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      • Published 9 Feb 2024
      • Last Modified 9 Feb 2024
    • 14 min

    Eye Protection: A Guide to Safety Glasses and Goggles

    Understand why safety goggles and protective glasses are important and discover how to wear them correctly.

    Eye Protection: A Guide to Safety Glasses and Goggles

    This guide to protective glasses and safety goggles includes all the essential information that you need to know. We will cover what safety eyewear does, why this equipment is important, how to wear safety goggles and glasses correctly, and we will also explain the different ratings and grades.

    What are Safety Glasses and Safety Goggles?

    What are Safety Glasses and Safety Goggles?

    Safety Glasses and Safety Goggles are a form of personal protective equipment (PPE) used to shield the eyes from injury-causing elements. They are typically equipped with impact-resistant lenses and durable frames to provide coverage and protection for the eyes, helping to defend against debris, chemicals, or airborne particles. 

    Both safety glasses and goggles come in various styles and sizes offering versatility for different tasks and environments. They play a crucial role in safeguarding vision and eye health across a wide number of industries and activities in New Zealand.

    Are Safety Glasses and Goggles a Legal Requirement?

    Safety Glasses and Safety Goggles are required in New Zealand for work scenarios involving airborne particles or objects, hazardous substances, or optical radiation. They are also required in any scenario where the work environment could potentially put a person’s eyes at risk. The Health and Safety at Work Act 2015 requires that “all persons conducting a business to take practical actions to eliminate or minimise risks to the health and safety of workers” making safety glasses and goggles a requirement in many work settings in New Zealand. The safety glasses and safety goggles provided must also comply with the relevant standards set out by the New Zealand government including Eye and Face Protection AS/NZS 1336:2014 and Filters for Eye Protectors AS/NZS 1338:1:2012.

    Understanding the Differences: Safety Glasses & Safety Goggles

    Protective eyewear encompasses a range of gear designed to shield the eyes from potential hazards. Within this category, the primary variants are Safety Glasses and Safety Goggles. Understanding their unique characteristics helps in selecting the most appropriate eye protection for specific tasks.

    Safety Glasses:

    Safety glasses serve as essential protective eyewear, featuring impact-resistant lenses and durable frames designed to shield the eyes from potential hazards. Safety glasses provide versatile protection against airborne particles, debris, or chemicals commonly encountered in various work environments in New Zealand. They can be worn comfortably for extended periods, ensuring essential eye safety during tasks that pose risks to vision health. They are typically worn in situations where the main hazard to the wearer’s eyes would be expected to come from the front. 

    Safety glasses sit across the eyes and allow air to flow in through the sides. As they sit further away from the face as compared to regular glasses, they can also be worn comfortably with prescription glasses underneath. Properly wearing safety glasses involves ensuring a comfortable fit by adjusting the temples and nosepiece, ensuring they sit securely on the face without causing discomfort, and maintaining regular lens cleanliness for optimal visibility.

    Safety Goggles:

    Safety Goggles offer heightened protection compared to safety glasses by creating a secure seal around the eyes. This seal is essential for guarding against splashes, dust, and more severe impacts. These goggles are commonly utilised in environments where the risk of exposure to hazardous substances or airborne particles is prevalent. 

    Wearing safety goggles correctly involves ensuring they completely encase the eyes and form a tight seal against the face, providing maximum protection. While it is possible to wear safety goggles over prescription glasses, it likely won’t be a comfortable fit for standard safety goggles. For those with prescription glasses, look for safety goggles that are compatible with traditional glasses. It is also possible to find safety goggles with built-in prescription lenses, which can improve the comfort of wearing the goggles as the prescription glasses will no longer be required.

    The Importance of Safety Glasses & Safety Goggles: Safeguarding Vision Health

    Safety glasses & Safety Goggles play a pivotal role in preserving vision health and mitigating the risk of eye injuries across various industries in New Zealand. 

