization, educates corporations and their employees on the importance of vision health, including warning signs of potential eye disease and safety tips on how to avoid vision-threatening eye accidents. Prevent Blindness America has recently launched its Healthy Eyes Vision Wellness Program designed to help companies provide the tools employees need to protect their eye health.

With more than 100 organizations already participating, the program offers educational and promotional materials that help to deliver critical vision wellness information in the workplace. The materials were developed by leading eye care professionals including ophthalmologists, optometrists and research professionals designed to encourage employees to make vision care a health priority and help to avoid needless pain and suffering from preventable eye diseases.

“Healthy vision is something that is so vital to our quality of life, yet we tend to take it for granted that it will always be there for us,” said Hugh R. Parry, president and CEO of Prevent Blindness America. “This program will allow companies to provide useful and timely information about eye wellness and eye safety to their most important resource, their employees. “

The program is free, and participants in the Healthy Eyes Vision Wellness Program receive:

  • Vision Wellness in the Workplace Promotion Guide
  • Prevent Blindness America's Healthy Vision Observance Calendar
  • Monthly e-mailed vision health and safety posters, fact sheets and eye health and safety news updates
  • The Common Eye Myths poster
  • Adult Vision Risk Assessment for employees
  • Sample Healthy Eyes Vision Wellness Guide

In addition to the Healthy Eyes Vision Wellness Program, Prevent Blindness America also encourages companies to enroll in its Wise Owl Eye Safety Recognition Program. Since 1948, this program has provided safety education materials to employers to help their employees avoid eye accidents and offers recognition to companies and individuals who have saved vision through dedication to proper eye protection in the workplace.

To find out how your company can sign up for the Healthy Eyes Vision Wellness Program, the Wise Owl Eye Safety Recognition Program, or to receive free information on eye safety in the workplace, call Prevent Blindness America at 800-331-2020 or visit

Polycarbonate Frames

The Inertia is the latest edition to MCR Safety's Plus Series of protective eyewear. This lightweight, polycarbonate frame features a single, flexible lens that blocks 99.9 percent of ultraviolet rays and provides an excellent orbital seal. Additional features include a non-slip, wrap-around TPR temple sleeve for comfort and grip; a soft, secure TPR nose pad; and an exclusive Duramass scratch-resistant coating. Some styles also feature AF4 anti-fog coating. This eyewear is available in black, silver and white frame options.
MCR Safety
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Universal Sideshields

The Safemate B-22 Multi-Hazard Shield utilizes pliable, FDA-approved, medical grade polymers that provide expanded coverage, protection and comfort for extended wear in the medical, personal and industrial hazard environments. The B-22+ Auto adjusts to fit any frame shape (small, medium or large) while self-adapting to unique individual facial features. They are available for different applications in clear, smoke, ice blue, amber and ebony and meet ANSI Z-87.1.
Safety Optical Service
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Safety Spectacles

The XFC (Xtreme Fashion & Comfort) 9100 safety spectacle features a lightweight nylon half frame and a single lens design. It features soft, flexible, rubberized temple tips for a secure fit; a ribbed, rubberized nose piece; and a hard-coated 8-base curve polycarbonate lens. The impact-defying polycarbonate lenses protect eyes from 100 percent of harmful UV radiation. The XFC 9100 is available with black or crimson frames and with clear, smoke, amber, mirror, TrueView or Clear Polynium Plus lenses. The XFC 9100 meets ANSI Z87.1 standards.
H.L. Bouton Co. Inc.
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Contour Eye Protection

The KleenGuard V50 contour eye protection features an integrated fog and particle shield and all-around comfortable foam surrounding the lens. It provides comfortable protection while reducing fogging by 50 percent over traditional safety glasses when worn with an industrial respirator. The V50 also contours to the face, providing a better, more customized fit with the performance industrial work demands. Other features include ratcheted temples, scratch-resistant coating and impact resistance, along with an adjustable lens angle.
Kimberly-Clark Professional
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Summer Safety Eyewear

Gateway Safety's new 4X4 Sport eyewear protects outdoor workers in the summer with lightweight, polycarbonate lenses that absorb more than 99.9 percent of UVA and UVB rays. The 4X4 Sport features high-end sunglass styling; a strong, four-sided, wraparound frame that weighs just 1 ounce; polycarbonate dual lenses with an anti-scratch coating for a clear view; a soft nosepiece provides a snug, secure fit; and flexible temple tips to relieve pressure behind the ears. The glasses meet or exceed the ANSI Z87.1+ and CSA Z94.3 standards.
Gateway Safety Inc.
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Sealed Safety Eyewear

The new Uvex Seismic sealed eyewear provides an ergonomic, adaptable design combining comfort and high performance protection against impact, sun, wind, dust and debris. The adaptive design can be worn with snap-in temples or headband and with or without the cushion-lined sub-frame. With these glasses, workers can adapt to their environment and address a range of hazards, such as grinding, chipping, shaving and sanding. Features include soft nose pads that conform to a variety of facial profiles and minimize slippage; a high-quality foam sub-frame for cushioning and protection from fine particles; padded temple tips; and an adjustable, flame-resistant headband.
Uvex by Sperian
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