Monday, 01 January 2007 17:00

Eye protection -- choosing equipment to prevent serious injury

Written by I-Car Advantage Online
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An old safety slogan states: "You can walk with a wooden leg, you can chew with false teeth, but you cannot see with a glass eye. Wear safety glasses." Although the warning may sound crude, it makes a valid point.
Eye injuries can be painful and cause permanent blindness. There are many hazards in a repair facility that can cause severe injury to the eyes. Flying metal, sanding dust, splashing chemicals, and ultraviolet rays are a few examples.

Safety glasses and goggles are able to protect the eyes from the majority of hazards in a repair facility. They are made from a strong polycarbonate material and do not break when hit by hard projectiles flying at high speeds. Normal prescription

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 Figure 1.
glasses are not impact resistant, so are not considered appropriate eye protection. There are prescription safety glasses available, as well as safety glasses with built-in bifocal lenses.

A typical solution is wearing safety glasses that fit over prescription glasses.

Face shields are impact resistant, but face shields and welding helmets are designed more for protecting the face than the eyes and appropriate eye protection should always be worn under them. This is because there are sufficient gaps between the head and sides of a face shield or helmet where flying material can enter.

Full-face respirators do cover all sides of the face, but may not be impact resistant, for example those for use in a spraybooth. If the respirator is only being used for painting, and there are no other hazards around, safety glasses are not necessary underneath.

The facility manager should assess all work areas and operations to determine the appropriate types of required eye protection. At minimum, safety glasses should be worn in work areas at all times, even if there is no immediate hazard. This will prevent forgetting to put them on when a hazard does arise. Other types of eye protection may be recommended for specific tasks.


When choosing safety glasses or other types of eye protection, ensure that they are certified for impact protection. Standards include ANSI Z87.1 for the United States, CSA Z94.3 for Canada, and AS/NZS 1337 for both Australia and New Zealand. The alphanumerical number should be marked somewhere on the equipment (see Figure 1). This certifies that the lenses have been impact tested and provide adequate protection from flying debris.

The American National Standards Institute has recently updated the U.S. standard, ANSI Z87.1-2003. Although the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) does not require the new standard, many safety eyewear manufacturers have started phasing in the new requirements.

One of the new requirements is indicating the level of impact protection. A plus sign (+) placed after the manufacturer logo or after "Z87" indicates high-impact protection. Another new requirement increases the side coverage area ten millimeters rearward. And another new requirement eliminates the minimum lens thickness of two millimeters for high-impact polycarbonate lenses.


Making the correct choice

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 Figure 2.
Safety glasses equipped with side shields should be worn when cutting, grinding, striking metal, or where there's the potential of flying debris. Face shields should be located where they will be used, such as near grinders (see Figure 2).

Protection against ultraviolet (UV), infrared (IR), or intense light is required when welding or using UV curing lamps. Ensure that eye protection is rated for UV protection when working in an area where a UV-curing lamp is being used. Tinted glasses do not necessarily provide protection against UV rays. Look for a statement by the manufacturer that the lenses are rated for UV protection. Auto-dimming welding helmets should be rated for UV and IR protection, but they typically require the shade level to be manually adjusted. The shade level protects the eyes from the intensity of the light. The OSHA "Eye and Face Protection" Regulations Standard 1926.102 provides a list of appropriate shade numbers for various operations.


Getting in the habit of wearing safety glasses whenever in a shop area is the easiest and best protection for preventing serious eye injuries. Safety eyewear should be certified for impact resistance, a code that is stamped directly on the lens. More information on the type of safety eyewear for different tasks in a collision facility can be found in the I-CAR program "Hazardous Materials, Worker Safety, and Refinish Safety."

This Advantage Online article first appeared in the I-CAR e-newsletter, which is published and distributed free of charge. I-CAR, the Inter-Industry Conference on Auto Collision Repair, is a not-for-profit international training organization that researches and develops quality technical education programs related to collision repair. To learn more about I-CAR, and to subscribe to the free e-newsletter, visit or contact I-CAR Marketing Communications Specialist Brandon Eckenrode at

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