Eye Protection for Your Laboratory
What is your obligation?
An important obligation of science teachers is to provide students with appropriate eye protection. All safety goggles and glasses must comply with ANSI Z 87.1 – 2003. Only safety goggles and/or glasses marked with "Z 87.1" should be purchased; the "Z 87.1" mark will appear on the frame or the lens. As a responsible teacher, you must select eyewear that provides you and your students with the most appropriate protection for the hazards of your science activities. Many states have specific eye protection laws. Regardless, teachers owe their students a duty of care. A teacher must reasonably address all foreseeable dangers inherent in any laboratory experiment or demonstration that will be performed in the science laboratory or classroom. A teacher must also instruct and ensure that students demonstrate the proper use of protective equipment.
What circumstances require eye protection?
Protection of the eyes is essential in any laboratory activity. Eye protection is required (but not limited to):
- When chemicals, glassware, or a heating source is being used
- When working with solid materials or equipment under stress, pressure, or force that might cause fragmentation or flying particles
- When an activity generates projectiles, or uses elastic materials under stress (e.g., springs, wires, rubber, glass), or causes collisions
- When dust or fumes are present (Eye protection reduces the dust or fumes reaching the eye.)
- When using preserved specimens
Eye protection is a must in any hazardous laboratory activity or demonstration in science. Effective eye protection must include adequate instruction on the hazards of the particular activity and of the precautions to be followed to reduce the risk of injury. It must also include instructions and modeling of the protective equipment.
What is the best eye protection for your science activities?
Ordinary spectacles or safety glasses, with side shields or without side shields, provide adequate protection for laboratory activities involving use of solids such as meter sticks, projectiles, etc.
Only safety goggles provide the level of protection needed for your laboratory activities when dealing with hazardous liquids or solids. A safety goggle fits the face surrounding the eyes snugly; the goggle should have a soft pliable flange, which seals around the eyes snugly to protect the eyes from a variety of hazards.
There are three major types of safety goggles:
- Safety goggles can be designed as indirectly vented or directly vented chemical-splash goggles and/or impact goggles.
- Impact goggles or safety glasses are generally directly vented and are appropriate for flying particles, fragmented materials, projectiles, elastic materials, and collision activities.
- Chemical-splash goggles, like impact goggles, fit the face surrounding the eyes snugly. The soft pliable flange seals around the eye. Since goggles need ventilation to reduce fogging, chemical-splash goggles are required to have hoods or caps over the vent openings to prevent splashes from entering the inside of the goggle and causing injury to the eye. The system of hoods or caps, therefore, prevents chemical splashes from entering the inside of the goggle. This type of goggle is indirectly vented .
Some goggles have hoods or caps over the vent openings that can be flipped up or screwed to an open position. When the vents of these direct- or indirect-vented goggles are in the "open" position, the goggles are direct vented; therefore impact goggles.
Chemical-splash goggles should be the standard for eye protection when chemicals, glassware, a heating source, or preserved specimens are being used.
What is the current recommendation for wearing contact lenses?
The American Chemical Society Committee on Chemical Safety states that contact lenses can be worn in the laboratory provided that approved eye protection is worn as required of others in the laboratory.
The National Institute for Occupational Health and Safety (NIOSH) recommends that workers be permitted to wear contact lenses when handling hazardous chemicals provided adequate face and eye protection is worn.
The Council of State Science Supervisors states that contact lenses can be worn provided "specially marked, non-vented safety goggles are available to contact lens wearers".
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) believes that contact lenses do not pose additional hazards to the wearer and has determined that additional regulation addressing the use of contact lenses is unnecessary. The agency wants to make it clear, however, that contact lenses are not eye protection devices. If eye hazards are present, appropriate eye protection must be worn instead of, or in conjunction with, contact lenses." Regulations (Preamble to Final Rules) Personal Protective Equipment for General Industry (Amended Final Rule, April 1994) Section 3- III Summary and Explanation of the Final Rule 1910.133 p. 16343.
What are the requirements on sanitation and usage of goggles?
Provision and Maintenance of PPE - 29 CFR §1910.132(d) Personal Protective Equipment, General Requirements Standard requires a hazard assessment to determine PPE needs and teachers must be trained in use and care of goggles. Teachers must also train their students in proper use and sanitation of goggles. Sanitation of goggles is accomplished best by usage of a UV cabinet. Treatment with UV light will destroy the goggles over several years. Hot soapy water and thorough drying between usage of shared goggles is also recommended by the ACS.
Relevant Safety Goggle Information from Various Organizations
1. American National Standards Institute
ANSI Z 87.1 Section 7.3(3) page 15
The teacher must make a judgment in selection of the appropriate protective equipment so that the protection is greater than the estimated hazards.
2. Occupational Safety and Health Administration OSHA 1910.1450 (Laboratory Standard) Section D(6)
School laboratories should include "protective apparel compatible with the required degree of protection for substances being handled."
3. Occupational Safety and Health Administration OSHA 1910.133 Eye and Face Protection
The employer shall insure that each affected employee uses appropriate eye and face protection when exposed to eye or face hazards…
4. Investigating Safely—A Guide for High School Teachers. National Science Teachers Association, 2004. page 147.
ANSI Z 87.1 compliant chemical splash goggles are the type of goggles that we strongly recommend you use exclusively.
5. School Chemistry Laboratory Safety Guide.
U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission: Center for Disease Control and Prevention, National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, 2006. page 7
Always wear appropriate eye protection (i.e., chemical-splash goggles) in the laboratory.
6. Science Laboratory Rules and Regulations, Safety in the Science Classroom. National Science Teachers Association, 2008.
ANSI Z 87.1 approved chemical-splash goggles or safety glasses, as appropriate or directed by your instructor, shall be worn at all times in the laboratory, including prelaboratory work cleanup, unless the instructor specifically states that the activity does not require the use of chemical-splash goggles or safety glasses.
7. Chemical Safety for Teachers and Their Supervisors, Grades 7–12. American Chemical Society, Council Committee on Chemical Safety, 2001. page 5.
Always, when hazardous chemicals are used or handled, when glassware is used or handled, when flames are involved, all persons present, whether or not they are doing the handling or using, must wear eye protection.
… Only safety goggles known as CHEMICAL-SPLASH GOGGLES marked with code "Z 87" provide the kind of protection that is needed.
8. Goggle Safety. Flinn Scientific Co., 2008.
"Just because eyewear meets Z 87.1 standards does not mean it provides adequate protection from the dangers of splashed chemicals. Eyewear that does not provide a complete snug seal around the eyes may be fine for some activities but not when using hazardous chemicals. When vent openings are provided on splash goggles, the vents should be indirect with covers and/or baffles preventing straight line passage of liquids into the goggles."
1. Current Intelligence Bulletin 59
TheNational Institute for Occupational Health and Safety (NIOSH) No. 22025-139
"Contact Lens Use in a Chemical Environment"
2. Safety in the Academic Chemistry Laboratories. American Chemical Society, 2002. page 3