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Eye protection: safety glasses: How do you decide between safety glasses and safety goggles?

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. ANSI/ISEA Z87.1 D3-rated safety goggles should be worn when the following risks are present:

* High-velocity debris and blunt impacts *

* Splashing liquids and airborne droplets *

* Airborne dust particles **

* Caustic vapors

* Safety goggles can be used for either liquid or solid hazards. Safety glasses may only be used for solid hazards.

** When dealing with high quantities of dust products, the goggle rating should indicate D4 for dust or D5 for fine dust.

Types of Safety Goggles

Safety goggles, if worn correctly, can provide sufficient protection from these hazards. However, the proper type of safety goggle should be used for the specific work or activity performed. Common types of goggles include:

* Direct vent: These goggles have multiple perforations around their body to promote air flow, which reduces lens fogging. Direct vent goggles are primarily used for impact protection. Do not use this type of goggle for liquid, dust, or caustic vapor protection!

* Indirect vent: This style of goggle uses covered vents to increase air flow. Since the vents are covered, they provide better protection from liquid splash and dust. However, the indirect vent goggle should not be used around caustic vapors. Even though the covered vents help with airflow, indirect vent goggles will fog up more often.

* Non-vented: This style of goggle is completely sealed and does not have any vents. The non-vented goggle provides excellent protection from impact, splash, dust, and caustic vapors. Due to the lack of vents, these goggles tend to fog up quickly; an anti-fog lens is necessary.

Recommendations for Educators

The recommendations suggested here are not intended to address all eyewear issues pertaining to safety glasses and safety goggles, but rather to raise STEM educator awareness and serve as a resource to locate further information.

1. Understand your school system's policies as well as state statutes, regulations, and laws (OSHA 29 CFR 1910.133 Personal Protective Equipment - Eye and Face Protection: document?p table=STANDARDS&p id-9778) regarding the use of eye protection in laboratories. For example, in Maryland, state regulations require ALL occupants to wear proper eye protection when they are in a room where a hazardous activity is being performed by themselves or others. This serves as an excellent reminder that visitors must wear the protective devices required in hazardous areas. Extra eyewear should be available at all times for visitors.

2. The entrance to all makerspaces, shops, laboratories, or other areas that require industrial-quality eye protection should be posted with signage indicating the requirements of appropriate eyewear selection. In addition, machine, equipment, process, or laboratory areas requiring operators to wear specific eye and face protection should be posted with warning signs.

3. Only safety glasses and indirectly vented goggles marked with at least the minimum ANSI/ISEA Z87.1 D3 ratings are recommended to be purchased for eye protection. This rating is generally found on the lens or temple of the glasses. Some eye protection will have the "Z87+" rating. Note that "Z87+" indicates high-velocity impact, and "Z87" alone signifies basic impact.

4. Instructors have a duty to check eye protection prior to any lab activity and must not allow them to be used if they are broken (indirect vents cut out/missing, cracked lens, etc.).

5. According to OSHA standards, school boards (the employers) are responsible for providing funding to purchase eyewear as deemed appropriate by teachers (the content experts). Teachers are responsible for selecting eyewear (based on OSHA standards, the employer's personal protective equipment [PPE] safety plan, manufacturer recommendations, and better professional practices) that provides themselves, other school employees, and visitors with the most suitable protection for the hazards and associated risks present during STEM activities. Equally important is the selection of appropriate eye protection for students, which is usually based on local board of education policies and/or state statutes for student laboratory eye protection

6. When possible, each student should have his or her own pair of safety glasses and goggles to reduce the spread of eye diseases. UV lighted goggle cabinets, dish soap and warm water, or alcohol wipes also help to sanitize eyewear and reduce the spread of germs between users. Remember, however, that UV only addresses the biological hazards and not the physical or chemical hazards! Liquid sanitizer like dish detergent or alcohol wipes also address physical and chemical hazards, as well as biological.

7. Wearers of contact lenses should always be required to use appropriate eye and face protection devices in a hazardous environment. Dusty and/or chemical environments might represent an additional hazard to contact lens wearers, but this should not excuse them from wearing the appropriate eye protection. Likewise, students with prescription glasses must wear safety glasses or goggles over their prescription glasses unless their prescription glasses have the ANSI/ ISEA Z87.1 D3 rating. Prescription glasses will not provide adequate protection from liquids and the other hazards described in the goggle section; therefore, goggles must be worn over the prescription glasses during these activities.


Taking the time to analyze hazards and assess the risks prior to any activity in the STEM education classroom will ensure the selection of the proper eye protection. OSHA provides an Eye and Face Protection Selection Chart to assist in the decision-making process (Subpart 1, Appendix B, of the Non-Mandatory Guidelines for Hazard Assessment). This information can be found on the OSHA website at The National Science Teachers Association (NSTA) also provides useful recommendations regarding the use of eye protection (NSTA, 2017). Using safety glasses or safety goggles in the STEM education classroom is necessary for safer, active learning and is critical to ensure the makerspace, laboratory, or shop provides a safer experience for the teacher and students.


American Optometric Association. (2017). Protecting your eyes at work. Retrieved from caring-for-your-vision/protecting-your-vision

Bureau of Labor Statistics. (2008). Workplace injuries involving the eye. Retrieved from

National Science Teachers Association (NSTA). (July, 2017). Eye protection and safer practices FAQ. Retrieved from

Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). (2017). Eye and face protection eTool. Retrieved from SLTC/etools/eveandface/ppe/impact.html

Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). (2011). Laboratory safety guidance. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Labor. Retrieved from laboratory/OSH A3404laboratorv-safetv-quidance.pdf

Roy, K. R. & Love, T. S. (2017). Safer makerspaces, fab labs and STEM labs: A collaborative guide! Vernon, CT: National Safety Consultants, LLC.


The author would like acknowledge Dr. Ken Roy for his professional review and contributions to this article.

Anita Deck, Ed.D., is Director of Innovation, Assessment, and Research, STEM Center for Teaching and Learning at ITEEA. She can be reached at adeck&iteea.oro.

Have questions or a safety issue that you would like to see addressed in a future Safety Spotlight article? Please send them to Dr. Tyler Love at
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Title Annotation:safety spotlight
Author:Deck, Anita; Roy, Ken
Publication:Technology and Engineering Teacher
Article Type:Report
Date:Nov 1, 2017
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