Protecting Eyes and Lungs

When preparing for emergency responses, it’s important to determine what types of safety equipment are best suited for any given emergency situation.

Co-workers, visitors and employees may encounter many common hazards such as:

  • Dust, concrete and metal particles
  • Falling or shifting debris, building materials and glass
  • Smoke, noxious/poisonous gases

  • Dust, concrete and metal particles
  • Falling or shifting debris, building materials and glass
  • Smoke, noxious/poisonous gases
  • Chemicals (acids, solvents, fuels, wet or dry cement powder)
  • Thermal hazards and fires
  • Bloodborne pathogens (hepatitis or HIV) from blood, body fluids and human remains

Protective Eyewear – Making the Right Choice

To help ensure personal safety, it is important to wear the proper eye and face protection. Select eye protection based on the ANSI Z87+ standard. The Z87+ mark appears on the lens or frames.

Safety Glasses

Although goggles are a better choice, safety glasses should be worn when there may be minor dust, chips, or flying particles. They should have side protection, and are available with either side shields or a wrap-around style. Use an eyewear retainer to keep the glasses on tight or close by.


Goggles should be used when higher impact protection is needed, there is a greater amount of dust, or a chemical splash may occur. Goggles with indirect venting should be used for splash or fine dust protection. Direct-vented goggles should be used when working around large particles. Safety goggles designed with high airflow will help minimize fogging, while providing better protection from particles and splashes.

Face Shields

Face shields offer fill-face protection from spraying, chipping, grinding and chemical or bloodborne hazards, plus additional protection from high impact. They are available in tinted or metal-coated styles for heat and splatter protection. Because the curve of the face shield will allow particles or chemicals to come from the sides into the eyes, safety glasses or goggles must be worn under a face shield at all times.

Prescription Glasses & Contact Lenses

Anyone who wears prescription glasses should wear snug goggles over their glasses. Contact lenses may cause corneal abrasion when working in dusty areas, unless tight fitting goggles or a full-face respirator is worn. Full-face respirators may not seal properly over prescription or safety glasses. To avoid this problem, prescription inserts, which are compatible with a respirator, should be used. Polycarbonate or Trivex(TM) lenses should be used when working in high impact areas.

Make sure eye protection is in good condition. Eye protection must fit properly and needs to remain in place while at the emergency site. For greater protection, it is best to place a face shield over glasses or goggles.

It is important to always be prepared with first aid knowledge in case of eye injuries. The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) is a good source of information (

Respiratory Equipment – Breathing Safely

Respiratory protection is a key element in the range of personal protective equipment (PPE) essential for first responders and others in any scenario where there is exposure to chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear (CBRN) hazards.

Along with appropriate eyewear, respirators help provide the best protection from dust, chemicals and smoke inhalation. They are available in full- or half -face styles. When half-face respirators are used, make sure that the respirator does not interfere with the proper positioning of the eye protection.

Respiratory equipment is categorized by classification and is listed according to the degree of protection afforded for environments containing various chemical or biological threats. For example, SCBAs (self-contained breathing apparatus) and APRs (air purifying respirators) are now classified by their specific levels of approval, eg., NFPA, NIOSH, etc.

Knowing how to fit test, use, clean, maintain and store the respiratory equipment is critical. Users must follow the manufacturer’s requirements and guidelines for training and storage. Each manufacturer must supply their requirements with every respirator. Purchasers also must understand the distinction between air-purifying respirators certified under previous NIOSH standards and those released after March 7, 2003, which, for example, may protect against a broader array of CBRN agents.

If you have not recently conducted a review if your respiratory protection program, now’s a good time. Those in high-risk locations and industries also are urged to educate their employees, particularly those who are designated to respond to and/or required to escape from a possible emergency or terrorist attack.

Information courtesy of North Safety Products and Sperian.