Of the 300,000 workplace eye injuries each year in the US, it’s estimated that 90% of them would have been prevented if workers had been wearing eye protection.
Workplace eye hazards can be dangerous, which is why wearing the proper safety eyewear is paramount to help mitigate injury. But how do you know if you’re wearing the “appropriate” eye protection?
It starts by looking inside your safety glasses for the “Z87” or “Z87+” mark… and more. This blog will explain what this means and why it’s important.
ANSI Z87.1 requirements
Your safety glasses include several markings that, in short, indicate specific safety ratings as determined by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI).
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 Z87.1 rating was specifically created to help develop a certification system for safety eyewear based on specific hazards encountered in the workplace:
- Chemicals or Liquid Splash
Eye protection that’s Z87.1 compliant is marked with “Z87.” All safety eyewear manufacturers should provide product information about how their safety eyewear meets these current standards.
Three main eyewear hazards
We’ll be focusing on the three hazards we most commonly get asked about, along with their testing methods and markings:
- Liquid Splash
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 protector requirements which helps ensure safety eyewear provides workers with the needed protection from impact hazards.
For safety eyewear to pass the basic Z87.1 standard, it must pass the Drop Ball Impact 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 three additional tests for Z87+:
1. High Mass 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.
2. High Velocity Impact Test
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.
- Safety Glasses – the steel ball is shot at a speed of 102mph
- Safety Goggles – the steel ball is shot at a speed of 170mph
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.
3. Penetration Test (lenses only)
This test includes a weighted needle with a minimum total weight of 44.2g (1.56 oz) dropped from a height of at least 127 cm (50 in).
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.
Splash and dust protection
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”.
- D3: Eye protection that provides protection from droplets and splashes are marked with "D3"
- D4: Eye protection that provides dust protection are labeled with "D4"
- D5: Eye protection that provides fine dust protection is labeled with "D5"
Liquid splash test misconceptions
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 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 (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.
Adequate protection from splash dust
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.
Difference between direct and indirect ventilation goggles
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.
Product markings explained
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 Z87.1 safety eyewear easier, so workers are getting the safest eyewear for the job, inevitably helping to increase compliance.
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.
HexArmor® can help
Even if you understand what all the markings mean, you still may need help selecting the right ANSI safety glasses for your application. Check with your safety manufacturer to see how your eyewear is being made, how it scores in the ANSI Z87.1 testing, and what applications your safety eyewear is ideal for.
Plus, all of HexArmor's safety eyewear is Z87+ approved, so you know you're getting the best eye protection on the market - see our safety eyewear technology.
[Originally published in March 2016 but has since been updated]Quick guide to lens markings