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Selecting foam safety eyewear

April 1, 2012

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What should be considered when evaluating safety eyewear with foam?

Responding is Rob Maser, commercial sales director, Wiley X Eyewear, Livermore, CA.

Answer: Foam safety eyewear certainly has become more prevalent in recent years. I’m not referring to glasses with merely a foam bar across the eyebrows. I’m talking about glasses with foam completely around each eye. Safety eyewear manufacturers are realizing that eye injury exposures typically are beyond the coverage of traditional safety glasses.

Several factors should be considered when selecting safety eyewear with foam. Certainly meeting the ANSI Z87.1 standards are essential. But what else matters? How about the comfort and efficacy of the foam? Does the foam come in a variety of frame shapes and sizes to fit the various faces in an organization? Are the frames Rx-ready for workers who require corrective lenses? Whether they’re Rx-ready or not, do the glasses come equipped with different lens options for different working conditions? Is the foam removable and replaceable? How about style – are the glasses designed to look good and encourage workers to want to wear them? We’ll look at these one at a time.

Let’s start with the comfort and effectiveness of the foam. Soft, open-cell foam with a felt-like outer cushion is comfortable on the face. The softer the foam, the better it can conform to the face and protect the eyes. Soft foam properly fitted to the face will do an excellent job protecting the eyes, will be comfortable and workers will want to wear it. Closed-cell foam also can be effective. This foam is more firm and typically more durable, and holds up better in extremely dirty and sandy environments. Preventing lenses from fogging also is important in foam glasses. If the foam is properly ventilated and the lenses are treated with anti-fog material, this should minimize fogging problems.

Selecting foam glasses in a variety of shapes and sizes will help ensure proper fit and comfort across the workforce. One size and shape does not fit all. When determining the proper fit, the glasses not only should be comfortable, but the foam should eliminate gaps around the eyes, helping the glasses provide a virtual seal. This seal typically is achieved with glasses shaped with an 8-base curve. Typical flat-faced safety glasses requiring side shields are a 4-base curve. The higher the base curve, the greater the wrap of the frame around the face. So 8-base frames are more curved, thus forming better around the face, enabling the foam to provide better protection.
 
With today’s aging workforce, it’s important to find foam glasses that are Rx-ready. Prescription lenses can be critical to a safe work environment, so use an expert Rx lab. These labs have the technology and expertise to properly finish and mount the Rx lenses into the frame so the foam remains effective. For non-Rx lenses, ensure the foam glasses are available in proper tints for the working conditions, including clear, polarized for glare-heavy environments, and even photochromic lenses so they can be worn indoors and out – day and night.

Glasses with removable and replaceable foam cut costs. They allow the wearer to keep the frames and lenses even if the foam becomes damaged or outlives its useful life. This is especially important for frames with Rx lenses. Simply replace the foam and go back to work. Removable foam also allows workers to wear the glasses without the foam if the foam is not an essential safety component. It’s like getting two pairs of glasses for the price of one – one with foam and one without.

However, foam glasses can be everything mentioned above and more, but if they’re ugly, workers are far less likely to wear them. There are plenty of stylish foam glasses on the market, so you shouldn’t need to settle for glasses workers don’t want to wear.

Safety eyewear with foam can be an extremely valuable addition to a safety program. Your workers will thank you for selecting a product they want to wear and that properly protects their eyes.

Editor’s Note: This article represents the independent views of the author and should not be construed as National Safety Council endorsements.

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