Eye Protection

Students, teachers, and visitors are required to wear appropriate industrial quality eye protection when participating in any laboratory activities that use chemicals, heat, or glassware. Appropriate eye protection has the code “Z87+” stamped somewhere on the eyewear. It is the teacher’s responsibility to determine the risks and choose appropriate eye protection. Check with the State and district for specific rules and regulations in your location.

The teacher also has the responsibility to train students in the proper use and care of protective eyewear and then enforce this training. The first steps towards enforcement is clearly stating the expectations and always following the rules. The teacher sets the standard for when and how to wear eye protection.

Chemical splash safety goggles should be worn anytime chemicals are used. They are designed to fit the face surrounding the eyes snugly to protect the eyes from a variety of hazards. Goggles should have protected air vents for ventilation and air circulation. Chemical splash goggles may fog up during use, purchasing fog-free lenses reduces fogging.

Safety glasses with side shields may be suitable for many life and earth science laboratories when corrosive solutions are not in use. Safety glasses provide protection from impact only and must still meet Z87+ standards. Most prescription eyewear does not meet Z87+ standards and will not provide adjacent protection against impact.

Keep the lenses clean on all chemical splash goggles and safety glasses. Dirty lenses obscure vision and may lead to students removing their eye protection. Do not clean lenses with abrasive hand soap, since it will scratch them. When cleaning plastic lenses, first rinse any abrasive dirt off by holding the lenses under running water. Then clean with a soft cloth or lens cleaner.

If chemical splash goggles and safety glasses are shared, then they should be sterilized between users to prevent the spread of diseases. Goggle cabinets with UV sterilization are one option. Sterilization using a disinfectant (e.g. dilute bleach or Lysol®) is another option.

Face shields are not a substitute for chemical splash safety goggles. When maximum protection from flying particles and harmful liquids is needed, face shields should be worn with goggles. Another option during a chemical demonstration is to use a bench top safety or splash shield to protect the students.

Wearing contact lenses in the laboratory is a complicated issue. Recent studies and experiments have suggested that contact lenses do not increase risks when worn with other eye protection and may actually minimize or prevent injury in some situations. The American Chemical Society Committee on Chemical Safety, having studied and reviewed the issue, is now of the consensus that contact lenses can be worn in most laboratory environments provided that appropriate eye protection is also worn. If however, a student wearing contact lenses spills or splashes harmful chemicals in his or her eyes, the contact lenses must be removed immediately and the eyes flushed with water.

ANSI Z87.1 - 2003 (Z87+)
ANSI is the acronym for the American National Standards Institute, a nonprofit organization that serves as administrator of USA safety and health standards. The ANSI Z87.1-2003 standard sets forth requirements for the design, construction, testing, and use of eye protection devices. Most of the standard is related to impact resistance. Protective eyewear that passes all the ANSI requirements are marked with Z87+.