According to Comcare, approximately 50,000 eye injuries are recorded every year in Australia. That’s equivalent to $60 million in damages. More than half of these eye injuries (60%) occur in the workplace.
The eyes are delicate. A seemingly minor eye injury may not be insignificant and can even result in vision impairment. Workers in high-risk industries, including mining and construction, cannot get the protection they require from ordinary eyewear that’s insufficient against projectiles or chemicals at speed. This is where prescription safety glasses help in reducing the risks.
The AS/NZS 1337.6 Standards
Prescription safety glasses differ from regular eyeglasses as they conform to stricter standards, including lens and frame impact resistance. Safety glasses must comply with specific criteria under the Australian and New Zealand Standards 1337.1 (for occupational applications) and 1337.6 (for low and medium impact protection). The equivalent standards are ANSI Z87. Frames with Z87+ have been tested for high-velocity and high-impact conditions.
The Australian Standard stipulates the minimum requirements to achieve required eye protection. Safety eyewear is designed to safeguard the eyes against occupational hazards, including dust, gases, splashes, fragments, aerosols, and molten materials. Safety glasses that meet the standards underwent rigorous testing to ensure that eye protection is adequate and appropriate.
According to the standards, protective eyewear should comply with these requirements:
Eyeglasses worn at work should use high-impact resistant materials, meaning they must not crack, detach, dislodge, or break even if a weighted ball knocks them over. Material is classified based on the speed of the moving object as follows:
Low Impact up to 46km/h
Medium Impact up to 162km/h
High Impact up to 432km/h
Extra-High Impact up to 632km/h
Eyewear material should meet standard requirements for low to medium impact. An exception is applied to untempered (high index) glass, which should not be on protective eyeglasses’ frontmost or rearmost material.
AS/NZS 1337 specifies the minimum lens dimensions of safety eyeglass frames, which are:
Low Impact should cover two ellipses, the plane curve around these two focal points: 42mm wide x 32mm high. Pupil distance should be 64mm.
Medium Impact should be enough to cover two ellipses 42mm wide x 35mm high. All eyewear in this category should provide side impact protection, such as non-detachable side shields. They should not be screwed on but moulded or riveted on both sides.
3. Optical Lens Properties
Your protective eyewear should have the same optical lenses and properties if you wear prescription glasses.
4. Finish and Fitting
Safety prescription glasses must have a finish suitable for your work. For example, if your job requires you to wear tinted glasses, your safety glasses must have the same tint. Thermoplastic materials, including polycarbonate, can withstand impact. Lenses, however, can get dislodged from the frame, so they should be held securely without holding the lenses too tightly, which then causes distortion.
5. Moisture Build-up Prevention
Eye protectors should not accumulate moisture, which blurs the lenses. Medium and high-impact eyeglasses, however, may offer limited ventilation.
Safety glasses typically last up to three years. However, they can last longer if they remain usable and safety has not been compromised.
Needing Prescription Lenses in Safety Glasses: What to Look Out For
Some workers disregard wearing safety prescription glasses, often complaining that they are uncomfortable and cause headaches. They say the glasses fog up and aren’t fitted properly.
Prescription safety glasses are the same as non-prescription safety eyewear, save for the added specifications to meet individual vision requirements. All prescription eye protectors should contain a label to assure the buyer of compliance. Labels come in different levels of compliance, including Standards Mark, the highest assurance level. This certification tells the buyer the product was supervised and audited by BSI Benchmark, SAI Global, or other compliance authorities.
The right set of lenses is the most important feature in any safety prescription glasses simply because the lenses have your prescription to correct your vision. At the same time, they protect your eyes against impact, UV, and other elements. Make sure to inspect the lenses for:
High impact rating
Special coatings like anti-fog or anti-scratch
Tinted, particularly if you work outdoors
Your optometrist will help you find the right lens tint that suits your activities. For instance, blue or yellow tints are for improving low-light vision outdoors. Meanwhile, wearing grey, black, or brown tinted lenses shield the eyes from direct sun exposure and reflective surfaces.
Tips for Choosing Prescription Safety Glasses
Protect your eyes at work, while playing sports, or even when at home with safety glasses. Here are some tips for picking out the best safety prescription glasses:
Usage: Why do you need prescription safety protectors? Do you require protection against hazards at the workplace or for skiing? The purpose can filter out items that do not fit your needs. High-impact glasses are helpful for workplaces. Be sure to look for ANSI Z87.1 or AS/NZS 1337 inside the frame. Meanwhile, anti-reflective and transition lenses are best used for sports to keep foreign elements from clouding your vision whilst enhancing your sports performance.
Compliance: Never wear cheap protective eyewear without an AS/NZS label, which affirms you’re getting authentic protection approved for usage where chemicals and hazardous elements are involved.
Light Conditions: Transition lenses are great for indoor and outdoor use as they adjust to light changes quickly. For varied lighting conditions, pick high-contrast lenses. If you’re often exposed to light or sunlight, neutral or grey base lenses are a good option for reducing glare.
Of course, your comfort matters, and so does the frame durability, which is crucial for most work environments. The eyeglass frame should fit your face comfortably, with the arm length and width matching your face shape. The eyewear will not fall off even as you move or look down.
Cleaning and Caring for Safety Glasses
Always inspect the lenses to ensure they are uncompromised. Cleaning should be done regularly since dirt and dust can cause scratches and may even result in breakage. Here’s how to clean your safety prescription glasses:
Dust off the safety glasses by rinsing them underwater. Use lukewarm water, submerging them or placing them under running water. Rinse both the lenses and frames. Alternatively, you can use room temperature purified water.
You can use a cleaning solution for lenses, which you should always carry with you at work or sporting events.
Soft-bristled toothbrushes can be used for cleaning the frames, but not on the lenses. Use a microfibre cloth for the lenses instead. Never use paper towels, your shirt, or tissues.
When not in use, put the safety eyewear in its case.
Safety glasses should be replaced every three years. However, sizable scratches, blurry vision, outdated eyewear technologies, prescription changes, and dirty lenses are signs that it’s time for a replacement.
Safety Glasses and Medical Environments
Safety glasses are indispensable for medical professionals who work in hazardous environments and are exposed to dangerous chemicals, intense light, or infectious diseases. Like other professions, healthcare workers require eyewear that provides maximum comfort, especially since they may have long shifts. Some safety glasses are flexible, with adjustable nose bridge and detachable foam gaskets to suit the face shape of the wearer.
Protection against projectiles, vapour, and chemicals in the air is necessary for medical environments. A wider glass frame helps maximise face protection from these external factors. Additionally, the safety glasses should be AS/NZS 1337 approved, which ensures they are effective from unexpected projectiles.
Do you need safety prescription glasses that meet the standards? We have many options here at E Eye Place. Contact us today or book a visit with our optometrists.
Stephanie is an owner optometrist, researcher and educator. She has held clinical, teaching and research roles in Australia and overseas, and has extensive training and clinical experience. Stephanie is also the head optometrist at E Eye Place, on top of this, she is also currently a PhD candidate at UNSW. Dr Stephanie Yeo Optometrist BOptom (HC1) GradCertOcTher DOPT (Merit) CO Ophthalmic Medicines Prescriber.