Clean safety eyewear is a key to eye safety

June 19, 2024

Safety eyewear is an important piece of an employee’s personal protective equipment (PPE). Like all PPE, safety eyewear must be cared for properly to function as expected. Employees must be trained on best practices for maintaining their safety eyewear and coached on establishing a routine of proper use, storage, and regular cleaning. This will keep employees protected while getting the best value from their safety eyewear.

Employees need to be taught to do daily pre-use inspections. As part of this, they need to look carefully at their safety eyewear for cracks, scratches, or breaks. Scratches can reduce or distort vision, making it harder for employees to do their work. Even a small crack can cause eyewear to fail. You should inspect safety eyewear before each use and give it a good cleaning after use.

In some work environments, it can be a real challenge to keep safety eyewear clean. For example, at a dusty worksite, employees may need to clean the lenses multiple times each day. Cleaning methods can be as simple as giving them a quick rinse under cool water and drying them with a microfibre cloth, not an old rag or a shirt. Some tasks and environments, however, may necessitate a more thorough cleaning will be required.


Steps to clean your eyewear

Here are a few tips to keep your safety eyewear clean and ready for use every day:

  1. First, lightly blow off any loose dirt or debris from the lenses and give them a quick rinse with cool water to remove the bulk dust and debris. This will reduce the chances of the lens being scratched when you wipe them.
  2. Choose a wipe, or a spray and cloth, as directed by the manufacturer to clean the lens. If using a spray, applying the solution directly onto the lenses will help cut grease or any tougher streaks, then gently wipe with a microfibre cloth. This is often the most effective method. Another good option is the disposable wipes recommended by or distributed by the manufacturer. If you don’t have a spray or a disposable wipe, use mild soap and water. Dishwashing soap is a good and generally safe option.
  3. Drying both lenses with a microfibre cloth. When wiping or drying the lens, don’t push too hard. Use a gentle circular motion starting at the centre of the lens, and then working your way to the outer edge. Excessive pressure may cause scratching or smudges. Finally, let the lenses finish air-drying before wearing them again.
  4. Inspect the frames and give them a wipe too. They may have sweat and normal body oils built up from normal use. A proper cleaning is needed to deal with this.
  5. If needed, pat the lens dry with a microfibre cloth. If using a spray, this may not be necessary, but soap and water may leave water droplets that need to be dried.


A note about anti-fog sprays

Using an anti-fog coating or solution can help reduce fogging when transitioning between different temperature work environments or when employees are working hard and sweating. This can be a great tool for improving the performance of your safety eyewear. If you use spray-type anti-fog treatments on your lenses, please note that this solution needs to be re-applied after each cleaning.


What not to do

Employees should be told not to use household cleaners, industrial cleaners, hand sanitizers, or silicone-based cleaners. Shirt fabric or bathroom tissue should not be used to clean your glasses because these can damage protective lens coatings, cause the lenses to become scratched, or leave a thin film or residue on your lenses. Chemicals and cleaners can also remove specialty coatings from the lenses. Scratched and damaged lenses are harder to see though, can impair vision, cause eye strain, and are more prone to fogging.

Ensure that you properly clean the frames, including the side shields, arms, and nosepiece. These areas can get oily and grimy, which can easily migrate to the lens. Oily safety eyewear may also slide down your nose, creating openings where particulate or another hazardous agent may enter.

If possible, it’s best to have a professional look at your safety glasses if they are broken or adjustments are required. Eyesafe™️ clinics are trained to provide professional fit testing on prescription safety eyewear.


The final step is to remember to put your safety eyewear back on! Safety eyewear needs to be worn to work.

Your PPE provides much-needed protection for your eyes in a variety of workplace settings. Proper care keeps them in top working condition, ensures a clear field of vision, and helps maximize their function and longevity. Consistent and proper maintenance of safety eyewear needs to become a habit to maintain its good condition and function. When not in use, store your safety eyewear in a protective case. The manufacturer may provide this with your safety eyewear. This will keep them clean and protect them from damage.


Glyn Jones is a partner at EHS Partnerships Ltd. in Calgary. He is a consulting occupational health and safety professional with 35 years of experience. He is a regular safety conference speaker in Canada, and he provides program design and instructional support to the University of New Brunswick’s OHS certificate and diploma programs.

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