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When Should Safety Glasses Be Worn? Find the Answer Here!

Writen by Joshua Clark

Fact checked by Daniel Rocha

when should safety glasses be worn

Have you wondered when should safety glasses be worn? I asked myself this question a couple of times in the past, so you are not alone. We know safety glasses are essential pieces of personal protective equipment. But, did you find yourself asking if you can wear it in other situations, too?

Safety glasses are not only for work applications like woodworking or handling chemicals. As we will learn in this article, there are non-work-related instances (such as during sports activities and yard work) when we must wear these protective devices.

What Do Experts Say about Safety Glasses?


According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), workers in industries involving eye-hazardous materials must wear safety glasses.

The agency’s 29 CFR 1910.132 guideline requires employers to provide their employees with the necessary personal protective equipment, including safety glasses, to protect them from hazards. The PPEs must be free of charge.

So, if you are an employee working in an environment where your eyes’ health is at risk, your employer must provide you with OSHA-approved protective eyewear. The safety glasses must protect you against the following hazards as specified in the OSHA’s 29 CFR 1910.133 guidelines.

  • Chemical vapors or gases
  • Intense visible light radiation or very bright light
  • Caustic liquids
  • Acids
  • Liquid chemicals
  • Molten metal
  • Flying particles

Industry-specific guidelines are also available to protect the eyes. For example, welders require additional protection from intense light radiation.

How Do You Know If the Safety Glasses You Bought Can Protect Your Eyes?


OSHA does not test safety glasses for their protective abilities. Instead, they defer this to the American National Standards Institute (ANSI).

ANSI provides safety glasses manufacturers with the Z87 certification, which guarantees safety glasses’ ability to protect the wearer from liquid splash, non-ionizing radiation, and impact force exposures.

You might also see a Z87+ classification, which is a higher standard than the Z87. Safety goggles with a Z87+ certification undergo more rigorous testing and validation, ensuring a higher level of protection for the wearer.

OSHA also requires safety glasses to be durable, comfortable and safe to wear, and easy to clean and disinfect.

When Should You Wear Safety Glasses?

I know you are eager to learn when are safety glasses required? The OSHA guidelines we shared should give you a hint, but we will list situations requiring safety glasses here.

1. Working with chemicals


If you work in a laboratory, you know you must wear lab safety glasses. Chemicals can release vapors and fumes that can irritate the mucus membranes.

Not being careful in the handling of chemicals can also splash some into the eyes. Spraying chemical products can also increase the risk of eye injuries or irritation.

You must also wear protective eyewear when mixing chemical solutions at home. For example, making a solution of bleach and water can still produce fumes that irritate the eyes.

2. Working in an environment where particles can hurt the eye


Flying objects can produce eye contusions, abrasions, and punctures. In most cases, you can get irritated and inflamed eyes that can affect visual acuity.

Carpenters, masons, and general contractors are at increased risks of eye injuries related to flying objects. Wood chips, sand, dirt, small metal fragments, and electrical sparks can damage the eye’s delicate membrane.

Examples of activities that require adequate eye protection include grinding, drilling, sawing, chipping, riveting, chiseling, machining, woodworking, masonry work, sanding, and power fastening.

When Should You Wear Safety Goggles?


Safety goggles are different from safety glasses in that they include a frame lining that forms a tight seal around the wearer’s eyes. They are similar to your diver’s mask or swim goggles, protecting your eyes and the surrounding skin from injuries. So, when should you wear safety goggles?

1. Working in a dusty environment

The World Health Organization defines dust as particles with a diameter of 1 to 100 microns. To appreciate how tiny dust particles are, you might want to compare them to human hair. A single hair strand can have a diameter of 50 to 90 microns, depending on the person.

Because of their weight, dust particles can float in the air for some time. That is why people working in dusty environments not only need the correct masks. They also require appropriate protective eyewear.

Safety glasses will not suffice in these environments because dust can float through the space between the skin and the eyewear frame. It can then enter the eyes and irritate them. That is why wearing safety goggles is a must in these situations.

People working in construction sites, woodworking companies, and buffing services must always use safety goggles to protect their eyes from dust and other microscopic particles.

2. Working in hot environments or handling heated materials

Safety goggles are also better-suited to protect your eyes if you work in hot environments or handle heated materials. The protective lining around your eyes will shield them against thermal radiation.

Pouring molten metal or super-hot liquids requires safety goggles. If you work with hot sparks or in furnace operations, you will need this protective eyewear, too.

Of course, safety goggles are not the only things you need. You will also require other protective equipment, such as face shields, gloves, and body shields.

3. Cutting metal and welding

Cutting, brazing, soldering, and welding require special safety glasses and goggles, depending on radiant energy type exposure.

For example, OHSA’s 29 CFR 1910.133 guidelines require shielded metal arc welders to have lenses with a minimum protective shade of 7 if the arc current is less than 60. Arc cutters need safety goggles with a protective shade rating of at least 11, while carbon arc welders need a minimum shade rating of 14.

Intense light is not your only concern. Slag chips, metal spatter, and flying sparks can also injure your eyes if you do not wear the correct safety goggles or safety glasses.

What Other Activities Outside Work Require Safety Glasses?

Eye injuries do not only occur in workplaces. They can also occur in the home and anywhere. While you do not need OSHA-approved or ANSI Z87-certified glasses for these activities, I still advise you to get one with the correct certification.

So, who else needs safety glasses, or what activities can you wear protective eyewear for other than at work?

  • Playing sports – Tennis, baseball, basketball, skiing, and other sports activities can injure the eyes because of impact forces and bright light conditions.
  • Riding motorcycles – Dust and flying objects can cause eye injuries among motorcycle riders.
  • Heavy-duty home cleaning – Chemical fumes from cleaning agents and dust from the floor and ceiling can harm the eyes, causing irritation and inflammation.
  • Yard work – Projectiles are a concern when doing yard work. Impact forces, such as springy twigs, snapping branches, and falling debris, can also injure the eyes.
  • Marksmanship – Rifle owners know that one issue with using certain scopes is the risk of a Bushveld tattoo or scope bite. It forms because the scope’s ocular end is too close to the shooter’s eyes. When shooting, recoil from the rifle sends the scope backward towards the eye, making an imprint.

Other concerns are hot powder, muzzle flash, errant shot, and ricochet.

  • Home improvement projects – DIY projects involve many activities that professionals do, including sanding, grinding, woodworking, sandblasting, chemical mixing, and masonry.


If you ask me again when should safety glasses be worn, I would say whenever you have potential exposure to impact forces, flying objects, dust, heat, chemicals, and intense light radiation. If you think about it, the only time you will not wear safety glasses is when you are asleep.

Unfortunately, wearing safety glasses throughout your waking period can be uncomfortable and unsettling for some people. That is why you should get the best possible safety glasses you can wear every time, every day.

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