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Eyewear Lens Type Selection

Quick Tips #376

Choosing protective eyewear is not as simple as simply finding a pair of safety glasses that meet the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) standard, ANSI Z89.1 Occupational and Educational Eye and Face Protection. There are many more features available for eyewear that can help ensure you have the best eyewear for the job you need to do. These features include lens coatings, lens tints/colors, welding filter shades and sizing.

Lens Coatings

Lens coatings are made to enhance the versatility (and even the life span) of a pair of safety glasses. These coatings are often available separately or in combination with other coatings for more functionality. One available coating is an anti-scratch coating. This coating is designed to protect the lens when subjected to repeated impacts such as grinding applications. It can also extend the life of glasses when they are stored in conditions that would precipitate scratches. Some of these coatings are added on top of the standard lens while others are permanently bonded to the lens for even longer life.

Anti-fog coated lenses are another option to get the best performance out of safety glasses. This type of lens coating is designed to help reduce fogging in conditions such as cold-to-warm temperature transitions, humid environments or half-mask respirator applications. While anti-fog coating is not 100% fog free, fogging can be limited by using a fog-free lens, getting a pair of eyewear that sits further away from the face and supplementing the lens coating by adding an anti-fog cleaner or spray.

Anti-Static coatings are another option that is available. This type of coating reduces the dust and particulate levels that stick to a pair of eyewear. This coating would work well in environments where particulate levels are a concern or where dusts and particulates sticking to the lens would create a safety concern due to reduced visibility.

Mirror coatings in a variety of colors can be added to both clear and tinted lenses and are used to reduce glare. Mirror coatings on clear lenses are appropriate for indoor glare reduction and for workers going from light to dark conditions. Mirrored coatings on tinted lenses are most appropriate for outdoor work in bright conditions where glare is a concern.

Lens Tints/Color Options

Eyewear lenses are available in many colors and tints. Selecting the correct colored lens for the application is important to get the best visual acuity.

Clear lenses are appropriate for general indoor applications or outdoor applications with low light conditions. Clear lenses made of polycarbonate will remove approximately 99.9% of dangerous UV light. Most brands provide protection from UV wavelengths to at least 380nm while others, such as Uvex, protect up to 400nm. For specific UV light applications, always look into the properties of the specific eyewear to ensure you are protected from the wavelength you are exposed to.

Gray lenses are typically referred to as a sunglass style tint. They are used in environments where bright light conditions and glare could cause eye fatigue. A gray lens provides good color recognition but should not be used in low light conditions as it can block too much light.

Brown/Espresso lenses are similar to gray lenses and can be used like a sunglass lens where bright light conditions or glare can cause eye fatigue. This lens should not be used in low light conditions.

Indoor/Outdoor lenses are used for employees who go from light to dark conditions or need to reduce glare in indoors conditions due to harsh lighting. An indoor/outdoor lens is a clear lens with a mirrored surface to reduce glare. This lens is not a photochromic (auto darkening) lens.

Amber lenses are appropriate for low light conditions. This lens color blocks blue light and gives optimum contrast. This lens should not be used at night as too much light is blocked.

Light blue lenses reduce glare and the yellow tint often given off by industrial/sodium vapor lighting. Yellow light can cause eye strain and fatigue.

Vermillion lenses enhance contrast while color perception is unaffected. They are often used in inspection applications where color acuity is needed.

Photochromic lenses transition from light to dark with changing light conditions.

Dark Green lenses offer general purpose protection from glare and UV. This tint should not be confused with a welding filter shade and will not provide adequate protection during soldering, torch blazing, cutting, gas welding or electric arc welding.

Welding Filter Shades

These filter shade lenses are designed specifically to be worn during soldering, torch blazing, cutting, gas welding and electric arc welding operations. They should never be worn as a general purpose sunglass or for driving due to reduced light transmittance and the color distortion associated with filter shades.

OSHA's (Occupational Health and Safety Administration) standard on eye and face protection, 29 CFR 1910.133(a)(5) references the filter lenses that are appropriate based on the operation being performed. See Grainger's Quick Tips #109 for more information on selecting the appropriate welding shade.

Lens Sizing

Most eyewear is made in a standard size to fit most faces. But in situations where a one-size-fits-all approach doesn't work, in many cases other sizes are available to make wearing safety glasses comfortable.

OTG or over-the-glass eyewear is made to facilitate wearing safety glasses over prescription glasses. These glasses have a wider frame and lens to allow for most prescription eyewear to be worn underneath.

Large safety glasses are made for people with wider facial features, while size small glasses are available for women and individuals with smaller or narrower faces.

Commonly Asked Questions

QI need protection from UV light, what eyewear will provide protection? AAll clear polycarbonate eyewear provides 99.9% protection from UV up to approximately 380nm. For specific UV product applications and wavelengths, check to see if the eyewear selected will cover your needs. QI used a fog-free product on my lenses and they still fog up when I leave my freezer. What's going on? AFog-free cleaners and wipes are made to minimize fogging but in some extreme conditions fogging will still happen due to the physics of the moisture molecules from the wearer being attracted to the nearest surface. Nothing is ever 100% fog-free in all conditions. QI've used welding shades in the past and they are green to dark green. Can I use a dark green colored safety glass in place of a shaded lens? ANo, welding filter shades are designed to protect from optical/radiant energy which includes specific requirements for UV ranges and infrared protection. A green tinted lens will not provide any of those protections for welding.


OSHA Eye and Face protection standard

ANSI Z87.1-2010 Standard for Occupational and Educational Person Eye and Face Protection Devices

Uvex Lens Technology Brochure

Elvex FAQ Eyewear Protection

Quick Tips #109

Elvex UV Nanometer and Shade Chart

UVEX Lens Tint Reference Guide

(Rev. 9/2013)

Find even more information you can use to help make informed decisions about the regulatory issues you face in your workplace every day. View all Quick Tips Technical Resources at

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Please Note:
The content in this newsletter is intended for general information purposes only. This publication is not a substitute for review of the applicable government regulations and standards, and should not be construed as legal advice or opinion. Readers with specific compliance questions should refer to the cited regulation or consult with an attorney.

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