Today’s workplace hazards are more diverse and complex than ever, and safety eyewear has to live up to these increasing challenges to keep workers safe. Through ongoing research and by adapting technologies from other industries, safety eyewear manufacturers are developing new ways to protect workers in every application. This article looks at four technologies that deliver greater safety benefits to workers and help promote an overall safety culture.

Light management

New advances in lens technology provide greater flexibility for workers dealing with varying levels of light. By adapting to changing light conditions, photochromic lenses — commonly known as transition lenses — literally darken and lighten in seconds to provide the proper amount of protection from full-spectrum light. Also available in safety eyewear, photochromic lenses are perfectly suited for indoor/outdoor applications in which workers’ eyes must continuously adapt to changes in light conditions.

The use of polarized lens technology in safety sunglasses is also becoming more common for certain applications. Natural light from the sun is multi-directional, with waves radiating in all directions. But when sunlight reflects off a smooth, flat surface such as water or ice, the waves are reoriented and hit the eye with concentrated force, causing glare. Polarized lenses contain filter materials that block this intense light, reducing glare and allowing the wearer to see fine detail and deep colors. Both types of lenses benefit workers by eliminating constant eye strain on the job.

For applications requiring an immediate shift to protect from extreme bright light, there are safety lenses containing auto-darkening filters. Also known as LCD shutter technology, lenses with this feature darken in less than a millisecond — as soon as bright light is emitted. Originally used in welding and now applied across a variety of industrial applications, the lenses are also finding a market in the healthcare field. In an expanding number of medical applications, providers are exposed to extreme glare from intense pulsed light (IPL). As its name implies, IPL’s lightning-bright light flashes rapidly, making it impossible for the eyes to properly adjust. Workers conducting IPL treatments are prone to headaches and are exposed to hazardous ultraviolet and infrared radiation. Lenses with LCD shutter technology allow IPL practitioners to work more productively and comfortably.

Comfort features

Historically, safety eyewear has been universal in size and style despite significant differences in individuals’ head size, shape and unique overall dimensions. Yet, when protective eyewear is not comfortable, workers are more likely to remove it, even in the presence of hazards, thus compromising their safety and their vision. Never before has protective eyewear been more adjustable to ensure all day comfort and compliance.

Manufacturers today are investing in research and design to create safety eyewear in various sizes based on human physiology. It is beneficial to have as many adjustments as possible to fit every individual. Features such as adjustable nose bridges keep the wearer’s eyes centered in the lens for clearer optics and reduced eye fatigue. Vented, cushioned frames allow for optimum air circulation to reduce fogging. Ratcheting temple hinges adjust the lens angle to provide greater protection and reduce fogging. Even temple tension can be adjusted to loosen and tighten the grip, allowing eyewear to flex, fitting multiple head sizes. By tightening temple grip, eyewear stays put during physical exertion to provide better security and less slippage. Finally, soft, flexible materials used to cover frame components improve comfort and personal fit.

Adjustable eyewear is more secure, provides better protection and helps workers stay alert with less eye fatigue. Custom fit eyewear also improves compliance because it’s comfortable enough to leave on all day long. 

Lens coatings

Anti-scratch and anti-fog lens coatings can make the difference between clear visibility and poor visibility — and the difference between an accident that is avoided and one that is costly and results in vision loss. When lenses become pitted, scratched or fogged over, a worker’s vision and safety become compromised. Managers seeking improved overall durability and performance can look to groundbreaking new lens coatings.

In the anti-scratch category, new coatings provide up to five times more scratch resistance than their predecessors. Lenses treated with high-performance anti-scratch hardcoat perform extremely well in the most demanding work environments, helping avoid pitting and scratches much longer than traditional lenses. Because they last longer and require less frequent replacement, they deliver a cost-saving benefit to safety managers. Anti-scratch lenses are easy to clean — dirt and grit can be wiped and removed without concern for leaving scratches behind. And anti-scratch coatings are strong enough to repel a wide range of chemicals, unlike traditional uncoated polycarbonate lenses.

Advances in anti-fog coatings mean significantly longer-lasting protection from fogging, even in intensely hot and humid work environments. The best coatings are permanently bonded to the lens, and deliver exceptional performance in extreme conditions. Being permanently bonded to the lens, they deliver prolonged durability and lens life. Because lenses with advanced coatings preserve optical clarity, workers are more likely to keep them on, resulting in a workforce that is better protected.

Sealed eyewear

In many environments, workers could benefit from the versatility of eyewear that performs like standard spectacles for normal activities and like a goggle for high-particulate areas. Sealed eyewear is a new hybrid design that combines the features of both in a package less bulky than traditional goggles. While it looks like a spectacle, sealed eyewear is outfitted with a permanent or removable sub-frame made of soft foam or other material that contours the orbital socket, providing a close fit for added protection from dust and particles. The sub-frame also provides an additional layer of comfort for the wearer. For applications where the seal needs to be tight-fitting, the temples can be removed and the headband snapped on. Since many sealed eyewear models look like conventional spectacles, they can also be fitted with prescription lenses for workers who need vision correction. Because of its extremely versatile design, sealed eyewear is quickly becoming popular.

In some eyewear styles, specialty textile materials are being used to help manage not only dust, as in the case of foam sub-frames, but also moisture. These specialty textiles, originally used in sports apparel applications, use a wicking mechanism that absorbs moisture into the material then releases it to the air where it evaporates. This type of system helps the wearer keep perspiration away from the eye area for optimum comfort and minimum fogging.

Wearing adjustable, high-functioning safety eyewear in the midst of workplace hazards can mean the difference between just another day at work and a costly, damaging eye injury.