What type of eye protection should I wear for various hazards?

  • Mar 22, 2022
  • By Tamilore Gibadi

What is Eye protection?

Eye protection is a type of (safety) personal protective equipment (PPE) helped in preventing injury to the eye. The eyes are one of the most principal organs as well as exposed parts of human body. Eyes are easily injured by many things such as small particles, chemicals, biological agents, strong visible light and non-visible rays. Eyes should be protected by using appropriate eye protection.

3M Safety Glasses

eye protection

Three main types of eye protection exist, each with advantages and disadvantages. They are safety glasses, goggles, and face shields.

  1. Safety Glasses: Safety glasses have safety frames constructed of metal or plastic and impact-resistant lenses.  Side protection is required. Safety glasses have shatter-resistant lenses made of materials like polycarbonate or propionate plastic with side shields. They are designed to prevent large, physical objects such as wood chips from injuring your eyes. They are also used to provide laser light filtration and prevent reflections from the laser entering the eye and causing retinal burns. Safety glasses provide little to no protection from liquids or vapors. Safety glasses can be purchased with prescription lenses and even bifocals.
  2. Goggles: Goggles may be vented or non-vented.
    • Non-vented goggles protect eyes from vapors, mists, fumes, or other hazards eyes must be completely covered, but the material hazard does not require covering all exposed skin.
    • Vented goggles protect from moderated quantities of liquids with no vapor or mist danger. Several types exist. For example, the common, hardware-store goggle has holes drilled into the plastic. This is unsuitable for laboratory work because liquids can get through the holes. Vented laboratory goggles have a series of buttons embedded into the plastic. These buttons house a baffle plate that allows air to pass but present a physical barrier to liquids.
  3. Face Shield: Face shields are not stand-alone eye protection. They protect the entire face with goggles on under the shield to catch any liquids that might have made it past the shield.

Portwest goggle


What type of eye protection should I wear for various hazards?



Hazardous* dry chemicals and small amounts of hazardous liquid chemicals

Safety glasses

Eye protection is required when working with chemicals on the bench or in a fume hood


Hazardous* chemicals that pose a splash hazard

Chemical splash goggles



Cryogenic liquids

Chemical splash goggles and a face shield



Highly reactive or explosive materials

Chemical splash goggles and a face shield

Blast shield recommended


Pyrophoric solids or liquids

Chemicals splash goggles


Biological Material

Potentially infectious materials, including BSL2 microorganisms and viruses, human and non-human primate material, outside of a biosafety cabinet

Safety glasses plus mask or face shield

Eye protection is typically not required when working in a biosafety cabinet, except if other hazardous materials are being handled in the lab. Eye protection may be needed when removing items from the biosafety cabinet.


Unsealed radioactive materials, liquid or powder

Safety glasses




Eyewear is dependent on wavelength and energy/power of laser

Contact Laser Safety Officer at 8-6271


Open ultraviolet light source

Face shield with UV protection



Infrared emitting equipment

Shaded goggles


Machining and Physical Hazards

Soldering, spatter of flux or hot metal

Safety glasses or chemical splash goggles



Furnaces, molten metal or glass, heat, sparks, glare

Dust goggles, reflectivce face shield



Chips, particles, dust, glass shards

Safety glasses



Glassware under pressure

Safety glasses or chemical splash goggles



Cutting/connecting glass tubing

Safety glasses






Changing out compressed gas cylinders, affixing regulator to cylinder

Safety glasses



Use of compressed air for cleaning equipment

Dust goggles

Use of compressed air for personal cleaning is prohibited



Factors in the workplace that increase the risk of eye injury may include:

  • The employer doesn’t supply any eye protection.
  • The employer supplies eye protection, but workers won’t wear it.
  • The employer doesn’t enforce the use of eye protection or train the workers in how to use protection equipment.
  • Neither the employer nor the workers appreciate the potential for injury and don’t think to use eye protection.
  • The eye protection is inadequate, such as the use of glasses when the job requires a face shield.
The eye protection doesn’t fit properly – for example, the glasses are loose and allow particles to enter from the sides.