The Center for Disease Control and Prevention reports that each day 2,000 workers have a work-related eye injury that requires medical treatment. About 100 eye injuries each day result in more than a day of lost time away from work. The majority of these injuries result from small particles or objects striking or abrading the eye. All of these injuries could have been prevented had proper eye protection been used.
OSHA 1910.133 provides the standards for eye and face protection. These are summarized in the book “PPE Made Easy” by Jeffrey O. Stull by stating that OSHA 1910.133:
“Requires use of eye and face protection for specific hazards, including:
Acids or caustic liquids
Chemical gases or vapors
Potentially injurious light radiation
Requires side protection for flying object hazards, provision for prescription lenses, PPE marking, and use of filter lenses for protection against injurious light radiation.
Requires compliance of protective eye and face devices with ANSI Z87.1-1989, American National Standard Practice for Occupational and Educational Eye and Face Protection.
While this may seem fairly simple and straightforward, quite a few questions about 1910.133 have come up. The following answers to common questions are based on OSHA's interpretations of 1910.133:
Can Employees Who Wear Prescription Eyeglasses Refuse to Wear Safety Glasses?
OSHA requires the employer to ensure their employees use effective eye protection. If the employee refuses to wear eye protection, and the employer has met all of their obligations, the employee may not work in areas where eye protection is required.
What are the employer's obligations? If an employee wears prescription lenses the employer is required to do one of the followings:
Ensure the employee wears eye protection that incorporates the prescription in its design.
Ensure the employee wears eye protection, over the prescription lenses that do not disturb either the proper position of the prescription lens, nor the protective lenses.
The employer is only required to provide non-prescription eye and face protection at no cost to the employee. The only situation for which the employer is required to provide prescription lens is when prescription inserts or lens are needed for full face respirators. This means that, if an employee wears prescription glasses that are not safety glasses, and they are unwilling to wear safety glasses over their prescription glasses, they may not work in an area were eye protection is required.
Can Employers Require Workers to Use Eye Protection That Provides More Protection Than Required by OSHA?
Yes, employers can require eye protection that exceeds the OSHA 1910.133 standards. A good example of this is the requirements for side shields.
OSHA 1910.133(a)(2) allows detachable side protectors as long as they meet OSHA requirements. However, the employer may require that safety glasses have permanent side shields. The level of protection provided by both types of side shields is the same. However, some employers have found their workers continue to wear their safety glasses outside of work, and that they remove the detachable side shields when they leave work. Often, when the worker returns the next day, the side shields have been lost, and the worker's eyes are not fully protected. Since permanent side shields cannot be removed, requiring this higher standard for side shields is the employer's way of ensuring workers are safe and in compliance with OSHA 1910.133.
Are Tinted Safety Glasses Allowed?
The requirements of 1910.133 are that safety glass comply with ANSI Z87.1. As long as tinted glasses provide protection that meets the ANSI standard, then they are acceptable to OSHA. In addition, the safety glasses must be marked so that they can easily be identified as meeting ANSI requirements, and any appropriate warnings and instructions must be included as a part of the packaging that comes with the safety glasses. OSHA's main concern is that employers and their employees are able to correctly identify OSHA compliant safety glasses and use them properly.
How is the Correct Type of Eye Protection Determined?
The type of required eye protection is determined by a hazard assessment conducted by the employer. It is important that the hazard assessment identify all potential hazards, and that 1910.133 compliant eye and face protection is selected based on the most serious hazard.
OSHA has identified five types of eye and face hazards, and four types of protection.
OSHA 1910.133 Hazards
Small flying objects resulting from activities such as chipping, sawing, grinding, drilling, powered fastening, masonry work, and sanding.
Extreme heat from sources such as furnaces, welding, hot dipping, and casting.
Splashes, fumes, vapors, and mists resulting from activities such as handling acids and other chemicals. Hazards in this category also include biological hazards (blood), and splashes and fumes resulting from activities such as degreasing and plating.
Dust results from activities such as sanding and buffing. It can also be created as the result of moving materials containing fine particles (conveying), and from cutting stone or concrete.
This is intense light or glare resulting from welding, torch-cutting, brazing, and working with lasers.
OSHA 1910.133 Eye and Face Protection
Type of Protection
Shields eyes from small flying objects (impact hazards), glare, and heat. Special spectacles are made for providing protection against laser light.
Protects the eyes from flying objects such as large chips, fragments, dust, heat, chemical splashes, mists, vapors, fumes, and some forms of welding/cutting light, sparks, and debris. Special goggles are made for providing protection against laser light.
Provides secondary protection, for the eyes and face, against impact injuries, heat, and chemical splashes.
Welding Hood (filters)
Protects against intense welding light, sparks, and debris.
A common mistake when workers wear eye protection is that most workers think that a face shield is eye protection. Face shields are designed to protect the worker's face; they are not eye protection. Safety glasses or goggles should be worn under face shields to provide primary eye protection.
Eye Protection, the Last Resort
Eye and face hazards should be eliminated using engineering or administrative controls. But, when they cannot be eliminated, then eye protection must be used. Follow the requirements of OSHA 1910.133 to ensure eye hazards are identified and that employees are provided with the required OSHA compliant eye and face protection.