Keeping your eyes safe while working with power tools is very important. In fact, Norm Abram, the New Yankee woodworker, always opens his show with this tip: "There is no more important safety rule than to wear these, safety glasses". Every time you pick up a power tool you should be wearing a pair of safety glasses. Let's take a look a how to buy safety glasses that keep you safe and don't get in the way.
What makes for a pair of good safety glasses
Just like any pair of glasses safety glasses have to be comfortable to wear. The best safety gear is the one you are wearing when an accident happens. Improperly fitting glasses are dangerous, because they are more likely not to get used.
Most contractors and woodworkers have several pairs of safety glasses. Since they get used daily, having a pair close by at all times increases the likelihood they actually get used. Thankfully safety glasses are a relatively cheap item. Having a lot of them should not be a problem.
Good safety glasses do not impair the users vision, fog up, or become a nuisance in any way. If you current pair is doing any of these things, a quality pair will be an improvement. There are a lot of badly design safety glasses on the market. Some don't even offer any protection. Buyer diligence is required to eliminate these poor products from consideration.
Unlike regular glasses safety glasses cover the entire eye socket. They protect the eye from impact from all directions including the sides and from below. Regular glasses are not a substitute for proper safety glasses.
The most important attribute of safety glasses, however, is their ability to keep your eyes safe. Any manufacturer can claim their glasses get the job done, but you can only be sure the glasses work, if they have been tested according to a standard.
ANSI Z87.1 Standard
All glasses sold as safety glasses have to be tested according to the American National Standard for Occupational and Educational Eye and Face Protection ANSI Z87.1. This standard defines a number of tests that determine the effectiveness of the glasses under real impact scenarios.
At the most basic level glasses that meet the standard won't shatter under most impact scenarios. They are large enough to cover the eye and the critical area around the eye from damage. For added safety ANSI 87.1 compatible glasses will also withstand the impact of heavy objects and objects at high speed.
The 2010 version of the standard adds lateral impact protect tests. Coverage around the eye is increased and removable flaps are no longer allowed. The amount of allowable damage to the soft tissue around the eye has been decreased. Two years after the standard was released few models are in compliance. Most safety glasses sold today are still tested to the 2003 version of the standard.
Overall it is clear to see that only standard compliant safety glasses can be trusted to offer any protection at all. Unrated glasses are not a substitute. It is paramount that any safety glasses you purchase are ANSI Z87.1 rated.
Most safety glasses come with a range of lens options. Tinted lenses offer the best vision outdoors, but should not be used indoors. Some manufacturers offer indoor/outdoor lenses that adjust automatically. The best option for indoor use remains clear lenses. Almost all lenses offer some form of UV protection.
For users with glasses a few options exist. Some safety glasses can be order with a prescription built in. These are rare and expensive, but remain the only option to replace regular glasses. A significantly worse option is to wear goggle style safety glasses around the regular glasses. The best option is to switch to contact lenses. This opens up the entire selection of safety glasses.
A few good pairs of safety glasses
The DeWalt DPG55-11C safety glasses are a common favorite amongst work crews. They strike a good balance between quality and price. The DPG55-11C's build quality is such that it's more likely to get lost than break. Many contractors keep extra pairs around.
If you are shopping for a user with a larger than average head, the Pyramex Onix line of safety glasses tend to fit better than most. The ANSI Z87.1 - 2003 compliant glasses come in a variety of colors. There are options for clear and tinted lenses for indoor and outdoor use. All lenses are coated with an anti-fog layer. The Pyramex V2-Metal model fits equally well.
The 3M Tekk 11329and the DeWalt DPG54-1C are cheap choices that still perform well. These glasses do not have the fit and finish of the other, more sophisticated models, but they come in much lower on the price list. I keep a couple around for visitors and the frequent instances when I can't be bothered to find my primary pair.
Safety glasses are the most important piece of safety gear for anyone working with power tools. A good pair of safety glasses should be worn by anyone around a power tool. Glasses are simple, affordable protection from a potentially life changing injury.
To offer proper protection in the event of an accident the safety glasses must be ANSI Z87.1 rated. Rated glasses are the only glasses that have been tested under real world conditions.
Safety glasses are a very inexpensive form of protection. For less than $10 a pair you can protect yourself. This is not an item to cut corners on. We'd appreciate it, if you consider the options we present, but only thing that really matters is that you get a pair. If you do not have ANSI Z87.1 rated safety glasses, find a pair of safety glasses at your retailer of choice.