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Shopping Guide for Best Safety Glasses

Not so long ago, safety glasses were something you only wore when absolutely required. Purely a work item. They did their job, but they were usually rigid, uncomfortable, and far from fashionable. Safety glasses are completely different today, with a range of materials, options, and styles available. They not only do a great job of protecting your eyes, they look good too!

There are hundreds to choose from, but that brings its own challenge: how do you pick the right pair?

Providing clear, comprehensive answers to buyer questions is the reason BestReviews was created. Our reports are trusted by millions, because we're completely independent. We never accept free samples. We buy the products we test, using our own money. This practice guarantees there's no bias, so you can be sure our advice is impartial and will help you make an informed decision.

The safety glasses above are those that came out on top after extensive trials in our labs, and through thorough customer research. Each model offers features that set it apart from its competitors. We're happy to recommend them. If you'd like to learn more about the numerous factors that informed our selection, please read the safety glasses report that follows.

Safety goggles first appeared in 1909, but we had to wait until 1914 for the first safety glasses. They were part of a patent for a new invention: the gas mask.

Safety Glasses Buyer's Guide

Prevent Blindness America reports that every year, more than 700,000 people in America suffer eye injuries at work. Another 400,000 are hurt during sports activities, and a further 125,000 more at home.

An enormous number of these eye injuries could be prevented using safety glasses that cost less than ten dollars per pair.

Employers who are unsure which protective eyewear they need to provide should consult OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration.)

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How To Choose The Best Safety Glasses

Modern safety glasses are much more than just a frame and a pair of protective lenses.

  • There are different lens materials available.

  • Colored lenses may look fashionable, but their real purpose is to help you see more clearly.

  • Different coatings can be used for different situations.

  • There are several options for those who wear prescription glasses.

It's hardly surprising there can be some confusion. We'll look at each element in turn – and hopefully add a bit of clarity!

EXPERT TIP

If you use safety glasses at work, consider getting several pairs. That way you can always have a pair handy, rather than not wearing them because you left them in the truck.


Staff  | BestReviews

Eye Protection Standards

There are numerous safety standards associated with protective glasses, depending on where you are in the world. American buyers should look for ANSI/ISEA Z87.1 – the American National Standard for Occupational and Educational Personal Eye and Face Protection Devices.

When introduced in 1968, it was designed as a way to measure the performance of each individual product. During its five revisions, the standard has become more focused on how safety glasses, goggles, and face shields cope with potential hazards: impact, dust, chemical splashes, heat, and more. The current version is ANSI/ISEA Z87.1-2015

The intention is to give users a set of parameters, so they can fine-tune their needs. It does a good job of defining requirements in industrial and commercial environments. However, the standard is complex, and in fact, gives much more information than most users need.

In many workshops, and in home and sporting use, the slightly older ANSI/ISEA Z87.1-2010 rating is far more common, and perfectly acceptable.

CAUTION

All safety glasses sold in the U.S. should have an ANSI Z87.1 marking on the lenses. If they don't, they may not be safe.

Impact Protection

Perhaps the most important quality to understand is the impact protection offered. There are two levels: standard and high.

For safety glasses to achieve standard impact protection, the lens must survive, undamaged, when struck with a one-inch steel ball, dropped from fifty inches onto the unprotected lens.

When testing for high-impact protection, a quarter-inch steel ball is fired at the lens at 150 feet per second. Again, the lens must survive unscathed. Similarly stringent testing is also carried out on frames.

Most of the safety glasses for sale offer standard impact protection. As you can see, they've got to be pretty tough to achieve even the “standard” classification. They should be marked “ANSI Z87.1.” They may also be marked with the date.

High-impact safety glasses should be marked “ANSI Z87.1+.”

If you're considering high-impact safety glasses, think carefully about whether glasses are the most effective solution. In an environment where debris is flying around with that much force, additional face protection (such as full-face shield) might be more appropriate.

EXPERT TIP

Your protective glasses should allow you to open your eyes normally. If you must squint, you need different lenses.


