Protecting the eyes is essential to maintaining a healthy visual system. The eyes are the receptive organs for sight, and damage to them can cause severe vision loss and/or permanent blindness. Several daily activities both in work environments and in leisure events can increase the risk of eye injuries. Threats that may cause eye injuries include but are not limited to (1) particles (e.g., dust or insects) in the air or water, (2) light from the sun or lasers, (3) explosive chemical reactions, (4) working at a construction site, (5) sports equipment (e.g., ball, Frisbee, etc.), and (6) pellets/bullets shot from a firearm (CO2 gun, paintball gun, or a regular handgun). Wearing adequate eye protection devices can prevent most eye injuries. Today, there are many different types of eye protection that have different attributes in order to provide maximum protection depending on the activity. For best results, consult the regulations of the industry you are working in to help you determine the correct eye protective gear to wear.
Types of Eye Protection
There are three main groups of eye protection: (1) glasses—such as safety glasses, sunglasses, welding glasses, and solar eclipse glasses; (2) goggles—such as general safety goggles, swim goggles, and lab goggles; and (3) shields—mainly face shields including the gold-impregnated face shield of a spacesuit, blood-splatter face shields for use in the medical and dental fields, and facemasks on a football, hockey, or baseball helmet.
Glasses are devices that have plastic lenses (not glass) that cover the front of the eyes. The lenses are held in place by a frame that wraps around the ears. Glasses are best worn if the threat to the eye comes only from the front, as the lenses do not wrap around to the peripheral vision. If the lenses are tinted or darkened, they are used to protect the eyes from sunlight. However, most safety glasses have a clear lens so that visual acuity is not affected. When determining the best type of safety glasses, the strength and the heat protection of the lenses should be noted, particularly if you will be working with explosive devices that can produce heat and/or shrapnel. Studies have shown that attractively designed safety glasses are more likely to be worn than if they are not considered attractive. As the goal is to wear the safety glasses, purchase glasses that you like so that you will wear them (Eppig et al., 2014).
Goggles are similar to glasses, but the main differences are that (1) the lenses will also cover the peripheral portions of the face, and (2) the frame is held onto the head by an elastic band. Thus, the lens wraps around toward the temples and the frame makes a seal with the face. Swim goggles are intended to have strong suction so that the seal around the eyes is tight and resistant to water leakage. In science laboratories, particularly chemistry labs, goggles are necessary as chemical explosions may occur. These goggles may or may not have small holes surrounding the lenses to allow the goggles to “breathe” and not fog up.
Face shields are a type of eye protection that also protects the nasal and oral openings. This provides more complete coverage when hazardous activities are being performed, protecting against potential blood splatter from medical emergencies, severe chemical reactions from welding, or contact with the face from the ball or puck when playing sports. Face shields used in the medical field are made of plastic that wraps around the entire face and may be flipped up and down, like a visor. The bottom of the visor is open to the air so that the face shield does not fog up. Face shields used for welding must be heat resistant and provide protection from the bright light. Finally, in sports, face shields are designed to also protect the bones of the face.
Jennifer L. Hellier
See also: Blindness; Retina; Visual Fields; Visual System
Eppig, T., A. Speck, B. Zelzer, & A. Langenbucher. (2014). [Protective glasses. Personal eye protection for professional use]. [Article in German]. Der Ophthalmologe: Zeitschrift der Deutschen Ophthalmologischen Gesellschaft, 111(7), 681—690. http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s00347-014-3094-0
Lee, Rachel, & Douglas Fredrick. (2015). Pediatric eye injuries due to nonpowder guns in the United States, 2002—2012. Journal of AAPOS: American Association for Pediatric Ophthalmology and Strabismus, 19(2), 163—168.e1. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jaapos.2015.01.010
Rosen, Edward. (1956). The invention of eyeglasses. Journal of the History of Medicine and Allied Sciences, 11, 13—46 (part 1), 183—218 (part 2).