You didn’t get your lab job by ignoring the rules and guessing your way through school, but when it comes to protecting your eyes, even the most knowledgeable and educated among us often get it wrong.
Luckily, you’ve got the entire Stoggles team as your wingman. While you crunch numbers and mix chemicals (and/or the occasional bodily fluid), we’ll help you understand the risks to your eyes and what you can do to keep them safe.
Let’s talk about the importance of eye safety, when you should wear safety goggles in the laboratory and what features safety eyewear needs to keep your eyes safe. Plus, we’ll share the inside scoop on the safety goggles that even Albert Einstein and the antagonists in The Devil Wears Prada would approve of.
The Eyes: At a Glance
Vision happens at the back of the eye. That means the front of the eye (the part that you can see when you look in the mirror) is the part that collects the light that bounces off of objects and focuses it on the structures in the rear of the eye that make vision happen.
The retina is located in the back of the eye. Special cells inside the retina change light into electrical signals that are then sent, via the optic nerve, to the brain for interpretation. These cells are highly specialized and cannot regenerate. That means when they are damaged or destroyed, part of our vision is damaged or destroyed, too.
Essentially, this is the difference between seeing the bird flying at your face and getting hit by a rogue bird in the face.
Natural Eye Protection
The eyes, unlike your brain or your lungs, aren’t encased in thick bones or muscular tissue. Instead, they’re exposed out of necessity to their main function, which is to collect light and give you the ability to see.
That said, the eyes are protected by the orbital sockets, eyelids, eyelashes, and the conjunctiva. The conjunctiva is a thick, fibrous tissue that covers your eyes. It’s what makes the whites of your eyes white.
Vision Damage In the Lab: What You Should Know
Strikes and scrapes may account for a lot of instances of vision loss, which can make you think you’re invisible indoors in the safety of your lab. However, just like there’s more than one way to test a hypothesis, and there’s definitely more than one way to harm or injure your eyes.
UV light is damaging to your eyes much like it is to unprotected skin. UV rays have the ability to penetrate the eye and reach the retina. The macula, a structure located in the retina that is responsible for helping you see in greater detail, is especially susceptible to UV damage.
Those fancy transilluminators that help you view DNA strands can also interfere with your vision. Just like you wear sunglasses when you are outdoors to protect your eyes from the sun, you need UV light protection anytime you’re in the lab and working with a machine that emits this type of radiation.
In addition, germicidal lamps are also a source of UV light. If you don’t want to kill your eyes while you’re killing germs, safety eyewear is an absolute must.
Also on the light spectrum is blue light, a visible light that has a short wavelength and high energy. Blue light is emitted from the sun but also from digital sources like computers, LED lights, televisions, tablets, and smartphones.
In addition, some LED lab equipment used for photocatalysis emits blue light. Researchers aren’t sure about the extent of damage that blue light may present to our eyes. It’s clear that blue light, like UV light, can enter the eye and reach the retina, which may make it dangerous to the macula.
However, in the meantime, we do know that blue light can be a source of eye strain, fatigue, and irritation. That can make it difficult to complete your work and can even result in headaches or neck pain. At the very least, it can also disrupt your sleep cycle, making those late-night lab hours even more tiring the next day.
Splashes, Spills, and Splats
You know the danger of the chemicals and fluids you’re working with, and wearing the right protection ensures that you don’t spill an abrasive chemical on your lap or splash someone else’s urine sample in your face.
No matter what type of liquid you find in your beaker, make sure you find the appropriate eyewear firmly strapped to your face. Depending on the level of harm that could result from exposure to the liquid you have, you may need safety goggles that form a seal around your eyes.
Particles and Debris
Sure, you aren’t operating a saw like a woodshop, but there are definitely times in the lab you’ll be cutting material to take samples or using some type of machinery or equipment that could result in small particles entering your eyes.
Protecting your eyes against these hazards means wearing safety eyewear, even if you don’t think you need it.