    Statistics on Workplace Eye Injuries:

    • According to the Save Sight Society, more than 4000 eye injuries occur at work in New Zealand each year; many result in pain, impaired vision, time off work and some are blinded. Most of these eye injuries are preventable.
    • Since 2015 in Construction, the Accident Compensation Corporation (ACC) has received an average of 2,600 eye related claims per year. Many of those injured are left with long-term impaired vision and some are blinded.
    • Workplace eye injuries cost New Zealand more than $3 million every year – a figure which does not take into account lost productivity.

    Both safety goggles and safety glasses play an important role in helping to prevent eye injuries and ensure a safer workplace for everyone in New Zealand.

    How to Wear Safety Goggles & Safety Glasses Correctly

    Wearing protective eyewear correctly is essential to ensure optimal eye protection in various work environments. Here's a quick guide on the correct way to wear them:

    Proper Placement and Fit: Both safety goggles & safety glasses should snugly fit the contours of your face without leaving gaps. Ensure the goggles or glasses are positioned securely on the bridge of your nose and provide ample coverage around the eyes. Adjust the strap, if available, for a comfortable yet secure fit.

    Seal and Coverage: For safety googles, confirm that the goggles form a tight seal around your eyes to prevent any particles or substances from entering. They should cover the entire eye area without compromising vision. Adjust the strap for a snug yet comfortable fit that ensures the goggles stay in place during work activities.

    Comfort and Visibility: Check for comfort while wearing both safety glasses and safety goggles. They should not cause discomfort or hinder your ability to work effectively.

    Regularly clean the lenses to maintain optimal visibility and ensure clear sight.

    Compatibility for Prescription Glasses: For individuals wearing prescription glasses, look for safety goggles that are specifically designed to be worn over prescription eyewear. They offer added protection without compromising comfort or vision for those who need prescription lenses. Most safety glasses are compatible with prescription lenses but make sure to double check and be certain before purchasing if you wear prescription lenses. 

    Regular Inspections: Regularly inspect both safety glasses and safety goggles for signs of damage, such as scratches or loss of secure fit. Replace them if damaged to maintain effective eye protection.

    Types of Safety Goggles and Safety Glasses

    Types of Safety Goggles and Safety Glasses

    Safety Goggles for Laboratory Work

    Safety goggles for lab work are specially designed to shield against chemical splashes, fumes, and airborne particles that can be encountered in laboratory settings. These goggles often feature sealed edges and vents to prevent the entry of hazardous substances. Some models may also include anti-fog coatings to maintain clear vision, which can be crucial for precision work in laboratories. 

    Safety Glasses and Goggles for Woodworking

    In woodworking environments both safety goggles and glasses can be commonly found. Both are effective in safeguarding against sawdust, wood chips, and flying debris. Safety Goggles offer enclosed protection, while safety glasses are more lightweight and offer better breathability.

    Safety Glasses for Construction

    Construction sites demand reliable eye protection against dust, debris, and potential impacts. Most construction tasks will not involve as many airborne particles or splashes as compared to other industries like labs and woodworking, so in most cases safety glasses provide enough eye protection. They typically offer better visibility and breathability making them a popular choice among construction workers around the world. The breathability in particular is an important feature, especially in hot or humid conditions, reducing the likelihood of fogging and providing a more comfortable experience for workers. However, in situations with flying particles, extreme light exposure, and hazardous chemicals construction workers should still opt to use full safety goggles to better protect against eye injuries. 

    Safety Goggles & Glasses for Cold Weather Conditions

    In cold weather conditions it's important to look for safety glasses or goggles that have been designed for use in these scenarios. Both safety goggles and glasses can be used in cold weather conditions, and they each provide their own advantages and disadvantages. 

    Safety Goggles and Glasses for cold weather conditions typically feature anti-fog coatings or treatments to prevent fog buildup on the lenses due to variations in temperatures. This is the main feature of protective eyewear designed for cold weather conditions, which is crucial in helping to maintain proper visibility. 

