Eye protection is, in many situations, the most important piece of safety gear (aka “PPE” for personal protective equipment) that you will use. In many industrial situations, safety glasses are the absolute minimum protection that you must wear at all times. Besides glasses, goggles or even a full face shield may be necessary at times. Eyes, although small targets, are especially vulnerable to shrapnel and even very bright lights. Take care of them!
Safety glasses come in many shapes and sizes, but one thing that all proper safety glasses have in common is that they wrap around the eyes to protect from debris getting in from the side as well as the front. Normal prescription glasses aren’t sufficient because they don’t include this kind of protection. Side shields can, however, be worn in many cases to make them compliant.
For a step up in protection, goggles can offer better side protection than glasses as (in theory) there is no gap between the goggles and a person’s skin. Prescription glasses can be worn inside of goggles, making this a good option for people that wear corrective lenses. I remember goggles being required equipment for chemistry class in college, but after consulting with a friend who is an actual chemist, she informed me that generally safety glasses are standard safety equipment, but full face shields are used when doing “crazy […stuff].”
Laser Eye Safety
Laser cutting tools are great when they are cutting your intended target. An errant beam, however, can be quite harmful to your eyes. Specifically, tinted goggles can be worn to keep you safer when using a laser for cutting or other experiments, but note that you need to select the correct equipment based on the wavelength of laser that you will be using.
Safety glasses are meant to shield against accidental impact to the eye area. However, if you’re grinding, or in another situation where you will be pelted with debris continuously, a face shield is generally required. An obvious added benefit is that this shield protects the rest of your face, which will be welcome and necessary if you’re continuously getting sprayed with hot metal or other debris. Safety glasses are also normally worn under the shield.
In addition to chunks of matter coming in contact with your eyes or stray light from lasers, there is also the very real risk of exposure to very bright light from welding. Welding produces light that you should not look at, so a dark helmet and lens is used for accurate workpiece positioning. Like a face shield, it protects the rest of your face as well.
Final Word on Eye Protection
This article should provide an introduction into the wonderful world of eye protection, but is by no means all-inclusive, and I don’t claim to be a safety expert. Ultimately, you need to use your own judgement, read your safety gear’s labels, and ask someone with the correct experience if you’re not sure if the gear you’re using (or what you’re doing) is correct.