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Not all safety glasses are the same

There are different varieties of shop safety glasses available. Use eye protection that matches the optical quality and level of protection you need for each job

I can remember stumbling into the local medical clinic unable to see out of one eye because I had relied on my regular eye glasses to protect me from flying debris when using a powered mitre saw. Fortunately, some anaesthetic eye drops to kill the pain and a few days rest put me back in good-as-new condition.

But, it was a lesson learned. Ordinary eye glasses won’t keep you safe in the shop, no matter what style frames you wear. They just aren’t designed for it.

Today, my workshop is stocked with several pairs of proper safety glasses. However, they’re not all the same, and one isn’t good for everything. Some are better than I expected, and some are just useless.

Types of glasses

If you buy a new power tool, the package may also include a pair of cheap, plastic safety glasses to wear when using it. But wearing some of those glasses can leave you pretty frustrated. Their lenses often have a poor optical quality. So your workpiece looks wavy or blurry; it’s like looking through 100-year-old window glass. Not a good thing around power tools.

Wrap-around style generic safety glasses from and industrial supplier are a better choice. Their price seems to range quite a bit. About $35 will get you an average pair from a variety of retailers. If they’re approved for shop safety purposes, there will be a safety organization approval rating on the package.

But even though most of today’s safety glasses are designed to wrap closely around a face, they don’t actually provide as much protection as you’d think. I’ve felt grinding fragments hit underneath them. They are okay for general protection in the shop, but if you’re using any tool that throws debris — like a grinder — you should still wear a full-face shield.

You can purchase an insert to fit around some brands of shop safety glasses that allow them to fit quite tightly to your face, which prevents debris from being thrown up underneath them. But these may not always be an adequate substitute for a full-face shield, which will protect all of your face from scratches or hot sparks.

Whichever type of eye protection you choose, the key is to ensure there is no visual distortion. That way you can see exactly what yaou’re doing. You need safety glasses that allow you to see clearly under all circumstances, even when doing fine detail work. That may mean going to an optometrist to get a pair with the correct prescription lenses if you normally wear glasses.

And keep a micro-fibre cloth and cleaning solution in your shop. Safety glasses tend to get dirty quickly and rubbing them with a shop rag or Kleenex will put scratches in the lens, which ruins them.

Make sure you always use some type of eye protection in your shop. Driving to town for medical help using only one eye is tough; trust me. †

About the author

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Scott Garvey

Scott Garvey is a freelance writer and video producer. He is also the former machinery editor at Grainews.

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