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Use of Eye Protection

Published: 10th Nov 2008

Save not only your sight, but also your life

The eyes are particularly vulnerable to injury from impact or foreign bodies and, as they are also the only soft entrance to the brain, the use of suitable eye protection may not merely save a person’s sight, but also their life.

Using PPE

Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) is used throughout industry as a means of safeguarding workers from a wide range of health and safety hazards at work, such as exposure to toxic substances or extreme temperatures, being struck by falling objects or being splashed by chemicals / molten metal etc. Work carried out as part of a PPM programme or emergency repairs within a facility will almost certainly require the use of some form of PPE for protection of an employee.

The appropriate PPE for the given task or situation must always be identified following the completion of a suitable and sufficient risk assessment taking into consideration the human factors involved in the job, i.e. the personal characteristics of the person carrying out the task. The environment in which the job is taking place and the policies and procedures set by the organisation for the management of Health & Safety in the facility.

Due to the nature of PPE, each type brings with it a variety of problems that must be addressed via adequate training if workers are to fully understand its uses and limitations.

It must be made clear however that PPE is not a universal solution to all safety needs, but must only be used as a last resort.

The reason for this is because although PPE can offer essential protection to an individual carrying out a hazardous work activity, the hazard itself will still be present in the workplace. So while it is necessary to issue and wear PPE, the introduction of other control measures, such as engineering controls, reduce the sole reliance on PPE.

The hierarchy of control measure must be applied before deciding on the use of PPE. Firstly can the risk be eliminated by removing the hazard? If not, can it be substituted for one less risky? If not can the aforementioned engineering controls be introduced to control the risk at source? If not information, instruction, training and supervision must be provided. And as a last resort - the last line of defence; Personal Protective Equipment must be provided. In reality near always a combination of control measures will be used.

PPE can be summarily classified as an individual’s protection of his head, eyes, hearing, lungs, hands, feet or body generally by the means of specially designed devices and / or implements.

As stated overleaf, PPE should always be considered to be the last choice method of protecting the worker against a hazard and not the first. These approaches may not completely eliminate all hazards, and PPE will more often than not have to be issued to and used by the workers for protection in conjunction with other control measures stated in the hierarchy of controls stated previously.

The marking and maintenance of PPE must be in compliance with the manufacturer’s instructions, or in such a way that the materials or methods used do not affect the integrity of the product.

The use of PPE in industry in the Emirate of Dubai is mandatory under Local Order No 61 of 1991, Chapter 4, Personal Protective Equipment. Failure to provide and maintain PPE by any company may result in fines and other punitive measures being incurred.

For the purpose of this article we are now going to focus on eye protection. The following briefly describes the type of eye protection commonly use in industry today.

It is possible to summarily classify eye protection into four main groups:

  • Safety glasses
  • Over-glasses
  • Goggles
  • Face shields / visors

Safety glasses

Safety Glasses must be manufactured to meet the requirements of EN166 and are generally tested to low energy impact resistance-denoted by the letter F marked on the lens.

There are many and various styles on the market today but the principal rule to follow is that spectacles should fit the user well, be comfortable and the space between the frame and the face be kept to a minimum.

For those workers who normally wear prescription spectacles, safety versions are available. However, it should be noted that these glasses are usually tested to an increased robustness level only and not the higher low energy impact level of safety spectacle.


Also referred to as over spectacles, these are often a one-piece wrap-around polycarbonate protector manufactured to meet low energy impact levels, designed to be large enough to fit over the top of a person’s own prescription glasses.


There are basically two types of goggle, panoramic with a curved lens and a wide field of vision or the more traditional box type.

Care should be taken that a good fit and seal is achieved by careful adjustment of the elastic headband.

Goggles are available to guard against impact, chemical splash, dust and gases and can often be multipurpose.

Safety glasses (Spectacles) No side shield Can provide frontal protection only but no protection from the sides. Not recommended for grinding, chipping or other activities where flying particles are likely.
Full side shield Can provide protection in grinding, chipping and from sparks and spatter. This type of eye protection provides protection against low energy impact. Frames can interfere with hearing protection causing discomfort and noise leakage. With suitable filters can be used for protection against incidental exposure from arc radiation for those working near welders. They do not provide protection against medium / high impact nor do they provide adequate protection against molten metal splash and hot particles.
Goggles No ventilation Can provide adequate protection from sparks, spatter and low / medium energy impact in grinding and chipping. Protects the eyes from airborne particles and gases. Edges should conform to the workers face. In humid and hot environments can become misted. Frequent cleaning may be required. Do not interfere with hearing protection. Easier to wear behind welding screens than safety glasses.
Indirect ventilation Can provide adequate protection from sparks and low / medium impact. DOES NOT protect eyes against gases. Edges should conform to workers face. Useful in hot humid environments where misting can occur. Do not interfere with hearing protection.
Direct ventilation As with indirect ventilation type but does not provide protection against airborne particles and gases. Edges should conform to the workers face. Useful when ventilation around the eyes is required. Do not interfere with hearing protection.
Cup goggles Direct ventilation Can provide adequate protection from sparks, spatter and low / medium energy impact in grinding and chipping. Do not protect the eyes from airborne particles and gases. With suitable filters can be used for gas welding without the use of a welding shield but use of full - face shield may still be appropriate.
Indirect ventilation Can provide adequate protection from sparks and spatter and low / medium energy impact from airborne particles. Do not protect against gases. As with cover goggles with indirect ventilation but are less bulky and may be easier to accommodate under the welding shield.
Welding goggles Indirect ventilation Can provide adequate protection from sparks and spatter. When fitted with suitable filter can provide suitable protection from radiation during gas welding. They do not provide suitable protection in arc welding without the use of face shield or welding shield. Edges should conform to the workers face. Less bulky than a face shield or welding shield and does not interfere with other PPE worn in the face region. Face shield or welding shield may be more appropriate for working overhead.
Full face shield Direct ventilation Can be used in conjunction with all the above to provide protection against sparks, spatter low / medium impact. Tends to be rather bulky. Can be useful when carrying out grinding in conjunction with safety glasses for maximum protection.

In the main they are manufactured to meet EN166 medium energy impact levels and an alpha numeric system of markings on both the housing and the lens is used to indicate their purpose and impact resistance level as follows

• Chemicals 3
• Dusts 4
• Gases 5
• Molten metal 8
• Low energy impact F
• Medium energy impact B

Goggles with varying degrees of green filter are also available for welding and similar processes. Manufactured to meet the requirements of EN 169 they are intended to provide protection against ultraviolet, strong light sources and are suitable for use only for short periods or by welder’s assistants.

They should in no way be considered a low cost alternative to a face screen for electric arc welders and those welding for long periods throughout the working day.

Face Screens/Visors

These provide protection for both the face and eyes, and are usually manufactured to meet the requirements of EN 166 to either medium energy impact resistance or the new high-energy impact resistance.

There should be a system of care and maintenance for all eye protection and employees should receive instruction in their own duties in this regard. Eye protection should be replaced immediately it is damaged or becomes defective.

If a company is unsure where they should start or require further information with regards to Health & Safety Management and the use of Personal Protective Equipment they can contact the author at or the Dubai Municipality Environmental Protection & Safety Section on +971 (4) 2064244 or alternatively contact the Institution of Occupational Safety and Health at the UK’s Health & Safety Executive at

Published: 10th Nov 2008 in Health and Safety Middle East

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Tony Potter