University of Rochester

Environmental Health & Safety

Safety Tips on protecting your eyes

Did you ever stop to consider how your life would change if you lost one of your senses? Consider vision. Imagine what it would be like to suddenly lose your ability to see. You couldn’t drive any more. Many of the routine things you do would become difficult or impossible. You might be unable to do your job. You could only listen to your favorite TV show or the Monday night game. You wouldn’t be able to see the faces of your spouse, your kids, or your friends again. There would be no more rainbows, sunsets or starry skies...

Each day in the US, there are roughly 1,000 eye injuries in the workplace, and annually almost 100,000 Americans suffer loss of vision in one or both eyes as a result of accidents at work. Work-related eye injuries cost over $133 million per year in the US. Sadly, 90% of these injuries could be prevented through simple awareness of the potential hazards present and the use of safety glasses or goggles.

Severe eye damage can result from objects striking or entering the eye, chemical splashes or vapors, steam burns, or exposure to various types of radiant energy. A Job Hazard Assessment (JHA) should be performed to evaluate the hazards present and the need for protective equipment (PPE). You can read about the University’s requirements for JHA and PPE at

Regular corrective eyewear is not made to protect the eyes. Even with the addition of clip-on side shields, your regular eyeglasses do not provide the same level of protection as safety glasses or goggles. The frames and lenses of safety glasses are much stronger and must bear the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) Z87.1 approval marking, showing that they have been designed and tested to a much more stringent set of requirements.

Although they’re not usually thought of as safety equipment, sun glasses offer protection from harmful ultraviolet light that can damage your eyes. Eliminating glare can also improve safety while working outdoors or driving. It is important to realize that, like corrective eyewear, sun glasses do not provide significant impact protection unless they are specifically designed to do so, and are labeled with the ANSI approval mark.

When working with corrosive chemicals that can burn the skin or machinery that creates flying chips, a face shield should be used to provide additional protection for your whole face. Even with a face shield, you still need to wear safety glasses.

It is also imperative to use eye and face protection, such as a surgical mask with an eye shield, any time there is potential for exposure to bloodborne pathogens due to splashes involving human biological specimens, blood or other body fluids (such as when performing patient care or clinical lab work). It should be noted that a surgical mask is not a respirator and does not offer protection against inhalation of infectious aerosols.

In some circumstances, specialized protective equipment may be required. Many laser operations require goggles rated to protect against light of the particular wavelength and energy being emitted. A welding helmet/shield with appropriate filters is required when performing welding operations to protect the eyes from the bright light generated by the welding arc. Like any other face shield, a welding helmet must be used in conjunction with safety glasses. Chemical splash goggles or gas/vapor-tight goggles may be required when working with potentially harmful substances that could splash or form vapors that could cause eye damage.

Please don’t become a statistic. It only takes a split second to sustain a life-changing injury. Wear appropriate safety glasses, goggles, or a face shield every time you’re exposed to an eye or face hazard-- even if it’s only for a moment.

Remember too, that safety doesn’t apply only to the workplace. If you’re at home and you’re using a lawn mower or string trimmer, jump starting your car, using chemicals like drain cleaners, or doing something else that could cause injury to your face or eyes, you should use appropriate protective equipment.

Safety equipment can save you from a tragic accident, but it can’t protect you if you don’t use it. Chances are, you’ll never regret using protective equipment, but you don’t want to spend the rest of your life wishing you had used it.

For more information on safety glasses or other personal protective equipment, visit the University’s Environmental Health and Safety website at If you have questions or concerns, you can call us at 275-3241.

Contact EH&S at (585) 275-3241 or e-mail EH&S Questions.

This page last updated 11/26/2012. Disclaimer.