OSHA Safety Glasses Requirements You Should Know

Protecting your eyes on the job isn’t just a good idea; it’s often a legal requirement. OSHA mandates specific safety glasses standards to safeguard workers from eye injuries that can be debilitating and life-changing. Whether you’re an employer ensuring a safe workplace or an employee protecting yourself, understanding these key requirements is essential. Let’s dive into the crucial guidelines that will help you choose the right eye protection and create a culture of safety.

Protecting your eyesight in the workplace is non-negotiable. OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) sets strict guidelines for eye and face protection to safeguard workers in potentially hazardous environments. Understanding these requirements is key for both employers and employees.

Workplace eye injuries are alarmingly common. Each day, thousands of workers sustain injuries due to factors like:

  • Flying debris or particles
  • Chemical splashes
  • Harmful radiation
  • Molten metal
  • Impacts from objects

OSHA-compliant safety glasses provide a crucial barrier, dramatically reducing the risk of these devastating injuries.

OSHA’s Key Requirements

OSHA’s eye and face protection standards, primarily found in 1910.133 and 1926.102, outline the following essential points:

1. Employer Responsibility

  • Hazard Assessment: The fundamental duty of the employer is to thoroughly analyze the workplace for potential eye and face hazards. This includes identifying tasks, machinery, chemicals, or environments that could cause flying particles, splashes, radiation, or other risks to workers’ eyes.
  • Provision of PPE: Once hazards are recognized, the employer must provide appropriate Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) at no cost to the employee. This includes safety glasses, goggles, face shields, welding helmets, or other specialized protection that matches the tasks being performed.

2. ANSI Z87.1 Compliance

  • Impact Resistance: The ANSI Z87.1 standard sets rigorous testing benchmarks for safety glasses and goggles. Lenses and frames must withstand the impact of projectiles without shattering or failing.
  • Coverage: This standard also ensures adequate coverage of the eyes and surrounding areas, providing protection from both frontal and side impacts.
  • Markings: Always look for “Z87” or “Z87+” markings on the frame or lens of safety glasses. This verifies that the eyewear has passed ANSI’s performance tests.

3. Side Shields

  • Lateral Protection: Side shields, either permanently attached or detachable, are mandatory in most workplaces to defend against debris or particles that could strike the eye from the side.
  • Exceptions: There may be very limited circumstances where side shields are not required, but these would need to be carefully justified by the employer’s hazard assessment.

4. Prescription Lenses

  • Integrated Protection: Employees requiring corrective lenses have two main options:
    • Safety glasses with prescription lenses built into the design.
    • Safety glasses or goggles designed to fit comfortably and securely over their regular prescription glasses.
  • Clarity and Safety: In both cases, the prescription eyewear mustn’t impede the worker’s vision or compromise the protective properties of the safety glasses.

5. Shade Numbers

  • Welding and Radiation: Specific types of work, most notably welding and tasks involving harmful radiation, require lenses with specialized filtering properties.
  • Appropriate Shade: Shade numbers indicate the level of darkness of the lens. The task’s intensity determines the appropriate shade number, ensuring the worker’s vision is protected without being unnecessarily obscured.

6. Comfort and Fit

  • Secure and Comfortable: Safety eyewear must fit snugly without gaps, but shouldn’t pinch or feel overly tight. Discomfort increases the chance of employees removing the protection.
  • Freedom of Movement: Glasses must not restrict head movement or impede work tasks. An ill-fitting pair can be as much of a hazard as not wearing protection at all.

Additional Considerations

  • Specific Hazards: Choose safety glasses designed for the specific hazards present in your workplace (e.g., chemical-resistant for laboratories, tinted for glare reduction).
  • Maintenance: Inspect safety glasses regularly for damage and replace them when necessary.
  • Training: Employers must train employees on how to select, use, and care for their safety eyewear.

Generally, employers are responsible for paying for required safety glasses, with limited exceptions.

Replace them whenever they show scratches, damage, or if their protective properties become compromised.

Visit OSHA’s website at https://www.osha.gov/ for the complete standards.

Protecting Your Vision

Adhering to OSHA’s safety glasses requirements is essential for preventing eye injuries and preserving your eyesight. By choosing the right eyewear and making safe practices a habit, you contribute to a safer and healthier work environment for yourself and others.


Remember, eye safety isn’t about simply ticking a box for compliance. It’s about fostering a vigilant attitude towards protecting one of our most precious senses. By understanding OSHA’s requirements, choosing the right protective eyewear for your specific tasks, and making safety a habit, you contribute to a workplace where everyone can work confidently, knowing their vision is secure.