Whether you work in an industrial, chemical, or construction setting or tackle lots of DIY projects at home, proper eye protection is essential. Protective eyewear blocks flying debris (including tiny particles you might not be able to see), safeguards your eyes from impact, and prevents liquid from splattering into your eyes. Most pairs also offer some glare resistance and UV protection.
You might think all protective eyewear is the same, but today’s products come in a range of styles and are often designed for specific applications or environments.
Who this is for
Almost everyone will encounter a situation where they should really wear eye protection. This is true for everything from yard work to sports to basic household chores. “Any activity that you take part in where something can inadvertently get in your eye is an activity in which you want to wear glasses,” Alabiad told me when we talked. When foreign particles get into an eye, they can damage the sensitive membranes of your eyeball, leading to irritation, light sensitivity, and infection. According to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, each day about 2,000 US workers sustain eye injuries that require medical attention.
Most safety glasses are made from polycarbonate (a strong material widely used in all types of lenses and protective equipment due to its high shatter resistance) and are designed to keep everything that might come flying at your face away from your sensitive eyes. Sunglasses or eyeglass lenses made from glass or plastic are occasionally helpful for this, but, unlike polycarbonate, these elements risk shattering and causing more problems since the shards can scratch or become embedded in the eyeball.
What to Consider When Choosing the Best Safety Glasses
Safety glasses should protect eyes from debris and dust, and depending on the style, liquids and heat. A variety of features provide protection, while others offer durability and comfort. Here are some of the most important options to consider when shopping for the best safety glasses.
American National Standards Institute (ANSI) Approval
ANSI is a private organization that manages the voluntary standards system within the United States. While ANSI is not a government organization, it does work closely with the government to set acceptable standards for safety equipment, machinery, tools, and more. ANSI-approved safety glasses have exceeded the basic safety standards set for their industry. Safety glasses that do not have an ANSI certification have not met the threshold set by the voluntary standards system in the United States. Look for the blue or black ANSI symbol on the packaging or the frame of safety glasses for verification.
Nothing’s more irksome than a product that breaks after the first or second use, but when it comes to safety glasses, low durability is more than frustrating—it’s a safety risk. Durability should be one of the highest priorities when selecting safety glasses. The frames of quality safety glasses should be made of hard nylon to withstand being bent and twisted through the duration of a project. Lenses, which are commonly rated for impact protection, are made of highly durable polycarbonate to ensure that metal, wood, or other flying debris cannot pierce the lens and damage your eyes.
Whether safety glasses are used for DIY home renovations or professional construction and repair, seeing clearly is a necessity. Safety glasses with polarized lenses increase visual clarity. They contain a laminated filter between two pieces of hard plastic that only allows vertically oriented light to pass through. This filter blocks horizontally oriented light to reduce the amount of reflecting light that enters the eye. In outdoor or brightly illuminated conditions, polarized lenses lessen the impact of reflective lighting to provide a much sharper and clearer view of a task.
Peripheral coverage refers to the protection of the area around the sides of your eyes. While the majority of objects that may impact safety glasses will likely come from the front, objects can also strike the sides. Peripheral coverage often means a closed-in goggle style, which runs a risk of fogging during use, but there are also ample lightweight designs that feature peripheral coverage that fit loosely enough to avoid fogging. For maximum protection on certain projects, the full peripheral protection of goggle-style safety glasses may be the best way to go.
Ultra Violet (UV) Protection
For outdoor projects, safety glasses that protect eyes from the sun’s harmful UV radiation are a must. Ultraviolet light can damage the cornea, causing corneal sunburn, macular degeneration, and also influence cataract formation. Just like sunscreen protects skin, UV-rated safety glasses protect your eyes.
Safety glasses that are easily scratched by brushing against a rough tool bag, having a nail or screw dropped on them, or any other similarly unavoidable circumstance become unusable quickly. To invest in scratch-resistant safety glasses, check the package for a label indicating that the lenses have been treated in diamond-like carbon (DLC) and polycrystalline diamond for scratch resistance. While the initial cost of them may be a little higher, scratch-resistant glasses last through many projects over the long haul.
Many safety glasses include additional features that may be beneficial to specific individuals or situations. For instance, some allow you to attach hearing protection to the arms of the glasses that keep earplugs untangled and free of your vision. Other safety glasses are vent-free, a feature that’s optimal in extreme heat situations, such as wildfires, where ventilation would create a hazard.
