Some would say buying glasses online allows you to find a better selection and lower prices.  But what about safety eyewear? What about prescription safety eyewear? Online may save time and it may be cheaper, but what about quality, fit, and performance?

Safety eyewear is an essential piece of personal protective equipment (PPE) needed to provide protection against a variety of hazards such as dust, dirt, flying debris, splashing liquids, molten metal and fume, and UV, Visible and IR radiation.  Safety eyewear needs to be comfortable and it needs to be able to perform for the specifics of the work environment.  In knowing all of this, does it really make sense to just grab the cheapest online option available?

Buying online makes it very difficult to assess all of these key performance features:

  1. Comfort or wear-ability is a huge issue that impacts employees’ consistent use of the PPE, and a common cause of discomfort is the fit factor. Safety eyewear needs to be worn securely on the face so that it stays put as a worker moves around doing day-to-day activities, but not so tight that it pinches the nose or the sides of the head. Plus, poor adjustment can lead to headaches, because the safety eyewear can impact the blood circulation behind your ears.
    You should be able to wear a good pair of safety glasses all day without even realizing that you've got them on, and as no two faces are the same buying safety eyewear that can be properly fitted is important. Buying online makes managing the comfort and fit factor a challenge.
  2. The problem with many types of low-cost safety eyewear is that the lens is not much more than a curved piece of clear plastic cut into the shape of a lens. This can lead to visual distortion and so your eyes strain to work harder to try and correct the distortion in the lens, and this can result in headaches. Discomfort can be felt on the nose bridge, too. Poor design and adjustability are usually the cause.  In hot environments safety eyewear may slide down the nose bridge repeatedly. A high-quality safety eyewear product will typically have a padded nose piece and adjustable arms, features harder to reconcile when buying online.
  3. Fogging can be an issue for any safety eyewear, but quality products can be purchased with an anti-fog coating and not all anti-fog treatments are the same. Buying from a local supplier allows you to test out a few sizes and styles of safety eyewear to see which anti-fog treatment works best for your work setting.
  4. Cheaper lens are also more easily scratched, which leads to having to change out your safety eyewear more often. Higher quality products will have a hard anti-scratch treatment giving them a longer functional life.
  5. All workplace safety eyewear frames need to be CSA or ANSI approved and the lenses must be CSA approved. Protective eyewear that has been certified as meeting their requirements outlined in the standard will bear the CSA or ANSI mark on the frame or temple of the eyewear.  Buying online makes it more difficult to be sure the products you are buying are certified for use in Canada.  Uncertified safety eyewear should never be used in the workplace.

The problem is even bigger if you are looking for prescription safety eyewear.  A key feature of prescription lens is getting the inter-pupil distance right.  It’s hard to accurately measure your own pupil distance, which you need to do to order your prescription safety eyewear online.  Slight variations in the prescription lens may blur your vision and strain your eyes.  Returns are almost impossible.  This is one of the many reasons why Eyesafe offers so many different styles of prescription safety eyewear that is always fitted by professionals.

While some good products are available online, if you are not careful you can inadvertently buy safety eyewear that isn’t CSA or ANSI approved and so will perform to an unknown standard of safety.  Comfort, durability and fogging are big issues that also impact your safety eyewear performance.  The services of in-person support offered by eyecare professionals cannot be offered online.

Glyn Jones is a partner at EHS Partnerships Ltd. in Calgary.  He is a consulting occupational health and safety professional with 30 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.