Eyes in the lab

One thing that made a big impression on me recently was a poster depicting how well different forms of eye protection work when your head is splashed. Along the lines of “a picture is worth a thousand words,” the pictures clearly show that goggles are the hands-down best choice when it comes to working with liquids. Had I seen it when I was a student, that poster would have done a lot to get me to wear goggles rather than safety glasses. (Poster shown after the jump.)

(Media alert: When I was getting permission from Science & Safety Consulting‘s Linda Stroud and Safety Emporium‘s Rob Toreki to put up the poster image, they told me that it’s supposed to appear in the TV series The Glades as well as the upcoming movie Green Lantern.)

I know, I know, goggles can be uncomfortable and foggy. The ones I had as an undergraduate certainly were. But I’m told that, if you hunt around, better ones can be found. When I attended the Laboratory Safety Institute training at the ACS meeting back in March, LSI instructor and College of Charleston chemistry professor Jack Breazeale said that his favorites are the Stealth goggles from Uvex.

Another common eye protection issue is the question of whether it’s safe to wear contact lenses. When I worked for a pharmaceutical company in the mid-1990s, contacts were strictly forbidden. The ACS Committee on Chemical Safety apparently gave the okay in 1998 to contact lenses when working with chemicals. In 2005, the National Institute for Occupational Safety & Health reviewed the information available on the topic and came down on the side of permitting them, assuming appropriate eye and face protection are worn for the task at hand.

So: You can wear your contacts if you want, but, if you value your eyesight, it’s worth investing in a good pair of goggles. Anyone have other recommendations for pairs to try out?

Author: Jyllian Kemsley

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  1. But the glasses are so much cooler-looking!!!

    (Actually, looking at the 3rd column for all of them makes me think, “Dude, faceshield?”)

  2. @CJ–As I understand it, because a face shield doesn’t seal around the face, it’s only good for impact protection. If you need that level of impact AND splash protection, then you wear splash goggles under the face shield.

  3. I work in a municipal government lab. We are revising our safety manual and I looked on-line to see what the policy of other labs was regarding wearing of splash goggles. A number of undergraduate teaching labs require splash goggles (not safety glasses).

    I was not able to find any information about policies of industrial labs and would be interested in hearing from chemists in industry.

  4. qvxb, the answer is that it depends.

    But for a typical small-scale laboratory (largest flask less than 22 liters), most industrial organic chemistry labs will require safety glasses with non-vented side shields and that’s about it.

    It’s quite clear, of course, that if you need more protection, you should get it.

  5. @CJ–So, do you think that policy is appropriate for that type of lab, given what the poster shows?

  6. @JK: Sorry for the delay, just saw your question.

    Of course, the answer is “No, they’re not completely adequate.” I find the poster pretty shocking, in that regard.

    That being said, I’d love to know what the impact/splash is supposed to represent. For the most part, you’re supposed to have something in between you and whatever you’re dealing with (hood sash, etc.) All of this to say, gee, I dunno.