When to wear woodworking safety glasses: Regulations and Issues

In a woodworking workshop, there are many things that can pose a hazard to your eyes. We will explain what are safety glasses, when they should be used, types of safety glasses, and long term effects of wearing safety glasses.


  1. What are safety glasses used for in woodworking?
  2. When should safety glasses be worn?
  3. How to tell if your glasses are safety glasses?
  4. How should eye protection be worn?
  5. Can wearing safety glasses affect eyesight?

What are safety glasses used for in woodworking?

Safety glasses are used to protect your eyes from hazards that are in the workshop. Safety glasses, in general, can be used to protect the user from impact, air-borne materials like fine wood dust, steel wool, and fiberglass, chemicals, intense light or UV radiation, and outdoor conditions.

However, in woodworking, many of these hazards are not commonly present. In woodworking, safety glasses normally protect you from impact, air-borne wood dust, and chemicals like paint or mineral spirits.

When should safety glasses be worn?

When woodworking, safety glasses should be worn when you are cutting, sanding, chopping, painting, or working with any harmful chemical

  • When cutting and sanding
  • When chiseling and planing
  • When chopping wood
  • When spray painting

When cutting and sanding

Safety glasses should be worn when cutting and sanding wood because these two actions results in fine wood dust to become airborne.

Even if you are using a dust bag, you will still have some wood particles that will be kicked up and out from the saw and sander. Dust bags are just used to contain most of the dust into one location so that your floors and clothes are not coated in wood dust. It does not eliminate dust from becoming airborne completely.

When chiseling and planing

Chiseling and planing wood remove larger wood pieces. Just like cutting and sanding, these wood pieces can become airborne and go into your eye.

When chopping wood

Eye protection is a form of PPE, Personal Protective Equipment, that should be used when chopping wood to protect your eyes from injury.

Ocular blunt trauma can result from a piece of wood becoming lodged in your eye.

Ocular blunt trauma from chopping wood can be a very serious injury that can lead to loss of vision. However, this injury is highly preventable with the right PPE.

When painting

Eye protection can protect the user when brush painting and spray painting.

VOCs, or Volatile Organic Compounds, are released when using paint. The exposure of VOCs can lead to respiratory issues, nervous system issues, sinus like irritations, and has been linked to certain forms of cancers.

The exposure of VOCs can cause eye irritations, so proper eye protection is necessary to mitigate the risk.

Brush Painting

Eye protection is not required when brush painting if you are in a well ventilated area, like out doors or in an open garage. However, it should be used in every other instance.

Spray painting

Eye protection is essential when spray painting of any kind. Over-spray results in those particles becoming more airborne. Eye protection should be worn even if you are in a well ventilated area when spray painting.

If you are in an open garage, those particles are still airborne and floating around you. If you are outdoors. If you are outdoors and are spraying with the breeze, the wind direction can easily change and blow the paint in your face. I know, because it has happened to me a few times.

How to tell if your glasses are safety glasses?

Glasses that are approved to be used as safety glasses in a workshop has to meet the ANSI regulations. To tell if your glasses are safety glasses, you will need to look for one of the ANSI stamps on the glasses. If your safety glasses have a Z87, Z87 basic impact, Z87 +, Z87-2, or Z87-2+ stamp on them then they have met the ANSI requirements.

Different stamps mean different things so I will explain what each stamp means and where to find them on your glasses.

Z87Z87 basic impactZ87+Z87-2Z87-2+
StandardsMeets previous standardsMeets current standardsMeets current standardsMeets current standardsMeets current standards
UseStandard protectionStandard protectionHigh velocity– Prescription
– Standard Protection
– Prescription
– High Velocity

General Safety glasses

Safety glasses have to meet the ASNI standard to be considered effective. The different ASNI ratings include Z87, Z87 basic impact, and Z87+ for regular safety glasses. The Z87 basic impact and Z87+ meet the current ANSI standard. While the Z87 meets the previous ANSI standard.

