Eye Protection

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This article is from Issue 39 of Woodcraft Magazine.

Keep an eye out for safety.

By Matthew Teague

Every time you cut, rout, joint, drill, or turn a piece of wood without donning glasses, goggles or a face shield, you’re playing the odds. According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), 90% of work-related eye injuries could have been prevented by simply putting on a pair of safety glasses. In a workshop, where flying sawdust and chips are the norm, eye protection should top your priority list.

Modern safety glasses can be comfortable, reasonably stylish (a far cry from the specs we wore in high school shop class), and surprisingly inexpensive. If there’s nothing to win and your eyesight to lose, why gamble? So slip on your reading glasses, check out your options, and hit the store before going to your shop. For those who already use protective eyewear, we found a few new options that may mean it’s time for an upgrade.

FastCap Amber Safety Glasses #830252, $6.99
LED “Inspector’s” Safety Glasses sassafety.com, #5420-50 $14.99

Escort OTS Safety Glasses - Yellow Lens amazon.com, $14

Glasses

Safety glasses work great at keeping normal levels of dust and debris out of your eyes. While all safety glasses must satisfy American National Safety Institute’s (ANSI’s) standard Z87.1-2003, how well they protect depends on how well they fit. Select a style that fits close to your face at both the brow and cheekbones so that the glasses can provide side protection as well as good peripheral vision. Comfort is subjective, but flexible earpieces, adjustable nose bridges, and padding at the brow can help.

In addition to your everyday eyewear, you might consider some safety specs for special projects. By blocking out blue light, amber lenses, like the FastCaps shown above, improve contrast and make objects appear brighter. Glasses with built-in LED lights prove helpful in super low-light/no-light conditions, as when working inside a cabinet.

Crews Safety Goggles safetyglassesusa.com #2410F $6.40

Goggles

By forming a seal around your eyes, goggles offer complete protection from dust storms and flying debris—a real plus when dealing with chip-spewing power tools such as routers, or when doing overhead work. Another plus is that goggles fit over prescription glasses The least expensive goggles resemble the ones we used to wear in chemistry class, but for a few bucks more, you can treat yourself to a pair that bears a closer resemblance to what you find on ski slopes. Look for foam padding, air vents and anti-fog coatings for comfort and convenience, and scratch resistant lenses to withstand the daily rigors of shop life.

Adjustable Face Shield #150706, $21.99




Face shields

As the name suggests, face shields protect more than just your eyes. Turners know they can prevent serious injury should a blank fly off a chuck. Similarly, you should consider full-face protection when the woodworking forecast predicts a likely shower of bench-grinder sparks or power-carving chips.

It’s important to point out that most face shields don’t form a seal against your face and are often completely open at the bottom, which means that dust and smaller chips can still fly in behind the shield. For that reason, manufacturers recommend wearing glasses or goggles for complete protection.  

FastCap Magnifiying Bifocals #147866-9, $7.99

Help For Old Eyes

Most prescription glasses aren’t designed to be worn as safety glasses. Still, many woodworkers risk it because they need corrective lenses to see what they’re doing and can’t find a comfortable option. Specialty OTS (over the spectacle) safety wear may not be available at your local home center, but you can find plenty of comfortable choices online.

A second option is a pair of safety bifocals. Like drugstore reading glasses, FastCap safety magnifiers are available in various magnification strengths. Try before you buy.

If you spend a lot of time in the shop and it’s time to buy a new set of glasses, ask your eye doctor about ANSI-approved glasses and frames. Like regular safety glasses, the lenses must either wrap around the side of the eye or come with snap-on side shields. The cost is less than you think—often under $100.

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