Whether or not you regularly wear glasses, you may have a job that requires you to work in challenging or hazardous conditions. For example, you may be a carpenter or welder where you are at risk of flying objects or debris damaging your eyes. These aren’t simply irritants. In fact, at some jobs, workers can be subject to severe eye damage—including life-altering conditions like blindness. Due to these risks, you may be wondering whether you have to wear safety glasses at work—even if you don’t wear glasses when you aren’t at work. This article is designed to clear up some of the confusion regarding this question.
The bottom line? There may be certain situations where you are required to wear safety glasses at work. Because of this, it is important that both you and your employer understand these situations so that you are properly protected when you are working in such a demanding environment.
To better understand this question, it helps to understand one of the most important agencies in the United States that regulate workplace safety. The agency, which you may have heard of already, is called the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (“OSHA”).
OSHA was created in 1970 and it is an agency under the umbrella of the Department of Labor. OSHA’s primary mission is to “ensure safe and healthful working conditions for working men and women by setting and enforcing standards and by providing training, outreach, education, and assistance.”
In this discussion of mandatory safety glasses at work, it is important to look at the first part of OSHA’s overall mission: ensuring safe working conditions by setting and enforcing standards. OSHA rules and standards—per the OSH Act—cover most private sector employers and their workers. Along with this, the OSH Act applies to some public sector employees and workers in all 50 states and certain territories and jurisdictions under the authority of the U.S. government.
Therefore, a critical part of whether you must wear safety glasses at work is determining whether OSHA regulations apply to your employer. If you work with a private-sector employer in the United States, the answer is probably yes. The answer is somewhat trickier if you are a public sector employee.
If you have any doubts about whether OSHA standards apply to your organization, you can click here. Alternatively, you can speak with a representative from your organization’s human resources or legal departments, as they will be able to provide you with more information.
From here, we are assuming that your organization must comply with OSHA standards. With this assumption behind us, it is helpful to dig into the OSHA standards themselves to find more details.
Many OSHA standards require employers to provide so-called personal protective equipment (“PPE”). PPE can be everything from metatarsal foot protection and hard hats to hearing protection and goggles and rubber boots with steel toes.
The whole goal of PPE is to help protect you and your colleagues from hazards when you are on the job, essentially fulfilling a key tenet of OSHA’s mission.
As for eyewear itself, OSHA has provided some clear guidance on whether protective eyewear must be worn in the workplace. The relevant standard that we are discussing here is OSHA 1910.133 – eye and face protection. The requirements are fairly easy to understand and it is worth mentioning some of them here.
Therefore, to answer the question of “do I have to wear safety glasses at work,” you will need to examine the OSHA standard and make a determination based on key characteristics of your job.
One of the most important provisions of this standard is 1910.133(a)(1). This is the first part of the “general requirements” part of this standard. Essentially, it says that employers shall ensure that “each affected employee uses appropriate eye or face protection when exposed to eye or face hazards from flying particles, molten metal, liquid chemicals, acids or caustic liquids, chemical gases or vapors, or potentially injurious light radiation.”
There are several important things to note here. First, employers do not have the option of supplying eye or face protection if employees are exposed to these types of hazards. If one or more of these hazards exist in your line of work, employers are obligated to supply eye or face protection.
Along with this, OSHA decided to list out the potential hazards that qualify for eye protection. There isn’t a catchall provision that lends itself to interpretation. Therefore, if you work in a job that does not have any of these hazards, you will find it more difficult to argue that your employer must provide face or eye protection.
The subsequent provision to the above is 1910.133(a)(2). Here, OSHA requires that employers “ensure that each affected employee uses eye protection that provides side protection when there is a hazard from flying objects.” Here, flying objects can be things like flying particles (as outlined in 1910.133(a)(1)).
The OSHA standard does not make it clear whether “flying objects” is the same as “flying particles” in the prior section. While we can assume that they are one and the same, this is a distinction worth noting.
If you work in an environment with potentially injurious light radiation, you will want to pay attention to 1910.133(a)(5). This section specifically discusses the types of filter lenses for protection against radiant energy.
Depending on the operations that are part of your day-to-day job, your employer will need to supply glasses according to certain specifications. For instance, if you work in shielded metal arc welding, your employer will need to purchase safety eyewear with a minimum protective shade of anywhere from seven to 11 (depending on the electrode size and arc current). To view more specifics on this provision, click here.
These are just several important components that likely determine whether you need to wear safety glasses at work. Whether you actually need to pay for those safety glasses is another story (you can click here to learn more), but the bottom line is that there are circumstances where you must be equipped with protective eyewear. Doing so will ensure that your eyes are properly protected from many of the hazards that you may encounter in your day-to-day work.
While you may think that safety glasses are annoying or cumbersome, they can be one of your most important tools at your job. The worst-case scenario is foregoing safety glasses for comfort or aesthetic reasons and suffering a serious eye injury while you are at work. Instead, the OSHA standard is designed to protect you and your colleagues from all types of harm.
Finally, if you or your employer are looking for safety glasses, we encourage you to check out our collection. At Rx-Safety, we are proud to offer an extensive inventory of safety glasses from the most well-known brands in eyewear. Along with our extensive inventory, we offer terrific customer service and fast shipping times. To learn more about us (or to ask any questions), don’t hesitate to click on the “contact” tab above.
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