Prescription safety glasses?

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Forum topic by Vrtigo1 posted 04-21-2011 05:35 PM 6512 views 1 time favorited 15 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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434 posts in 3020 days

04-21-2011 05:35 PM

I looked around the forum and saw bits and pieces but no definitive answers about this subject. I just ordered new glasses and told the lady that I wanted to get safety lenses. She said that the polycarbonate lenses are safety grade so they should be fine for use in a shop environment.

So I guess my questions are:

1) are polycarbonate prescription glasses a safe alternative to safety glasses provided the lenses are large enough to completely cover my eyes?

2) will polycarbonate prescription glasses scratch? I have several pairs of cheap safety glasses, and I’ve noticed that they have some scratches. I’m guessing that this is primarily from being set down on tools and getting jostled around, so I’m hoping that if prescription glasses stay on my head all the time, that they won’t end up getting scratched, but I’d be interested to hear some real world experience from others.

15 replies so far

View MedicKen's profile


1615 posts in 3491 days

#1 posted 04-21-2011 05:45 PM

The poly lenses are more likely to scratch than glass lenses. I have worn both precsription and non script safety glasses and feel more protected with the non script type. The prescription lenses may be safety in nature but are the frames?

-- My job is to give my kids things to discuss with their

View JJohnston's profile


1622 posts in 3320 days

#2 posted 04-21-2011 05:49 PM

Polycarbonate lenses of any kind will scratch easily; it’s just because polycarbonate is soft (this is also why they make good safety glasses). Make sure to have an anti-scratch coating put on both sides; this will delay, but not stop, the inevitable. Don’t dry-wipe them. This is what causes all the tiny scratches that you don’t notice until they build up, then you wonder how they could get that bad.

I think I remember being told that safety lenses and frames have a bigger “bead” for more secure lens holding. You may want to verify this.

Edit: beaten to the punch again!

-- "A man may conduct himself well in both adversity and good fortune, but if you want to test his character, give him power." - Abraham Lincoln

View NewfieDan's profile


50 posts in 2678 days

#3 posted 04-21-2011 06:02 PM

Here is what I have to tell our contractors, from a safety advisor perspective. If the glasses meet ANSI Standard Z87.1, then they are approved safey glasses. The frames and lenses are both included in this standard. The glasses will be marked with this standard. It is usually on one of the arms on the inside, closest to the head.

In Canada, where I live glasses have to meet CSA Z94.3. It based almost exclusively on the ANSI standard. Our lenses also have a small mark in one corner to identify them as safety lenses. I have worn prescription safety glasses for almot 10yrs now. I have to wear them on our construction projects, and I take them home to wear in the shop. After years of preaching to others about safety, I feel “naked” in the shop without my safety glasses on.

Think of it this way. Do you wnat to trust your eyes to a pair of lenses that may not hold up to a sliver of wood that has become a projectile. Or do you wnat a lens that will stand up to the force of that impact. Before you anser remeber that eye implants haven’t been perfected yet.

One test I do for some the workers that don’t beleive in safety glasses is to get them to cover one len in tape for an hour. Then try to do every thing normally. Simple stuff like puoring a cup of coffee, suddnely requires alot more concentration. Don’t be surprised to if you spill some.

View Chris 's profile


1879 posts in 4020 days

#4 posted 04-21-2011 06:04 PM

I had a pair of custom safety glasses made with the Poly lense and the scratch resistant coating better than 2 years ago and have not had a major issue with scratching. I do a lot of turning and have shavings flying at my face all the time.

I used these frames: Wiley

-- "Everything that is great and inspiring is created by the individual who labors in freedom" -- Albert Einstein

View MrsN's profile


986 posts in 3555 days

#5 posted 04-21-2011 06:21 PM

The frames are also included in the safety glasses rating, also the side sheilds if seperate.
many of the glasses stores have a selection of safety glasses. Some are wrap around units and others can look like normal glasses until you put the sheilds on.

View whit's profile


246 posts in 4006 days

#6 posted 04-21-2011 06:36 PM

I have a pair of safety glasses with poly lenses that I use for shooting as well as shop work. So far, they’ve held up well. They don’t have scratch coating on them (but probably should) and I’m anal about not dry-wiping them. They’re built upside down so the reading portion of the lens is on top. They’re really handy when I’m working overhead (wiring ceiling outlets, etc). The only thing I’d do differently next time ‘round is put the reading portion at both the top and bottom of the lens with the distance script in the middle. I keep looking to read through the bottom like normal and they just don’t work. Hmmmm . . . go figure.


-- Even if to be nothing more than a bad example, everything serves a purpose. cippotus

View Florida_Jim's profile


83 posts in 2907 days

#7 posted 04-21-2011 07:48 PM

I just recently got new glasses. At my age I don’t really have a social life. I spend most of my life in the shop. So I got “ANSI spec” prescription safety glasses with Poly lenses. I’m hard on glasses, so these should last me longer. My prescription is for “trifocal’s” so I got the transitions lenses. I really like them. The only down side, is that I can’t look at a long board, and tell if it’s straight!!
Not stylish, but safer, and functional!!!

View crank49's profile


4032 posts in 3000 days

#8 posted 04-21-2011 09:09 PM

I have worn glasses all my life, and I’m 61 yo. I have always worked in a foundry, or steel fabrication or mining environment where safety glasses were required. Most industrial plants will only check to see if the lenses are safety glass ( or polycarbonate). In facilities regulated my MSHA, mine safety and health administration, they always require full safety glasses; lenses, frames and side shields. True safety glasses can be purchased from most any optical vendor.

