Worker in industrial facility wearing hard hat and safety eyewaer

What makes sealed, cushioned, and close-fitting safety glasses important to the job? Here’s the difference.

December 3, 2021

Hundreds of Canadian workers sustain eye injuries every day and flying particles account for the majority of these injuries. This isn’t always about large particles, in fact in most cases the injuries are caused by very fine particles such as dust. Wearing the right personal protective equipment (PPE) is important and a key part of any PPE program is choosing and wearing the right safety eyewear.

Know the Standards

In Canada there is a formalized regulatory framework in place requiring workers to use safety eyewear that has been approved by the Canadian Standards Association (CSA) anytime work may pose a risk to the eyes. The Standard specifies among other things, the minimum front and side coverage dimensions for safety eyewear and the side protectors along with the allowable gap between the safety eyewear and the wearer’s face.

The benefit of sealed safety eyewear

There are many workplaces  in Canada where there are particular challenges associated with flying debris and blowing dust being able to get behind the safety eyewear through the gap between the lenses and side protectors. Fortunately, safety eyewear developments continue to keep pace and a new category of safety eyewear has emerged call “sealed eyewear,” also known as positive seal safety eyewear. The design of this type of safety eyewear is tight fitting to the head and face with a foam gasket giving improved performance and protection. Take note that sealed eyewear is not meant to protect from liquid splashes. You must wear goggles.

The range of positive seal safety eyewear includes designs that include fixed and removable foam insert gaskets. When the dust and debris is not just coming at you straight on, but from the sides too, positive seal safety glasses with foam gaskets will provide superior performance. Positive seal safety glasses with foam are a must for people working in outdoor industries like construction and landscaping where the wind can whip up dust and drive it towards the eyes from any angle. Positive seal safety eyewear with foam gaskets is also an excellent choice for use in sandy environments where dust is created by machinery and vehicles on dirt roads such as mining and road building. Extreme adventurers, bikers, and motorcyclists can also benefit from the additional safeguard provided by the foam gasket in positive seal safety eyewear.

Help for dry, itchy, and sensitive eyes

Using non-sealed safety eyewear in these workplace situations will allow small particles between the lenses and the wearer’s face and into their eye causing irritation, eye watering or worse, permanent eye damage. The foam gasket also blocks the wind and this is another reason workers can benefit from wearing close fitting and gap-free sealed eyewear styles. People with sensitive eyes and dry eyes can benefit from foam gaskets because the foam liner helps to block out the irritants that lead to dry,  itchy eyes, and sensitive eyes. The increased comfort factor is an important feature for users wearing protective eyewear for extended periods of time or throughout an entire workday.

Comfort reasons

Sealed eyewear is also credited with being more comfortable because the foam gasketing helps to ensure the following:

  1. Reduction of uncomfortable pressure points near the eyebrows and where the edge side of the lenses contacts the head.
  2. Improved contact and comfort on the wearer’s nose without pinching.
  3. A close fit that allows for better peripheral viewing.
  4. The frame designs ensure a close fit to the face without hitting the wearer’s  eyelashes.
  5. Eyewear stays in place better when you move your head front to back and side to side.

Some wearers report that the modern frame styles like wrap around frames with a foam liner option have increased wear times without being uncomfortable. Being more comfortable increases wear-time and productivity, as well as increasing the ability for employees to concentrate or focus on work tasks and reduce errors.

Anti-fog  and scratch coats for lenses

The biggest criticism of positive safety seal eyewear is that in hot environments or environments with changing humidity fogging can occur. While the newer frames have venting, anti-fog and anti-scratch protection can be added to combat this and increase the useful life of the safety eyewear.

There have been dramatic improvements in eye protection and use of safety eyewear over the past forty years. The use of positive safety seal eyewear is one more improvement in the design of safety eyewear to boost wearer comfort, wearer compliance, and reduce the risk of workplace eye injuries.

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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