Many Americans say that losing their eyesight would have the greatest impact on their day-to-day life – more than losing a limb, their hearing or their ability to speak.

Wearing ANSI Z87 protective compliant eyewear (which costs less than $10) can prevent serious eye injuries. OSHA’s personal protective standard (1926.102[b]) requires that protective eye and face protection meet or exceed the test requirements of ANSI Z87.1. The ANSI Z87 identification is typically located on the eyeware frame. The protective eyewear must also have side shields built into the design, or attachable side shields that meet the above-referenced ANSI standard.


  • Striking or scraping – Most eye injuries are caused by airborne fragments like dust or other small particles from tools and equipment hitting or scraping the eye. Keep in mind that dust or other materials can accumulate on the eyebrows or on the bill of a hard hat and can dislodge and fall into the eyes.
  • Chemical splash – Industrial chemicals or cleaning products are common causes of chemical burns.
  • Thermal burns and radiant energy – UV rays or thermal gases produced during welding can result in serious damage.


If you get something in your eye, don’t rub it. You can scratch your cornea or drive the fragment in even deeper, resulting in a more serious injury. This increases the likelihood of infection. To remove a particle from your eye, flush the surface with clean water or a sterile saline solution and seek medical attention.


To meet OSHA’s personal protective requirement, prescription eyewear must also meet the test requirements of ANSI Z87.1 (1926.102[b]). The ANSI standard also requires prescription eyewear to have side shields built into the design or attachable side shields. Average prescription eyewear provides no impact protection against flying debris. An impact could shatter the lens, embedding it into the eye and creating a greater injury.

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There is no shortage of excuses for not wearing eye protection: they are uncomfortable; they are dirty, they are scratched; they fog up; or you forgot to put them on. Unfortunately, every day about 2,000 U.S. workers suffer a job-related eye injury that requires medical treatment, according to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health. About one-third of the injuries are treated in hospital emergency rooms, and more than 100 of these injuries result in one or more days away from work.

OSHA has identified five major dangers to your eyes.

  • Dust – Common eye hazard that can scratch and cause infection.
  • Flying debris – Eye injuries from debris like cement chips, metal fragments and wood particles.
  • Chemicals – Eye injuries from chemical splashes, mists and vapors (gas and diesel fuel).
  • Optical radiation – Welding and laser activity create high concentrations of heat, infrared and ultraviolet radiation.
  • Penetration – Damage to the eye and face from hand and power tools or objects struck by a tool.


When using equipment like cut-off saws, grinders, chipping hammers and other power tools, it’s important to wear a face shield along with safety glasses. The face shield helps to prevent cast-off, high-velocity debris from impacting the eye and face. The face shield can also provide face protection should a grinding or cutting blade shatter.

All eye and face protection, such as safety glasses, goggles and face shields must be marked that they meet or exceed the test requirements of ANSI Z87.1-1989, 2003, 2010. The marking is typically located somewhere on the frame of the glasses or the lens of the face shield or goggles.


Regular prescription glasses do NOT have the level of impact protection required under ANSI Z87.1. Those people that wear prescription eyewear must either wear approved safety glasses with prescription lenses, side shields and frames that meet or exceed the ANSI Z87.1 standard or wear approved, ANSI-standard eye protection designed to be worn over their regular prescription glasses.


Should a particle or other debris get into your eyes, flush the surface with a sterile saline solution from the first aid kit, and seek medical attention. Some particles may become deeply embedded and must be removed by a physician.


The most important thing you can do to protect your vision at work is to always wear the correct eye and face protection for the work activity. This can prevent more than 90% of serious eye injuries, according to the American Academy of Ophthalmology.

Download a printable PDF and recording form here.

Members can download the audio version of this toolbox talk here.