How to choose the right PPE for eye and vision protection?

The eye is a very important organ because 85% of sensory impressions are perceived through sight.

For this reason it becomes essential to protect it to preserve its functions, especially at work.

In the world of work, in fact, as also mentioned in Annex VIII of Legislative Decree 81/2008, the eyes must be protected from a multiplicity of risks.


The eye is subjected to different types of risk, which can be divided into five macro-categories:

  • Mechanical Risks – knocks, shavings, burins, dust, splinters, solid bodies
  • Chemical Risks – gases, vapours, acids, smoke, fine dust, liquids
  • Thermal Hazards – splashes of molten metal, thermal radiation, hot liquids
  • Optical Hazards – UV and infrared rays, visible light
  • Electrical risks – disturbing electric arcs


What are the rules governing the type and use of all the components belonging to Personal Protective Equipment?

Definitely the PPE Regulation 2016/425.

Furthermore, the safety eyewear legislation requires a product certification that demonstrates compliance with the requirements identified in directive 89/686/EEC.

For protective goggles, the fundamental standard is EN 166 which regulates all the general requirements on individual eye protection (e.g. fields of use, normative references, type of eye protection, general definitions of terms, correct identification, etc.).

Depending on the field of use of the protective goggles, further EN and EN ISO standards relating to vision are added, such as:

EN 169 Personal eye protection - Filters for welding and related techniques - Transmission requirements and recommended uses

EN 170 Personal eye protection - Ultraviolet filters - Transmission requirements and recommended uses

EN 171 Personal eye protection - Infrared filters - Transmission requirements and recommended uses

EN 172 Personal eye protection - Sunscreens for industrial use

EN 175 Personal protection - Equipment for eye and face protection during welding and related processes

EN 207 Personal eye protection - Filters and eye protectors against laser radiation (laser eye protectors)

EN 208 Personal eye protection - Eye protectors for adjustment work on lasers and laser systems (eye protectors for laser adjustments)

EN 379 Personal eye protection - Automatic filters for welding

EN 1731 Personal eye protection - Mesh eye and face protectors

EN 14458 Personal eye equipment - Face shields and visors for use with firefighter helmets and high performance safety helmets for industry used by firefighters and for ambulance and emergency services


Based on the risks, different types of PPE can be identified based on precise selection criteria for identifying the right device.

First of all we need to identify the type of safety glasses to choose.

The main ones are:

Temple glasses

For mechanical hazards such as precision mechanical work.

Protective glasses with reading area

With integrated reading area for precise and detailed work.

All-round glasses

For mechanical and chemical hazards such as dust-generating jobs (grinding) and laboratory activities.

Welder goggles

For thermal and optical hazards such as e.g. welding work.

The UNI EN 166:2001 standard also regulates the use of initials on the frame and on the lens of these individual devices. It is therefore essential to know how to interpret the codes that are shown on them for a correct choice of the device to use.

After the identification code of the manufacturer and the product standard, it is necessary to choose the fields of use in which the device guarantees its protection. The main ones are:

3 Liquids

4 Dust particles

5 Gases and fine dust particles

8 Disturbing electric arcs

9 Molten metal, hot solid bodies

Mechanical strength, i.e. the degree of impact resistance, for both lenses and temples, is identified by the following codes:

No minimum resistance (filter)

S High resistance (filter)

F Low energy impact 45 m/s

B Impact at medium energy 120 m/s

A High Energy Impact 190 m/s

T Guaranteed resistance from – 5 to +55 °C


Finally it is possible to select the right shade of the lenses of the safety glasses. Which one to choose? These are the main features for each type of lens:


For use indoors as protection against mechanical hazards (e.g. impact resistance).

Light transmission: approx. 91%

Standard: EN 166, EN 170

AR – anti-reflection

For excellent visibility when working on reflective components without straining the eyes. Protection from mechanical hazards.

Light transmission: approx. 96.5%

Standard: EN 166, EN 170

I/O - Indoor/Outdoor

Perfect for use in different light conditions (indoor and outdoor environments). Reflects sunlight without over-darkening. Protection from mechanical hazards.

Light transmission: approx. 55%

Standard: EN 166, EN 172


It offers good visibility and good contrast in bad light conditions. Protection from mechanical hazards.

Light transmission: approx. 88%

Standard: EN 166, EN 170

CBR – contrast, blue light reduction, relaxation

Hue increases contrast, reduces blue light and helps reduce eye strain. Protection from mechanical hazards.

Light transmission: approx. 65%

Standard: EN 166, EN 172

Mirror blue

Ideal for use during outdoor work. Eliminates glare caused by light reflection on the surface. Protection from mechanical hazards.

Light transmission: approx. 13%

Standard: EN 166, EN 172


For activities involving the presence of annoying reflections on surfaces. Protection from horizontal glare and mechanical hazards.

Light transmission: approx. 14%

Standard: EN 166, EN 172


For welding work. Protection from UV and infrared rays, as well as mechanical hazards.

Levels of protection:

1.7 = welder aid

3 = welding, cutting

5 = gas welding, welding

Light transmission depending on the protection level: approx. 54%, 15%, 2%

Standard: EN 166, EN 169

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