300,000 workplace eye injuries send people to the emergency room each year nationwide. In most cases, safety eyewear is not being worn, it doesn’t fit, or doesn’t provide the appropriate protection for the application.
Of these 300,000 eye injuries, it’s estimated that 90% of them were preventable if workers had been wearing (appropriate) eye protection. That equates to 270,000 workplace eye injuries that could be avoided each year.
But how do you know if you’re wearing the “appropriate” eye protection? It starts by looking inside the pair of safety glasses you have.
When you look inside of a pair of safety eyewear you’ll see several markings. Have you ever wondered what those markings mean and why they exist? These numbers indicate specific safety ratings for eyewear, part of the American National Standards Institute – ANSI Z87. ANSI exists to oversee and help with the development of voluntary safety standards for the US, based on a national consensus process. This creates a uniform testing standard and helps hold all manufacturers accountable for the level of safety they deliver in their products.
The ANSI Z87 rating was created to help develop a certification system for safety eyewear based on specific hazards encountered in the workplace like:
Eye protection that’s Z87.1 compliant is marked with “Z87.” All safety eyewear manufacturers should provide product information around how their safety eyewear meets these current standards.
We’ll be focusing on the three hazards, their testing methods and markings we most commonly get asked about:
Common Related Tasks
Flying objects such as large chips, fragments, particles, sand and dirt
Chipping, grinding, machining, masonry work, woodworking, sawing, drilling, chiseling, powered fastening, riveting, and sanding
Splash, fumes, vapors, irritating mists
Acid and chemical handling, degreasing, plating, and working with blood
Woodworking, buffing, and general dusty conditions
From the OSHA website, November 2011
The first marking you’ll likely see on your eyewear is “Z87” or “Z87+”. This is the ANSI standard for impact which helps ensure safety eyewear provides workers with the needed protection from impact hazards.
For safety eyewear to pass the basic Z87 standard, it must pass the ball drop test. This test involves a steel ball (that is one inch in diameter and weighing roughly 2.4oz) being dropped from a test height of 50 inches. For eyewear to pass, the lens and frames must remain intact.
But what about if there's a “+” next to the Z87 marking? Z87+ means that the eyewear meets a higher impact standard and goes through a much tougher set of tests than Z87.
There are two main tests for Z87+: the high mass impact test and the high velocity impact test:
This test consists of dropping a 500-gram pointed weight from a height of about 50 inches (or 4.2 feet) onto lenses that are mounted on a head form. To pass this lens-retention test, no pieces from the frames or lenses may break free or fracture. The high-mass test is a good indicator of a product’s strength and is meant to simulate an impact like a slipping tool that falls onto a worker’s face or a lens collision with a stationary object.
This test involves a ¼ inch steel ball being shot at 20 different specified impact points. The speed and distance (or velocity) of the tiny steel ball varies, depending on the type of safety eyewear.
The pass/fail criteria for the high velocity test is the same as the high mass test with the added criterion that the “eye” on the head form can’t encounter the lens in any way when it’s struck. This test is meant to simulate particles that workers could be exposed to when performing job functions such as grinding, chipping or machining.
Understanding the difference between these two standards is crucial (Z87 vs Z87+). All HexArmor safety eyewear is tested against, and passes, the Z87+ standard for high impact.
Eyewear that meets the ANSI Z87.1 requirement for droplet (splash) and dust protection will be marked with a code that begins with the letter “D”.
Sometimes there’s confusion about whether safety eyewear is rated for chemical splash. This may stem from an outdated version of the ANSI/ISEA 2010 standard. In this version, the ANSI/ISEA called the test a “chemical splash test.” However, in the updated Z87.1-2015 standard, the test was renamed the “liquid splash test.”
This is more accurate because the test for splash resistance is simply a liquid splash test. This means liquid in general and nothing specific. It could be water, Coca-Cola, apple juice…you get the idea. The liquid splash test is a pass/fail test and uses a sheet of reactive paper. The paper is placed on a head form under the eye protection (in this case usually googles) with circles drawn for where the eyes would be, and then sprayed with a liquid. If the paper turns color inside those circles, it fails. If not, it passes for liquid splash.
Safety goggles are intended to protect eyes against dust, splash, and droplet hazards. Goggles form a protective seal around the eyes, preventing liquid, chemicals, or dust from entering under or around the goggles. Ventilated goggles allow air circulation while providing protection against airborne particles, dust, liquids, or light.
In most cases, goggles with a direct vent system will fail this test as liquid is able to get directly through the vent and to the eyes.
Goggles with indirect vent systems, will likely pass the liquid splash test (depending on the manufacturer), meaning they provide a safe barrier between the liquids and the eyes beneath and are rated for use with liquid splash hazards.
With safety glasses, you can find markings either on the sidearm of the frames or on the right side of the lens, as shown in the photo below.
If the eyewear passed the high impact standard, you will see a “+” next to the Z87 or W marking on the sidearm or you’ll see a W+ on the lens. “W” is simply the manufacturer’s mark.
With goggles, the markings will be found on the top of the seal.
Wondering what all the other numbers and letters mean? Here's a quick guide for reference:
These markings help make the selection process of ANSI Z87 safety eyewear easier, so workers are getting the safest eyewear for the job, inevitably helping to increase compliance.
Even if you understand what all the markings mean, you still may need help selecting the right eyewear for your application. To help companies be better prepared and informed, the International Safety Equipment Association (ISEA) has prepared a guide to help safety managers and workers properly select and use eye and face protection equipment.
Another helpful tool is on the OHSA website which helps you choose the type of eye and face protection needed based on the hazards that may be encountered in the workplace.
Additionally, it’s always smart to check with your safety manufacturer to see how your eyewear is being made, how it scores in the ANSI Z87 testing, and what applications your safety eyewear is ideal for.
Download our Quick Guide to Lens Markings (below) to use as a resource when evaluating your eyewear.
OSHA: https://www.osha.govQuick Guide to Lens Markings