Tricks of the Trade

How to choose the best safety glasses for the job

Robbie Foglia, a Ferguson author

by Robbie Foglia


The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) estimates that 2,000 U.S. workers experience job-related eye injuries that require medical treatment each and every day. Safety experts and eye doctors agree that 90% of these eye injuries can be prevented simply by selecting the right kind of personal protective eyewear (PPE) for the job.

Types of Safety Glasses

Your eyes are sensitive and they need protection, especially when working with equipment that can cause burns or create flying debris that may penetrate the eye. Keep your eyes protected by selecting the right pair of safety glasses for the job.


Clear polycarbonate lenses with side protection can protect eyes from flying sparks and debris, but only shaded lenses can protect eyes from the dangerous ultraviolet and infrared welding light. Different welding techniques have specific lense shade requirements. Consider opting for a welding helmet with variable shades that are suitable for a wider range of welding techniques.


Prevent chemicals like toilet bowl cleaners from splashing into your eyes with safety goggles. Goggles with side vents are ideal to keep air flowing in and moisture out.


Protect your eyes from branches, flying debris and UV protection with safety glasses that have transition lenses, which will automatically adjust to your lighting condition.


Look for safety glasses with an enhanced nose piece design and integrated ridges to channel away sweat while on the job.


Choose curved, polycarbonate lenses for your construction projects. These qualities will provide superior impact resistance as well as peripheral vision and extra protection on the sides.

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Safety lenses are available in glass, plastic, polycarbonate and Trivex™ materials. While all four types must meet or exceed the minimum requirements for protecting your eyes, polycarbonate lenses provide the highest level of protection from impact. Additionally, safety glasses must carry the manufacturer’s permanent marking on the lens, followed by a “+” if the lenses are impact-related, to meet the most recent ANSI Z87.1-2015 standard.


Lenses can be clear, tinted, photochromic or polarized. Each type offers various levels of ultraviolet protection. Tinted safety glasses are marked with a “V” if they have photochromic lenses. Special-purpose tinted lenses are marked with an “S”.

Other markings on special-purpose tinted safety glasses include:

  • “W” and shade number - welding
  • “U” and scale number - UV filters
  • “L” number - visible light filter
  • “R” and scale number - IR filter

No matter the type, the best safety glasses comply with the most recent ANSI Z87 standards for protection against blunt impact to both lenses and frame, non-ionizing radiation, dust particles and exposure to chemicals.

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Robbie Foglia, a Ferguson author

Robbie Foglia

Robbie Foglia, a native of Norfolk, VA, brings 10 years of experience in digital media writing to Ferguson, where he authors informative content for plumbing, HVAC and general contractors about trade trends, new tools and tips for improving your contracting business.