    Safety Goggle & Safety Glasses:  Frame and Lens Code Explained

    Safety Goggles and safety glasses are both regulated under Eye and Face Protection AS/NZS 1336:2014 and Filters for Eye Protectors AS/NZS 1338:1:2012 in the New Zealand and Australian markets. 

    However, there are a range of standards used internationally including the European safety standard EN 166:2001, and the American standard ANSI Z87.1. These standards set out a range of ratings for impact protection, protection against splashes/particles, radiation protection, light transmission, optical quality, and lens ratings.

    Frame Style and Protection Ratings

    The style of the frame and its protective capabilities are indicated by a series of codes that are applied to safety goggles. These codes are established in the European standard EN 166. These include the following: 

    • 3: Will protect against splashes (normally fully sealed goggles)
    • 4: Protects against larger dust particles (over five microns)
    • 5: Protects against smaller dust particles (under 5 microns)
    • 8: Protects against electrical arcs caused by a short circuit
    • 9: Will protect against hot projectiles

    Radiation Protection Ratings

    Radiation protection is an important feature for safety glasses and goggles. The level of radiation protection is also governed by a set of ratings. These ratings pertain mostly to the types of radiation that the eyewear can protect against, like UV and infrared and can commonly be found on most pairs of protective eyewear. The ratings below stem from European standards EN 170, 171 which cover UV radiation and Infrared radiation respectively. 

    These ratings include:

    Safety Goggle Radiation Protection Rating



    Protection against ultraviolet light via a coloured light filter

    2C / 3

    Protection against ultraviolet light via a clear light filter


    Protection from infrared radiation


    Protection from sun glare


    Protection from sun glare and infrared radiation

    Strength Ratings

    The impact-resistance of safety glasses and goggles also utilise a rating system to determine the level of protection they can provide. We’ve listed some of the most common strength ratings below: 

    • S: Resistant to a small object moving at 12 metres per second.
    • F: Resistant to a small object moving at 45  metres per second
    • B: Resistant to a small object moving at 120 metres per second
    • A: Resistant to a small object moving at 190 metres per second
    • T: Resistant to impacts at extreme temperatures

    Light Transmission Ratings

    The light transmission rating tells how much protection the safety goggles or glasses provide against bright lights like welding torch flames. Light transmission ratings are set out in the European standard EN 172. The lower the level of light transmission through the lenses the greater the protection provided. We’ve listed some common light transmission ratings below:

    Safety Goggle Light Transmission Rating

    Amount of Light Transmitted


    Between 74.4% and 100%


    Between 43.2% and 58.1%


    Between 17.8% and 29.1%


    Between 8% and 17.8%

    Lens Property Ratings

    Lens property ratings are used to indicate the strength and features of safety glasses and goggles. This naturally causes some overlap with strength ratings as that is also taken into account here. Lense property ratings include: 

    • S : Protects against small objects moving at 12 metres per second
    • F : Protects against small objects moving at 45 metres per second
    • B : Protects against small objects moving at 120 metres per second
    • A : Protects against small objects moving at 190 metres per second
    • T : Resistant to extreme temperatures
    • N : Resistant to fogging or misting in cold temperatures
    • K : Resistant to scratches made by fine particles such as dust
    • 8 : Resistant to electrical discharge arcs caused by short circuit faults
    • 9 : Protects against hot projectiles

    Optical Quality Ratings

    The optical quality rating for a pair of safety glasses or goggles indicates how frequently they can be worn without causing eye strain. Low quality glasses can cause eye strain which can cause headaches and loss of focus which can lead to dangerous situations in the workplace. The ratings for optical quality include: 

    Safety Goggle Optical Quality Rating


    Class 1

    High quality - can be used freely on a regular basis

    Class 2

    Medium quality - fine for occasional use

    Class 3

    Low quality - only use on limited occasions

    FAQs About Safety Glasses and Safety Goggles

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