Protective Eyewear: Important for Work and Play

published Dec 08, 2023
3 min read

Protective eyewear is crucial for both work and play, especially in the United Kingdom (UK). The UK has strict regulations when it comes to safety at work, and employers are required to provide their employees with personal protective equipment (PPE) if there is a potential risk of eye injury. Whether you are working in a hazardous environment or playing sports, wearing the right protective eyewear is essential for preventing eye injuries and maintaining good vision.

Occupational Hazards

In the UK, there are various industries where workers are at risk of eye injuries. These include construction, mining, manufacturing, and healthcare. According to a survey conducted by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) in 2019/2020, there were over 14,000 reported non-fatal injuries to the eye in the workplace. These injuries can range from minor irritations to severe and permanent damage, such as loss of vision. This is why wearing protective eyewear is crucial for preventing eye injuries at work.

In the worst-case scenario, an incident causing loss of sight at work can result in loss of employment and significantly impact your quality of life. In this situation, legal action could also be taken against the employer, highlighting the importance of employers providing adequate protective eyewear for their employees.

Types of Protective Eyewear For The Workplace

When it comes to protective eyewear, there are various types available depending on the specific needs. Some common examples are safety glasses, goggles, face shields, and welding helmets. Each type is designed to protect against different hazards, such as flying debris, chemicals, and radiation. It is essential to choose the right type of eyewear for the specific task at hand to ensure maximum protection.

Protective Eyewear for Display Screen Equipment (DSE)

In the UK, an increasing number of jobs involve extensive use of Display Screen Equipment (DSE), such as computers, tablets, and smartphones. Prolonged exposure to DSE can lead to a range of eye problems, including eyestrain, dryness, irritation, and blurred vision. This is commonly referred to as ‘DSE eye strain’ or ‘Computer Vision Syndrome’.

To protect your eyes from these issues, specially designed eyewear, often referred to as computer glasses or DSE glasses, is recommended. These glasses typically have anti-reflective coatings and specific tints to reduce glare and strain caused by looking at digital screens for extended periods.

In the UK, the Health and Safety (Display Screen Equipment) Regulations 1992 require employers to ensure that employees who use DSE as a significant part of their normal work have regular eye tests and provide glasses if needed. This highlights the importance of considering DSE in the discussion of protective eyewear in the workplace.

Personal Protective Equipment

In the United Kingdom, it is the responsibility of the employer to ensure the safety and well-being of their employees at the workplace. This includes providing the appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE), such as protective eyewear, in environments where there is a risk of eye injuries. Employers must perform a thorough risk assessment to identify any potential hazards that could harm their employees.

Upon identifying the risks, they are required to implement control measures to minimize these risks, such as the use of protective eyewear. The selected eyewear must comply with the European Standard EN166 – the primary standard for safety eyewear in the UK. Additionally, it is crucial for employers to provide necessary training and instructions to employees on how to use and maintain their PPE properly. Failure to comply with these responsibilities can result in legal consequences, fines, or even imprisonment.

Risk of Eye Injuries When Playing Sports

Just as in the workplace, the risk of eye injuries is also significant while engaging in various sports and recreational activities in the UK. Sports such as cricket, rugby, and football, which are immensely popular in the UK, often involve high-speed balls and physical contact, posing a potential danger to the eyes. Other activities like cycling or swimming may expose the eyes to harmful UV rays or chemicals, respectively.

Eye injuries can range from temporary discomfort due to dust or grit to severe conditions like retinal detachment or corneal abrasions. Therefore, it is of paramount importance to wear the appropriate protective eyewear suited to a particular sport or activity to help prevent these injuries.

Choosing the Right Protective Eyewear For the Workplace

When it comes to choosing protective eyewear for work, there are a few things you should consider:

  • The type of work you do: Depending on your job, you may need specialized eyewear. For example, if you work with chemicals, you will need goggles that provide protection against chemical splashes.
  • ANSI rating: Look for eyewear that meets the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) standards. This ensures that the eyewear has been tested and certified for its impact resistance.
  • Fit: Protective eyewear should fit comfortably and securely on your face. It should not slip or be too tight, as this can cause discomfort and affect your vision.
  • Lens material: Polycarbonate lenses are the most common choice for protective eyewear as they are lightweight, impact-resistant, and provide good visibility.

Choosing the Right Protective Eyewear for Sports

When selecting protective eyewear for sports, consider the following factors:

  • Type of sport: Different sports require different types of protective eyewear. For example, if you play racquet sports, you will need eyewear with good peripheral vision. If you play football, goggles or a visor could provide better protection.
  • Fit and comfort: Just like with work eyewear, the fit and comfort of sports eyewear are crucial. It should stay securely on your face without limiting your movement or causing discomfort.
  • Lens color: The lens color can affect your vision in different lighting conditions. For example, yellow lenses provide better contrast and depth perception in low light, while grey lenses are suitable for bright sunny days.
  • Prescription Lenses: If you require prescription glasses for vision correction, it’s important to choose protective eyewear that accommodates your prescription. Prescription safety glasses are available for both occupational and sports use. They are designed to provide the necessary protection while ensuring your vision is not compromised.


Protective eyewear is vital for both work and play in the UK. It not only helps prevent eye injuries but also ensures clear vision, which is crucial for safety and performance. Whether you are an employer providing PPE to your employees or an individual participating in sports, always remember to choose the right type of protective eyewear and wear it consistently to protect your eyes