The Z87 basic impact will provide adequate protection in most woodworking environments. The Z87 + are high velocity rated and undergo more rigorous testing than the Z87 basic impact.

Z87 safety glasses may provide adequate protection to the user because these glasses met the requirements of the previous ANSI regulations. However, these glasses have not gone through testing for the newer ANSI regulations.

To get adequate protection, its safest to stay with the Z87 basic impact or the Z87 +.

Prescription safety glasses

Prescription safety glasses that are ANSI compliant are created with either a Z87-2 stamp or a Z87-2+ stamp. The Z87-2 safety glasses are the standard glasses that give the same protections as the Z87 basic impact glasses.

The Z87-2+ are prescription safety glasses that give the same protections as the Z87 +.

Prescription glasses alternative

While there are prescription safety glasses that meet ANSI standards, you will have to have safety glasses that are custom made to you. One alternative to this is to buy safety goggles that can be put over your existing prescription glasses and that can still provide the same protections.

How should eye protection be worn?

Safety glasses should be worn to go over your ears and cover your eyes. If you are wearing a hard hat or ear muffs, these items should go over your safety glasses and not vise versa.

Safety glasses

Sometimes ear muffs can add pressure to the sides of your glasses, thus causing pain to the side of your head. Because compatibility with other forms of PPE are a limitation with ear muffs, you should look into ear plugs so that you wont have that irritation.

Safety goggles

Safety goggles are designed to provide more protection from contaminants getting into your eye. They provide protection all around your eye by covering the surrounding skin.

Safety goggles are most effective when there is a seal around the goggles that does not break away from the skin.

To provide this seal, the glasses first need to be the right size and the strap should be the right length. Too large of a strap will cause the glasses to fall and too tight of a strap can lead to pain around the head.

Secondly, the strap should go around the head. The back of the strap should sit in the middle of the back of the head. Too high or too low of a strap can lead to glasses slipping and the seal breaking.

Can wearing safety glasses affect eyesight?

Wearing safety glasses will not affect your eyesight. The only possible way that safety glasses could affect your eyesight is if you were wearing Z87-2 or Z87-2+ safety glasses that are made with prescription. However, you cannot buy these glasses at your local hardware store because they are prescription, so that decreases your chances of accidentally purchasing them.

Reasons why your eyes may hurt?

Normal safety glasses will not affect your eyesight. However, when wearing safety glasses you may have headaches, dizziness, and pain behind the eyes. Normally this is a result of either the design of the glasses or due to the way you are using them. I will go over the top 4 reasons why your eyes may hurt as when using safety glasses

  1. Poor design
    • Buying cheap safety glasses are more likely to have a design that is not as user friendly. The way that the glasses may cover the face or sit on the ears may cause pain.
    • Cheaply made lenses can have small distortions that can cause pain behind the eyes
  2. Improper wear
    • Glasses may not be compatible with all forms of PPE. Ear muffs are a form of PPE that commonly causes pain when wearing glasses. Ear muffs normally add pressure to the part of the glasses that go over the ear and can result in pain in the area.
    • One way around this is to either switch to ear plugs or safety goggles with a strap
  3. Cloudy or scratched lens
    • Having cloudy or scratched lens can lead to issues focusing and cause pain behind the eyes
  4. Light or glare
    • Depending on your work environment, you may be exposed to a lot of light or glares. This can lead to headaches and can be fixed by purchasing safety tinted glasses or sun glasses.
  5. Too tight goggles
    • When wearing safety goggles, you want to ensure that the goggles are not too tight around your head.
    • Having goggles that are too tight can result in headaches and pain around the eyes


In this article we learned about the importance of safety glasses when woodworking, when to wear safety glasses, different types of glasses, and how they should be worn.

Thank you so much for taking the time to read this article and I wish you luck on your woodworking journeys!


My name is Rachel Blanding and I am a woodworker. I started woodworking at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. I mainly create and refurbish furniture and create art. In this site I will share with you the knowledge I have gained over the years, and what worked for me and what didn't.

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