No, we’re not talking about the brain fog you get after labeling the millionth blood vial that day. We’re talking about actual fog, like from the English countryside or the fog machine in your neighbor’s Halloween display.
You understand temperature changes and steam, and we’re guessing you probably also understand how water vapor collects on the surface of your protective eyewear, creating a fog. We all know the danger your eyes are in when you remove your glasses to wipe them down. It seems like the chemicals wait until that moment to splash you.
Foggy glasses take you off task, which can be a risk in itself. When you remove your safety eyewear, you’re not only distracted, but your eyes are no longer protected. Anti-fog wipes may be a quick solution, but you’ll find your glasses will likely still need removing to be wiped down.
Safety Eyewear Checklist
If you want the best safety eyewear in the biz, you need to know the specs. We’ve got you covered. Here are five features every laboratory employee should demand in their safety eyewear.
1. ANSI Z87.1-2020 Certification
Safety eyewear should be shatter-resistant. That means if you are struck with rogue debris, you don’t have to worry that it will penetrate your eye and cause an injury. The gold standard for impact resistance is the ANSI Z87.1-2020 certification.
Eyewear that has undergone the ANSI testing has passed two lab tests of its own:
High impact test. This test involves dropping a weighted ball bearing onto the lenses of the safety eyewear.
High-velocity test. For this test, the eyewear is attached to a headform that a ball bearing is fired at the lens at a high speed. And yes, this test does look as cool as it sounds.
When the eyewear passes these tests, they make the grade and can bear the ANSI seal of approval, which you’ll usually find embedded on the lens or arm of the eyewear.
2. UV Blocking
You can’t wear sunglasses in the lab, but you still need UV protection. That’s why your safety eyewear should have UV protection without dark tinting.
All Stoggles eyewear, for example, is made from lightweight, ultra-durable polycarbonate material. This material is naturally UV-blocking, giving you crystal-clear viewability while keeping your eyes safe from UV rays. So, when you leave the lab for your lunch break, you know that you have some UV protection — nice try, sun.
3. Blue Light Blocking
Why stop at UV light when protecting your eyes from dangerous rays? Fend off the blue light with glasses that also have blue light-blocking technology. Blue light blockers, as they are sometimes called, have a powdered blocking agent that is literally injected into the lenses at the time of creation.
This keeps your eyes safe while you’re entering data, using blue-light emitting machines, or taking a mental health break and looking at cute puppies on Instagram.
4. Side and Top Shields
Depending on the types of materials and fluids you work with at the lab, goggles may be necessary. When they aren’t, we suggest you always wear eye protection that has side and top shields.
Side and top shields protect your eyes in places where normal eyeglasses leave them vulnerable, near the eyebrow and across the temples. While wraparound lenses may seem like a good idea, the curved design can cause warped vision, similar to a funhouse mirror.
This is especially true if you are wearing prescription safety glasses. That’s why Stoggles glasses look like normal glasses; everyone in a lab setting knows you need to see everything and everywhere all the time.
Instead, side and top shields are sleek and low-profile and protect your eyes in these areas without twisting your vision and making you question whether you inhaled nitrous oxide.
5. Fog Resistant
Don’t waste your time removing your eyewear to wipe away the fog. You’ll risk the safety of your eyes and transfer bacteria from your lab coat to your eyewear.
Look for pretreated eyewear to change the way water vapor collects on the surface of your glasses. Opt for specs dipped into anti-fog solutions (like Stoggles) than those that are sprayed with a treatment. Spray anti-fog treatments are spotty (much like your co-worker’s attendance record).
You can scour the internet looking for the perfect safety eyewear, or you can just head to Stoggles to pick up protective eyewear that protects your sense of style, too.
Stoggles have all the safety features you need with none of the middle school chemistry set feel, a fact that we’re sure you’ll agree doesn’t require any repetitive testing.