If you have been working on a project and suddenly got a rogue splinter, the you know how painful and annoying that can be. With some luck you can get rid of it at home, but sometimes it may require a visit to the eye wash station at your local A&E. The dangers lurking in workshops and workplaces are real, and protecting your eyesight is really important.

Irrespective of whether you're a seasoned professional or doing some DIY job, eye injuries can occur in a variety of settings. From all types of flying debris and dust particles during construction and renovation projects to harmful splashes of chemicals in your garage or even simple cleaning tasks, the potential hazards are many.

Beyond the obvious pain and potential long-term effects of eye injuries, there's another crucial factor to consider: legal responsibility. In the UK, regulations mandate the use of appropriate Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) to ensure workplace safety. This includes eye protection, and failing to comply can have legal consequences.

My guide examines the key eye protection regulations in the UK, helping you understand the importance of CE marking and BS EN standards. I'll also explore how to choose the right safety glasses or goggles for your needs, ensuring you stay safe and compliant while tackling any project.

Understanding Eye Protection Regulations in the UK

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) is a government agency in the UK. It has responsibility for regulating workplace safety and health. Their key role is to establish and enforce regulations to minimise risks and ensure a safe working environment for everyone. It's fair to say that none of this regulatory information is exciting to read, but it is nonetheless very important. I used to be the Health & Safety rep for the CWU, so I had to read and understand this for obvious reasons.

PPE at Work Regulations 2016

There are a number of regulations so to make this simpler, I have included the two most important. Firstly, the key regulations for eye protection falls under the Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) at Work Regulations 2016. These regulations state clearly that employers must provide suitable PPE to their employees when there are risks to their health and safety that cannot be adequately controlled by other means. Eye protection is explicitly included as a type of PPE that needs to be provided in situations where there's a potential for:

  • Flying objects and debris - This can occur in various workplaces, from construction sites and workshops (using hammers, saws, etc) to laboratories (glassware).
  • Dust and harmful particles - Covers a wide range of tasks such as sanding, grinding, and working with insulation materials which do generate significant amounts of dust that can irritate and potentially damage eyes.
  • Splashes of liquids - This is a particular concern when working with chemicals, cleaning solutions, or even water under high pressure.

COSHH Regulations 2002

For tasks involving hazardous chemicals, the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health (COSHH) Regulations 2002 These regulations emphasise the importance of proper risk assessment and control measures to safeguard workers from the harmful effects of chemicals. This may include the mandatory use of specific types of safety glasses or goggles depending on the nature of the chemicals being handled.

Demystifying CE Marking and BS EN Standards

When choosing eye protection in the UK, you will come across two key terms: CE Marking and BS EN Standards. Let's break down their meaning and how they ensure you're getting a safe and reliable product.

CE Marking: Your Guarantee of Compliance

The CE marking is the best indication that a product complies with relevant EU health, safety, and environmental regulations. It means the product satisfies the legislative requirements to be sold in a country. When you see the CE marking on your safety glasses or goggles, you can be confident they meet essential safety requirements for use within the European Economic Area (EEA), and the UK. This ensures the product has undergone rigorous testing and meets specific criteria regarding:

  • Strength and impact resistance - The lenses and frames must be able to withstand potential impacts and flying debris.
  • Optical quality - The lenses must provide clear vision without distortion or colour alteration.
  • UV protection - For products that have filters, they should offer adequate protection against harmful ultraviolet (UV) radiation.
  • Comfort and fit - The safety glasses or goggles should be comfortable to wear for extended periods without causing undue pressure or irritation.

BS EN Standards: The Benchmark

British Standards (BS EN), established by the British Standards Institution (BSI)  and are a set of recognised standards for various products and services. These standards define specific technical requirements and best practices for different industries.

Why are BS EN Standards Important for Eye Protection?