Staff  | BestReviews

Individual Lens Elements

Lens elements

Materials

There are three materials used to make safety glasses lenses:

  • Polycarbonate

  • Trivex

  • Glass
     

Polycarbonate has been around since the 1970s and was originally developed for astronaut visors. It's tough. It's also light, easy to shape, and offers excellent UV protection without additional coating.

DID YOU KNOW?

Every year, over one million Americans suffer preventable eye injuries.

Trivex was introduced in 2001 as a rival to polycarbonate.

In terms of impact resistance, weight, and UV protection, Trivex is very similar. Optical clarity can be higher, though the material hasn't gained the popularity of polycarbonate.

Both can be used for photochromic lenses. Polycarbonate can be used for bifocals or progressive lenses, though at greater cost.

Both polycarbonate and Trivex are scratched easily, so protective coatings are required.

Never use ordinary tinted or mirrored safety glasses for welding. Special lenses, marked with a “W” and a shade number, must be worn.

Glass is comparatively heavy, and doesn't have the impact strength of polycarbonate or Trivex.

However, it has far superior scratch resistance, and prescription versions can be produced more cheaply than with polycarbonate or Trivex.

Glass lenses are available that meet the requirements of ANSI Z87, and remains popular in low-impact environments.

EXPERT TIP

If you regularly work inside and out, consider glasses with photochromic (transition) lenses. They reduce eyestrain by going dark or clear, depending on light conditions.


Staff  | BestReviews
Lens elements

Colors & Coatings

Different colored lenses are used to assist vision in various lighting conditions.

  • Plain Mirror Lenses: Allow normal light, but reduce glare.

  • Gold Mirror Lenses: Reduce glare like plain mirrors, but are better at reducing direct sunlight.

  • Gray Lenses: Reduce glare and brightness outdoors.

  • Amber Lenses: Produce greater contrast, especially at dusk, or when lighting is poor.

  • Brown Lenses: Reduce glare and brightness outdoors, but still allow recognition of traffic signals.
     

Other task-specific colored lenses are available to suit particular occupations or environments.

Anti-fog or anti-mist coatings help keep your vision clear in humid conditions, or if you frequently move between environments; indoors and outdoors, for example. Vented lenses provide similar functionality.

Anti-static coatings reduce the tendency of lenses to attract dirt and dust particles.

CAUTION

Safety glasses should not cause eye irritation. If they do, consult a suitably qualified medical practitioner.

Lens elements

Lens Optics

Safety glasses offer the same range of options you find with ordinary prescription glasses:

  • Bifocals

  • Progressives

  • Photochromic
     

Combinations are also possible. Not surprisingly, these options add a considerable amount to the cost, and are usually only available from specialist suppliers.

FOR YOUR SAFETY

Ballistic safety glasses should be APEL certified – a much higher standard than ANSI. However, no lens marking is required at present, so you should check manufacturer claims carefully before buying.

Frame Enhancements

Much of today's most popular protective eyewear does a great job of combining looks and safety. In many cases, they are mistaken for fashionable sunglasses. In addition to appearance, a few other frame enhancements are common.

  • Wrap-around models may have deeper sides than normal, providing additional protection.

  • Nose, brow, and temple areas can be rubberized, padded, or adjustable for greater comfort.

  • A foam gasket combats dust and small particles.

  • A lanyard is a useful addition, reducing the chances of your glasses being dropped.

  • "Fit-over" models allow wearers to use their normal prescription glasses under their safety glasses.

Still using those old safety glasses you found in a drawer? Throw them away. For just a few dollars you can get newer, improved glasses that protect your eyes better.

When To Choose Safety Goggles

Safety glasses are a low-cost and convenient method of eye protection. They're light, easy to store, easy to put on and take off, and most of them look good, too. But sometimes goggles are a better choice.

  • A larger area of the face is enclosed, so goggles are safer when there are splash hazards in the working environment.

  • Because they create a better seal against your face, enclosed versions offer greater protection from dust, smoke or vapors.

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