DIYers are a resourceful bunch, saving scraps of wood, wire, and pipe for projects yet unknown. We should be just as careful in saving a truly precious asset – our eyesight.
Nearly 1 million Americans are visually impaired or blind due to eye injuries; 92.3% of those injuries could have been avoided with proper safety practices and protective eyewear.
Glasses, Goggles, or Face Shield?
You have these options:
- Full-face shields. These offer full-face protection and are ideal for blocking chips and shavings from lathes or routers. Since they don't offer good protection against heavy impact or from objects that fly up or around the face shield, always wear safety glasses or goggles too. Full-face shields with a head band start at around the price of a pair of goggles.
- Goggles. They provide front, side, top, and bottom protection.
- Those with “direct vents” allow good air circulation, minimize fogging and are adequate for sawing and hammering.
- Those with “indirect vents” offer added protection from fine particles or chemical splashes.
- Goggles with pliable sides are more comfortable to wear and provide a cushion against impact. Many can be worn over prescription glasses.
- Goggles can be cumbersome to put on and take off and can limit peripheral vision, but if you're going to buy only one pair of protective eyewear, get goggles; they‘ll protect you in most situations.
- Safety glasses. These are the most compact form of protective eyewear. Those with side shields will block particles from entering at the sides. Safety glasses offer adequate protection when hammering, using hand tools or slow-moving electric tools. Some are designed with wide bows to slip over prescription glasses.
- Prescription safety glasses. Those with polycarbonate lenses and side shields offer the best protection. The frames, available in plastic or metal, are also more rugged than ordinary eyeglass frames. Most eyewear stores can supply these. They come in a wide array of styles, including designer frames.
When welding or brazing, always wear shaded eyewear to protect eyes from the brightness and infrared light. You should also wear protective safety glasses to guard against flying particles and sparks.
Buy a product that’s both right for the job and comfortable. If it’s uncomfortable, chances are you won’t wear it.
Face shields offer eye and full-face protection but must ALWAYS be worn with safety goggles or glasses.
Face Shield With A Chin Guard
Shields with a chin guard offer added protection from splashes, dust, and flying debris.
I selected the Sellstrom S38140 as the best shield with a face guard because it has a clear polycarbonate window has an anti-fog finish. It’s also lightweight, and resistant to tough jobs such as grinding, chipping, cutting, and so on. It is OSHA compliant and made in the USA. Buy it from Amazon by clicking here.
Face Shield With Welding Shade
Specially shaded lenses in welding helmets are a must for welding or brazing.
I picked the Sellstrom S32251 because it has many of the benefits from the S38140 model above (clear polycarbonate window with an anti-fog finish, lightweight, resistant to tough jobs such as grinding, chipping, and cutting, and it’s made in the USA). It adds the flip-up shade, so you can perform your plasma or flame cutting, brazing, and so on. ANSI Z87 + high impact, CSA Z94.3. You can order it from Amazon in Shades 5, 6, and 8. Click here to go to Amazon and choose yours now.
Wire Mesh Shield
Wire mesh shields are cool and lightweight, ideal for chainsaw cutting and other outdoor work. Making a choice here basically depends on whether you already own ear protection or not.
The Zenport FS825 protects your face from flying wood chips. I chose it because it’s easy to adjust and it won’t break the bank. Click here to find it on Amazon.
What I like the most about the Oregon 563474 is that it adds a ventilated helmet and earmuffs in the same package, so you will always work safe. The user reviews on this one are especially good, click here to see them for yourself.
Goggles provide the best all-around protection, period.
Direct Vent Goggles
Direct vent goggles, which protect eyes from chips and large particles, provide air circulation through small holes.
I chose the Sellstrom S81010 it is super clear, and it has an anti-fog finish. You can also wear it over your glasses if they are on the smaller size. (Keep reading below if you have big glasses.) Plus they are super cheap, which also makes them a great choice for having around extra safety glasses for those times when random helpers come to lend you a hand. Here’s the Amazon link.
Indirect Vent Goggles
Indirect vent goggles provide extra protection against liquid splashes and fine particles, provide air circulation through a circuitous route.