For safety glasses and goggles in the UK, adhering to relevant BS EN standards provides an additional layer of assurance. These standards go beyond the basic requirements of CE marking and delve deeper into specific aspects of eye protection, such as:

DEWALT GOGGLE Concealer Clear Goggle DPG82-11D
  • BS EN 166 - This is the general standard for all types of personal eye protection, outlining core requirements for materials, design, and performance. The Dewalt Goggle Concealer DPG82-11D, shown above meet this standard. Available at Amazon UK
  • BS EN 170 - This standard focuses on eye protection with ultraviolet filters, ensuring adequate protection against UV radiation in specific environments like welding or working outdoors.
  • BS EN 172 - This standard addresses sun glare filters for industrial use, ensuring safety glasses or goggles with such filters offer proper protection against intense sunlight encountered in certain workplaces. The Infield Terminator 93820 safety glasses, shown below, meet both all 3 standards shown above. Available at Amazon UK
Infield Terminator 9380 420 Blue Light and UV Protective Glasses UV 400 Black Orange One Size

Additional Standards

There are other more specific BS EN standards:

  • BS EN 169 - Welding filters
  • BS EN 171 - Infrared filters
  • BS EN 173 - Respiratory protective equipment with eye protection

By looking for both the CE marking and the specific BS EN standard on your safety glasses or goggles, you can be doubly confident that you're getting a product that meets the highest safety standards for eye protection in the UK.

Finding the Right Eye Protection for Your Needs

Choosing the right eye protection for the task at hand is important. Here's a quick reminder:

  • Safety Glasses - Ideal for situations involving airborne hazards like dust particles, wood chips, or flying debris from tools like hammers or saws. They typically offer good ventilation and a wide field of view.
  • Safety Goggles - These provide a complete seal around the eyes and are better suited for tasks with a higher risk of splashes or chemical exposure. They also excel in dusty environments or situations where small particles could enter from the sides.

You can read more here on the differences between safety glasses and goggles.

Beyond the Basic Protection

While the type of hazard dictates the primary choice (safety glasses vs. goggles), here are some additional factors to consider when selecting your eye protection:

  1. Comfort and Fit -  Buy glasses or goggles that fit comfortably and securely. A loose fit can compromise protection, while a tight fit can cause pressure and discomfort during extended wear.
  2. Ventilation - Consider the ventilation of the eye protection. Good airflow helps prevent fogging and keeps your eyes cool, especially in warm or humid environments.
  3. UV Protection - If working outdoors or exposed to UV radiation (e.g., welding), choose safety glasses or goggles with UV filters for added protection.
  4. Personal Preferences - Consider magnification options for close-up work or anti-scratch coatings for increased durability.

Don't compromise on safety! Choosing the right eye protection might take a few additional considerations, but it's a small price to pay for safeguarding your precious eyesight.

Resources and Further Reading

Staying informed about eye protection regulations and best practices is crucial. Here are some valuable resources to explore:

  • Health and Safety Executive (HSE) - The go-to source for workplace safety regulations in the UK. Their website offers extensive information on eye protection, including guidance documents and resources for employers and employees.
  • British Standards Institution (BSI) - The official website of BSI provides information on various British Standards (BS EN), including those relevant to eye protection. You can find details on specific standards like BS EN 166 and others mentioned in this guide. Link to BSI website: https://bsol.bsigroup.com/
  • Government guidance on COSHH regulations - This website section from the UK government provides detailed information on the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health (COSHH) Regulations 2002. It includes guidance on risk assessment, safe handling of chemicals, and the importance of appropriate PPE, including eye protection for tasks involving hazardous substances. 

My Final Thoughts

Eye protection regulations in the UK exist for a crucial reason: to safeguard your vision and prevent avoidable injuries. By understanding these regulations and choosing the right safety glasses or goggles for the task at hand, you're taking a proactive step towards a safer work environment.

Remember, even a seemingly harmless DIY project can pose a significant risk to your eyes. Don't let a moment of carelessness lead to a lifetime of regret. Investing in high-quality, compliant safety glasses or goggles is an investment in your most precious asset - your eyesight. With the knowledge you've gained and the variety of options available, you can confidently tackle any project while keeping your eyes safe.

For further details on eye protection regulations, specific BS EN standards, and best practices, don't hesitate to explore the resources provided in this guide.

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