How to assess ratings of safety eyeglasses and goggles
Plus mark. To determine if a lens has passed the high velocity test described above, look for the “+” mark that indicates its approval at high impact.
This mark may be applied to any prescription lens of the same or greater thickness (at the thinnest point of the lens), made of the same material by the same manufacturer and with the same coating(s) applied.
“V” and “S” marks. Other lens markings that appear on safety lenses are “V” (indicating the lens is photochromic) and “S” (indicating the lens has a special tint). In some cases, a number may also be marked on a shaded safety lens to indicate how much light transmittance is reduced by the tint.
Shaded safety glasses for use when working with molten metal and in soldering, brazing, cutting and welding operations have tint densities that can range from 1.5 to 3.0 (mild to moderate shade for torch soldering) up to 10 to 14 (very dark shades for electric arc welding).
All safety lens markings must be permanent. If lenses do not meet the high impact standard, a warning label that can be removed only by the wearer must be affixed to prescription safety eyewear.
Our Top Picks:
These standard safety glasses from Milwaukee provide superior eye protection from all angles. They feature gaskets that create a seal around the eyes, protecting the wearer against not only head-on projectiles but also those that might come from the side. The excellent fit makes the glasses well suited for dust- and debris-filled work situations, such as sanding drywall or cutting through masonry. Plus, the gasket is removable for jobs that require less protection.
The lenses on this Milwaukee model are also harder than those found on most safety glasses. While many products will have an ANSI Z87 rating, these have military-grade protection, giving them the ability to resist impacts of up to 725 feet per second.
Quality ANSI-certified safety glasses needn’t break the bank. This very affordable full-frame pair boasts a wraparound style for excellent protection. Thick arms add durability, while rubber coatings on the nosepiece hold the glasses in place while the user works.
DeWalt’s standard safety glasses come in various lens tints ranging from clear to smoke, offering 99 percent UV protection. With a price tag about half the price of some other safety glasses, it may make sense to purchase several pairs of Dominators. This way, there will always be a pair handy to provide for indoor and outdoor needs.
Folks needing prescription lenses who also wear safety glasses regularly are wise to invest in a pair of prescription safety glasses. Fortunately, these RX Safety models are very reasonably priced, to be one of the most affordable options for prescription safety glasses. They come in a range of style options, including these frames, which marry attractive design with excellent coverage.
In addition to ANSI-rated impact-resistant lenses, these RX Safety glasses include shields on both sides that extend well onto the arms for added protection. Rubberized nose pads and side arms keep the pair squarely in place. RX Safety’s frames come in a host of color options from black to crystal red. Prescription lens options range from single vision to bifocal with material options ranging from impact-resistant polycarbonate to high-index plastic that offers excellent clarity.
These 3M safety glasses allow the wearer to read medical charts or manuals without having to trade off for a pair of reading glasses. They consist of a bifocal lens with a clear prescription-free top and a lower section magnified 1.5 to 2.5 times. This makes them ideal for doctors, dentists, or other professionals who need to protect their eyes and read while working.
A retro translucent-gray frame adds style, while shields on the top and sides provide comprehensive protection from projectiles or fluids. Rubber coatings on the arms and nosepiece add comfort while keeping the glass securely in place. 3M’s safety glasses are also available in a dark tint.
These safety glasses can be used indoors or outdoors for a variety of basic tasks, like yard cleanup, prefabricated furniture construction, or clearing a clogged sink. They have impressive flexibility, durability, and scratch-resistance, as well as UV-filtering lenses that protect the user from UVA, UVB, UVC, and harmful blue light.
During the initial phases of testing, I found that these safety glasses were definitely comfortable, with a lightweight frame and soft nose pads that helped prevent them from shifting or falling off. The Oakley safety glasses were a good choice for casual DIY tasks, like mowing the lawn, trimming around the fences or other lawn obstacles, and edging the lawn because the high level of UV protection meant that my eyes were rarely affected by the bright sunlight.
However, the gap around the lenses leaves too much space for these safety glasses to be effective when working with a chop saw, circular saw, or any other tool that produces a lot of dust and debris.
We were thrilled that the pair with the highest comfort rating from our panel was also among the cheapest pairs we tested. The Radians MR0111ID Mirage glasses offer the best combination of wearability, convenience, and basic protection. Despite this pair’s all-plastic build (aside from the polycarbonate lenses) and very little in the way of features, the Radians stood out for being light and clear enough that a number of our testers forgot they were wearing them. One tester spent close to five minutes looking for them before realizing they were still on his face.