The Sellstrom S80200 Odyssey II is OSHA-compliant, has a scratch-resistant panel with an anti-fog finish, and dual-panel polycarbonate lenses with UV protection. Great choice for dealing with chemicals, sanding exotic hardwoods, or simply going under your car for a DIY oil change. The Amazon price is unbeatable, click here and see it for yourself.
Safety glasses, especially those with top and side shields, offer eye protection, while still being comfortable and easy to slip on and off.
Safety Glasses With Tinted Lenses
Tinted lenses are handy for outdoor work.
This Magid Classic Design will give you that Steve Urkle look, dorkiness and all. Super sturdy, it also fits bigger heads and can be ordered with clear lenses as well. Amazon has a great price on these.
Over-Prescription Safety Glasses
The NoCry Over-Spec Safety Glasses are my personal choice because my prescription glasses have bigger frames and these accommodate them perfectly. Its arms are padded and feel comfortable even if I keep the safety glasses for longer periods. They are also OSHA-certified and protect me in my DIY hobbies around the house. The lenses DO NOT distort my vision. Plus, the price at Amazon is really good. Click and look for yourself!
A Personal Tale
If those “Always Wear Eye Protection” warnings on nail boxes haven’t yet convinced you to use protective eyewear, perhaps a personal tale will.
A friend of mine was working with two carpenters on a house when he heard the unmistakable “ting” of a ricocheting nail, followed by a shriek. He followed the noise and found his pal Chris with a 3-1⁄2 in. nail embedded in his right eye.
The emergency room nurse told them over the phone to bring him in immediately — with the nail intact — so the eye wouldn’t lose fluid. The 15-minute drive was unimaginably long.
Chris lost sight in that eye, along with three months of work and his dream of becoming a builder. True story.
When should you wear eye protection?
Always wear eye protection in the workshop or when using hand or power tools, even when cleaning up. Extend this habit to:
- Lawn and garden work. Thousands of eye injuries occur when stones or sticks are hurled from mowers or when branches snap back while trimming a hedge. Goggles offer the best eye protection for lawn and garden work. A face shield and glasses or goggles should always be worn when using a chainsaw.
- Automotive work. Wear goggles when jump-starting a car or working beneath a car where grime can fall into your eyes. Also, protect your eyes when working with antifreeze, brake fluid, engine cleaners and other caustic fluids.
- Household paints and chemicals. Wear indirect vent goggles (Photo 5) when using, mixing or pouring oven cleaners, swimming pool chemicals, pesticides and paint thinners. Wear ’em even while painting, especially ceilings.
- Sports. Baseball, basketball, tennis, handball, and racquetball are all high-risk sports. Special protective eyewear is available for sports too.
Risky situations can’t be predicted. According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission, in the past few years there were 295 eye injuries from house plants, 387 from underarm deodorants, and 140 injuries from pillows. Be aware of what’s around you and have protective eyewear easily accessible.
Words from a Wise Old Owl
The Wise Owl Club, established in 1948, is a safety program of the National Society to Prevent Blindness. It has documented 85,000 cases of people’s eyes being saved by wearing eye protection — proof that the place for protective eyewear is on your face, not your workbench or toolbox.
It makes sense to:
- Keep an extra pair of safety goggles for workshop visitors or helpers to wear.
- Keep a pair of safety eyewear draped over the handle of your lawn mower and other frequently used tools. If they're handy, you'll wear them.
- Get your kids in the habit of wearing protective eyewear, especially if they’re aspiring woodworkers. Children sustain over 160,000 eye injuries a year.
- Think in terms of prevention. Many eye injuries are caused by lumber or broom handles that stick out carelessly into a room.
- Keep your protective eyewear clean. Use an anti-fog, anti-static cleaning solution for best results.
Some Other Considerations
Protective lenses, whether made from plastic, glass or polycarbonate, will be stamped with the manufacturer’s logo to indicate they have passed safety tests. The frames will bear an “ANSI/ISEA Z87.1” stamp to indicate they too have passed certain tests.
By far, the most impact-resistant material is polycarbonate; though not unbreakable, it’s considered many times stronger than either glass or plastic. Most off-the-shelf goggles and glasses sold these days are polycarbonate.
Ordinary prescription eyeglasses do not offer adequate protection. In fact, everyday glasses can cause greater injury if shards from broken lenses fly into the eye.