Ever take a survey of even a few employees about why they don’t wear their safety glasses? It can be an intriguing exercise. If you really want to get to know what your staff is thinking about safety, just ask. They’ll tell you. They really want you to know how they feel. If they’re not wearing their safety glasses, there’s a reason. Sometimes that reason has to do with the safety culture of your company. Sometimes it’s related to the enforcement approach of their direct supervisor. Other times it’s the employees’ lack of understanding of the hazards within their environment. More often then not, however, safety eyewear is not worn because employees simply don’t like it. They don’t like the way it looks, the way it feels, the way it fits.

Front line feedback
If you’re trying to build a strong safety culture, you’ll soon know that input from the front lines is invaluable. If you have a strong safety culture, you know this already. It’s especially true with safety eyewear. Compliance has been proven over and over again in safety cultures where employees are involved. Safety eyewear choices run far and wide. From basic, flat ophthalmic eyewear with attached side shields, to high-tech looking shades with funky shapes and mirrored lenses. But the most effective variety will be the variety that not only meets ANSI Z87.1 standards, but also is highly regarded by employees. This variety might be one choice for a certain group of employees, but a completely different choice for another group. Having a sufficient variety to choose from certainly helps compliance, but the variety should come from styles employees like, not necessarily those management thinks will be best. Chances are, employee satisfaction with the eyewear will be based mostly on how it looks and how it fits.

Good-looking safety eyewear is easier to find these days. More and more safety programs and eyewear manufacturers understand the value of safety eyewear with style. Of course, style can mean different things to different people. Most of the time, however, it means color and contour: color in lenses; color in frames; and contour in both.

Fashion meets function
Tinted lenses can be merely for fashion, or more significantly for function, or for both. Blue lenses look cool to some, yellow to others. But both also can play a part in eyewear functionality by limiting the amount of light that penetrates the lens and reaches the eye. The true tint of the lens under the mirror coating is most likely grey, green or brown. Different lens tints will filter different light waves and perform better in different environments. Safety lenses meant for outdoor use should have the proper tint for the necessary light conditions — grey or green lenses for more intense sunlight, and brown, amber or even clear lenses for less. In strong glare environments, polarized lenses are best because they’re specially designed to reduce glare, thus reducing eye fatigue and improving vision and eye health. If the proper tint is provided to employees, they’re more likely to wear their safety glasses. Clear lenses, of course, are best worn for indoor operations or dark outdoor conditions. Photochromic lenses — those that change from virtually clear to quite dark with exposure to the sun’s UV rays — are excellent for employees who work both indoors and out, virtually eliminating the need to change glasses when environments change.

Style is shaping up
Safety lens shapes can be versatile too. In generations past, lenses were exclusively flat and dull looking, but now they can be sleek and curved like the shape of the cheek bones or the contoured frame the lenses fit into. Curved lenses not only usually look more stylish, but they also typically provide better coverage and protection for the eyes. After all, isn’t eye protection the point?

All of these lens choices can be found in cool-looking, contoured frames that come in many shapes and colors. The safety eyewear industry has really responded to stylish demands in recent years. Many brands on the market are positioning their styles for work and for play — perfect for those safety cultures that believe in 24/7 protection. Safety eyewear that looks like the eyewear worn off the job is far more likely to be worn on the job.

Factor in fit
Ultimately, employees are certainly more likely to wear safety glasses that fit well. A clumsy design that sits painfully on the bridge of their nose like an open pair of pliers is more likely to find its way into the trash can than onto the faces of the employees whose vision it was intended to protect. A comfortable design that rests gently, yet steadily on the bridge, follows the contour of the face and grips securely over or around the ears is much more likely to be worn. Couple that comfortable fit with cool frame colors, designs and lenses, and you’ve got the makings of safety eyewear styles employees will be eager to wear.

Style and comfort are the true secrets to a successful safety eyewear program. Just ask your employees.