The “one size fits most” claim is common among cheaper safety glasses, but the Radians were one of the few models that actually delivered on that front. Lacking any sort of adjustments, the Radians still fit well on almost all of our testers’ faces, with one tester noting that this pair worked well for both her and her nearly 5-year-old daughter without any shifting or sliding. (It’s important to note, however, that all of the glasses we tested are meant for adults only.
Ergodyne Skullerz have polarized lenses, which minimize glare from things like water, sun, and glass. This prevents light from going directly into your line of vision, reducing sensitivity to reflective surfaces, and is generally more comfortable for the eyes.
The lenses also provide UV protection and resist scratching. These protective glasses meet ANSI standards for safety and MIL (military) standards for ballistic impact resistance4. The blade-style frame is made of flexible yet durable nylon, and rubber around the bridge and temples keeps them in place.
If you’re looking for something to wear over your prescription eyeglasses, check out this pair from NoCry. They fit over most reading classes and cost substantially less than a pair of prescription safety glasses.
With a resilient polycarbonate frame and clear wraparound lenses, you’ll be protected from all angles without distorting your vision. The lenses resist scratching and block over 90 percent of UV rays, and soft tips minimize pressure around your temples.
The extendable arms can be adjusted to fit various head sizes, so they work for men, women, and kids. You can also wear them as normal safety glasses without a prescription pair underneath. These specs are certified safe by the ANSI, CSA, and OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration).
ONGUARD OG220S safety goggles shield your eyes from debris and dust from all directions. With its signature wrap-around design, you get optimal comfort and optical protection for all types of events. Enjoy the full-rim designs and plastic frames of these ANSI Z87.1 safety spectacles. Perfect for high-RX prescriptions, the glasses are ideal for men with oval, round faces.
Safety glasses are essential if you work in hazardous environments. However, they can also be worn for everyday outdoor use to protect your vision from hidden particles and elements. Stay on guard with these highly-rated googles that enhance and protect your eyesight simultaneously.
For serious eye protection, you have to bring out the big guns, and this means switching from glasses to goggles. We found the SolidWork Safety Goggles to provide the most protection while remaining quite comfortable. The thick rubber gasket provides coverage from nearly all fumes and dust and provides surprisingly good impact protection. While goggles often get foggy, even with a respirator and in a high humidity environment, the anti-fog coating SolidWork put on their lens worked quite well.
Although the rubber gasket seals out dust and is pretty comfortable, our testers found that it got quite sweaty under there because the rubber has a broad contact with skin. While dealing with the sweat issue, we also realized that it’s hard to adjust the strap for tightness while you have these on, and removing them isn’t very convenient when you’re also wearing a hat, mask, or gloves possibly covered in something like a concrete stain. Still, these were our favorite when we needed heavy-duty protection. We recommend the SolidWork Safety Goggles for people who need serious protection from fumes, dust, and impact.
How do I get the best construction safety glasses?
Browse a large selection of safety glasses, including eyewear with ANSI Z87.1 ratings and prescription-ready eye protection. Make sure that the frames you choose provide the level of protection you need on the job. Safety standards regulated by the Occupational Health and Safety Agency apply to many construction sites.
What is the ANSI Z87.1 standard?
The Z87.1 eye protection standard maintained by ANSI indicates that glasses or goggles are designed to protect wearers’ eyes. In addition to impact, eyewear that meets this standard may also protect against chemical splashes, dust and optical radiation. Make sure eyewear for construction provides a sufficient level of protection.
How can I tell if eyewear is safety rated?
Glasses and goggles that have an ANSI Z87.1 safety rating indicate this specification in the product description. Frames and goggles are marked with letters and symbols to indicate types of protection. A plus sign indicates impact protection, while letters and numbers are used to identify other forms of protection.
Do I need high-impact and velocity eye protection?
Workers in environments with high-mass or high-velocity eye safety hazards should wear eyewear that has a sufficient rating. Eyewear rated for high impact retains lenses when a 1.1-pound pointed projectile is dropped on a headform. A quarter-inch steel ball strikes 20 impact points at 150 feet-per-second in high-velocity testing.
While seemingly mundane, the difference between quality and poor eye protection can be significant. We are always serious when it comes to safety equipment. We hope this review helped you narrow down the best pair of safety glasses for you and your next job or home project. The right tool can mean all the difference in the world. Be safe, and always wear appropriate personal protective equipment.