Working Outdoors – What Should You Consider When Choosing Safety Glasses?

Working Outdoors – What Should You Consider When Choosing Safety Glasses?

It is common knowledge that sunlight has impact on the eye. While we wear sunglasses on a hot and sunny day, or smoked ski goggles while on the slope, the same should apply while working outdoor.

Though it is not the first risk that comes to mind, Ultraviolet (UV) rays that are not filtrated by the atmosphere impact workers health on both short and long term; varying from eye fatigue and visual discomfort to premature ageing of the eye and cataract.

What Types of Hazards Are Your Eyes Exposed to When Working Outdoor?

Eye exposure to sources of high intensity, visible light and solar radiation is a great risk when working outdoor, whether working in a sunny or cloudy day. Indeed, both the ozone and the clouds do not block all the solar radiation, including, but not limited to Ultraviolets. Ultraviolet radiation, or UV, is a type of energy produced by some man-made sources (like welding equipment and lasers), but mostly by the sun. The sun emits three types of UV: UVA, UVB and UVC radiation. The ozone layer absorbs all UVC radiation and some UVB before it reaches us, but some UVB and all UVA make it through.

Some UV radiation is good for us: it promotes Vitamin D production, boosts the immune system and brain function and keeps our circadian rhythms going, which affects sleep and hormone production.

However, too much UV is harmful and can damage both our skin and eyes, and this can occur in less than half an hour. As the average working day is about 8 hours long, using the proper protection against both mechanical and radiation risks is mandatory within various industries such as Construction, Mining, Energy (incl. Oil & Gaz), and agriculture.

The impact of sunlight radiation on the skin is now democratized and most people now use protective clothing, hats and sunscreen to protect skin from UV damages, yet sunglasses are still often considered as secondary. And for the one wearing sunglasses, they often neglect the other workplace risks by using non-impact resistant products. Safety glasses that offer UV protection are more suitable when working outdoor.

What Is the Danger to the Eyes Specifically from UV Radiation (Sunlight)?

Various studies have been done over the years to classify the risks UV radiation may have on the eye organ, depending on the type of UV (depending on the wavelength of the radiation) impacting the eye. Sources all correlate the overexposure to UV radiation and eye damage, which may be temporary, lasting just a few days, of permanent, causing irreversible blindness.

These eye damages can impact different part of the eye, from the cornea to the lens or retina, resulting in conjunctivitis, cataract, or even blindness.

How Do Glares Impact the Eye?

Glares, made by the reflection of sunlight on an extra reflective surface sun as polished metal, water, or snow will ultimately impact vision. Indeed, the glares create extra high intensity luminosity sources, which are targeted towards the eyes. On top of the information stated before, glares create an extra risk of dazzling, which tremendously reduces vision comfort and impact depth perception. This will impact workers’ capacity to apprehend risks, hence increasing the risk for workplace accidents. In order to reduce glares, some lens technologies are available on safety eyewear such as Polarized lenses.

working outdoors safety glasses

What Should You Look For When Choosing Safety Glasses – Both in Terms of Protection and Wearing Comfort?

When choosing safety eyewear, one should consider both the frame and lenses. The equipment should first and foremost protect from the risks inherent to the task at hand (chemical, mechanical, radiation…). This can be identified through the mandatory markings on any EN166 safety eyewear. Then, selecting the right lens will ensure the best visual comfort, and the frame will impact the fit of the product on the wearer’s face, and the comfort of it. The best combination of lens and frame is the model that wearers’ forget about while wearing it.

While we’ll go over the available lens options in detail further down, let’s focus on the frame.

Frame is all about fit:

Choose eyewear that fits your face shape and is neither too large, nor too small. Models range in size, and some have multiple size options. There should be no uncomfortable pressure points at the nose, temples or behind the ears. The frame should stay in play when you move head side to side and nod up and down. There should be no major obstructions to vision in any direction. Eyewear should sit close to the face but not so close that eyelashes brush the lens, or large amount of the lens rests on the cheek.

Different frame types:

  • Half frame: These are popular as the frame is often lighter and better for longer wear and can allow for better downwards peripheral vision. When choosing the half-frames, it is important to make sure they fit correctly with no large gap between the face and the lens
  • Full frame: Full frame refers to ‘standard’ glasses that encase the whole lens in the frame and ensure maximum lens security whilst giving a look most like standard sunglasses
  • Sealed eyewear: Sealed glasses fall between standard glasses and goggles, providing the comfort and clarity of glasses, but the protection from fine particles and sprays offered by goggles.
  • Goggles: Goggles provide maximum protection against dust, liquid and spray, offering a tight fit and full coverage. Different models of goggles have seals made from a range of materials depending on the risk being experienced.

Some product characteristics may improve fit. To have an optimal protection and adapt to the greater number of face types, one should also consider the frame’s curve, size, but also the type of nose bridge and the temples’ flexibility, thickness, materials & adjustability.

A key concern when wearing safety eyewear is also the fogging of the lens. The concern only increased with the mandatory wear of face masks in the past few years. Indeed, working under the sun are increasing their body heat, resulting in sweating and condensation on the eyewear lenses. However, many permanent anti-fog coatings today exist from various suppliers such as the PLATINUM anti-fog/anti-scratch coating by Bollé Safety. When working outdoor, always lenses with the K&N markings, which provide the greatest protection against both fog & scratch.

Which Standards Are Relevant in Safety Eyewear When Working Outdoor?

The European standard for safety eyewear usable in outdoor environment is EN172, which is part of the generic EN166 standard. It is available on any type of eyewear (glasses, goggles, face shields) and is recognizable on the product with either a 5 or 6 as the first number on the marking. This number is always followed by a second number to state the darkness of the product, ranging from 1.1 (for clear state on photochromic products) to 4.1 (for extremely dark lenses). The most common markings on safety eyewear for outdoor usage are 5-2.5 and 5-3.1.

Which Tint Is Suitable for Which Applications?

There are various filters available for either in & out or outdoor environments.

In & Out lenses are for environments where workers tend to often transition between low and high luminosity workplace. These lightly shaded tint or photochromic lenses ensure the smoothest transition and protect the eyes without reducing too much the visibility in indoor environments.

Outdoor lenses represent most of the demand and offer a large variety of tints and technologies. They include the regular smoke lens which was developed to act like a normal sunglass lens. Smoke lenses provides shade for the eyes from the sun’s brightness, whilst blocking 99.9% UV rays. This improves visual comfort and reduces eye strain. The shade can be either dark grey or brown (depending on the wearer’s preference for visual comfort). A more advanced technology, Polarized, offers the advantage of smoke lenses while minimizing glares and improving visibility.

All outdoor lenses can be flashed in various colors for aesthetic reasons, and to reverberate heat.

Depending on the manufacturer, other lenses may exist and some lens shades may be available on prescription safety equipment.

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