Not really related to woodworking, but plastic lense safety glasses are preferred in welding or foundry environments. This is because hot sparks coming from metal cutting, grinding, or welding operations will pit glass lenses instantly, safety tempered or not.

The down side to plastic lenses, as pointed out earlier, is they scratch easily. You must develope a habit of always washing your plastic lenses under running water before wiping them. I learned this most dramatically after destroying my first pair of plastic lenses in about a month.

The modern safety lenses with the hard coating for scratch resistance are much better about this, but they will still be ruined them if you dry wipe them repeatedly.

Having said all this I must point out that I have never regretted wearing safety glasses. They have saved my eyesight many, many times over my carreer. I thought I could get by with regular glasses (without side shields) when I was young. That is until I got a bit of grinding dust in my eye one day. I rubbed it a little and it felt okay so I went on about my work. Three days latter my eye nearly swelled shut and I had to go to the emergency room. the bit of dust in my eye was iron, and it had embedded in my eye and then rusted. Not a lesson I want to repeat, thank you.

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Jim Finn

2658 posts in 2951 days

#9 posted 04-21-2011 10:13 PM

I had some safty glasses made of glass. They are bi-focals. The plastic ones attract way to much sawdust so I opted for glass. I ware them all the time in shop.

-- Website is No PHD just a DD214 and a GED

View devann's profile


2246 posts in 2721 days

#10 posted 04-22-2011 09:13 AM

I only need reading glasses some of the time. But when I need them and want to wear my safety glasses too I put on my flip up full face shield over my reading glasses. I like to wear the face shield at the tablesaw after getting a splinter at the edge of my lip one day while wearing my safety glasses.

-- Darrell, making more sawdust than I know what to do with

View Uncle_Salty's profile


183 posts in 3102 days

#11 posted 04-22-2011 01:16 PM

I teach school. I started wearing prescription safety glasses about 5 years ago, and, as my vision has deteriorated, I am now on my third (and soon… my fouth) prescription.

I use a bifocal prescription, and I really like progressive grind. The transition from one prescription to the other covers a wide range of distances, and really works when going from computer length vision to tape measure distance, to looking across the shop to make sure people are doing what they are supposed to be doing. The glasses I use came with the side shields, and I have the option of permanently mounting them or keeping them removable. I don’t hard bolt them on. I don’t wear the side shields when I don’t need them!

I priced around at the vision centers, but the minute you mention ANSI Z87, the clerks start fussing around. I get various answers, and none are cheap! I have ended up Sears Vision Centers for my prescription safety glasses. Their prices usually beat everyones for what I need, and their service has been great. There is, indeed, the stamp in the corners of the lenses identifying them as safety glasses, and they have proven to be remarkably scratch resistant!

I still pull on a pair of reading glasses when I am strictly reading… and when I am doing a lot of close in work. But the rest of the time, I keep the prescriptions on!

View Pimzedd's profile


606 posts in 4172 days

#12 posted 04-25-2011 05:52 AM

I wear trifocals. I buy OTG safety glasses. (Over the glasses). I get them from Lab Safety Supply. Once I got use to wearing two pair of glasses at the same time, it was no problem.

-- Bill - Mesquite, TX --- "Everything with a power cord eventually winds up in the trash.” John Sarge , timber framer and blacksmith instructor at Tillers International school

View richgreer's profile


4541 posts in 3104 days

#13 posted 04-25-2011 03:51 PM

Here is an experience some may find helpful. I wear bi-focals and I wanted to have some safety glasses in addition to my regular glasses. My regular glasses costs more than $300 because they are progressive bi-focals with the transition lenses.

For the safety glasses, I asked about a single lens design that was optimal for distances from 2 – 4” (a little longer than a normal reading distance). Based on my prescription for my bi-focals, they came up with the right formula for a single lens design as I requested. Those glasses are perfect for shop work (except when I look across the room to read the clock on the far wall) and they costs me less than $50.

-- Rich, Cedar Rapids, IA - I'm a woodworker. I don't create beauty, I reveal it.

View Grandpa's profile


3259 posts in 2704 days

#14 posted 04-26-2011 03:18 AM

I have used prescription safety glasses since I began wearing glasses at age 40. Before that I had the non prescription kind for when I needed to go to the shop and check on something (machine and manufacturing shop where I worked). The company furnished the safety glasses for us. They come complete with side shields and safety frames as the other guys above described. I highly recommend them. I did knock a lense out of a pair of regular glasses once. SCARY! I get the scratch resistant coating put on them and get the transitional tint put on them. I wear trifocal and for me I tried the transitional no line tirfocal once and didn’t like it. I prefer the lines but that is me. I found I was almost in focus most of the time with the others. The scratches happen and they are usually from wiping them without water first. You only get one set of eyes so think about walking around in the dark. Buy the safety lens. We spend thousands on tools and scrimp on our safety glasses???

View dusty2's profile


323 posts in 3458 days

#15 posted 04-26-2011 02:21 PM

I have worn glasses almost all of my life. When I had cataract surgery, the need for glasses was changed from all-the-time to just when reading OR when in the shop.

For shop work, I bought a pair of polycarbonate safety glasses with side shields. These are basically a bi-focal with n correction in the upper lense and a reading glass in the lower lense. I have to replace them about once a year due to the scratches but that was the same before. I am hard on my glasses.

I find that the reading correction is not right for in the shop. The focal length has been altered for shop wear. I use a pair of drug store reading glasses for use on the computer and reading.

-- Making Sawdust Safely

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