When starting to look for a pair of prescription safety sunglasses the amount of options and information out there can make the process overwhelming and confusing if you are unsure of what you are looking for. In our Safety Prescription Sunglasses & Lens Guide we’ve done our best to simplify the information on safety sunglass frame and lens technology along with frame choice, lens tints, lens materials, and lens choices from progressives, to transitions, to polarchromic. Whether you’re wearing safety glasses for weekend projects, required to wear them daily for work, or working indoor, outdoor or a combination of both light conditions having the right prescription sunglasses and lenses will have a major impact on your visual clarity and overall comfort. Below we’ve broken down the essential things to look for when selecting the correct lens tints for the type of conditions you’re working in, and the frame that will best fit your needs.
When it comes to safety glasses the right pair of prescription glasses or sunglasses is arguably one of the most important pieces of equipment you invest in. Not only does the right pair of Rx prescription safety glasses allow you optimal visual clarity and protection, they also provide the option for increased contrast, changing visible light transmission as the light conditions change, or the ability to cut out harsh glare in bright, full sunlight conditions. Investing in a new pair of prescription safety glasses or sunglasses can be a daunting and overwhelming task with the large variety of frame styles and lens tints that are available. However, it can also improve your overall visual comfort and more importantly protection if you are able to find the right sunglasses and lenses for the conditions you work in. If you are looking for a new pair of prescription safety glasses here are a few key factors to consider:
ANSI Z87.1 Approved Prescription Safety Glasses and Safety Sunglasses: The ANSI Z87.1 standards for optical clarity and impact resistance provides specific requirements on eye and face protection allowed in the workplace. The “American National Standard Practice for Occupational and Educational Eye and Face Protection” implemented the ANSI Z87.1 standard to obligate employers to enforce the use of appropriate eye or face protection when exposed to hazardous materials, liquids, vapors, chemical or other harmful substances. The ANSI Z87.1 is the industrial standard for eyewear where the ANSI Z80.7 is the fashion standard for eyewear.
ANSI Z87.1 Stamped Prescription Safety Glasses and Sunglasses Lenses: Some companies require that the safety glass lenses are stamped with ANSI Z87.1 while others just require that they are approved. This is import to know as not all ANSI Z87.1 approved lenses are stamped. However, typically all ANSI Z87.1 approved sunglasses or glasses will include documentation of such approval in the box.
Prescription Safety Glass Lenses: Lens material is often times a personal choice but when it comes to safety glasses you will always want a polycarbonate or trivex lens. A polycarbonate or trivex lens will be lighter than a glass lens and also shatter proof. When you are wearing prescription safety glasses there is the risk of being hit in the eye with potentially dangerous materials and you would never want a glass lens as it can shatter. A trivex lens will be thicker than polycarbonate but lighter and more durable.
What to Look for in Safety Glass Lens Material: Polycarbonate, Trivex, or an industrial safety lens are the ideal lens material for safety glasses as they are shatter proof, impact resistant, lightweight and durable. While a trivex lens will be a visually thicker lens than polycarbonate but is lighter and more durable. However, a high grade polycarbonate lens also meets all ANSI Z87.1 standards and in most cases will work just fine, as it is less expensive than a trivex lens. Most companies will have their own version of a high grade polycarbonate lens, Oakley calls theirs Plutonite, Kaenon’s is SR-91, and Smith is Carbonic (Chromapop is what they refer to as their trivex lenses).
Polarized vs. Non-Polarized Lenses for Safety Glasses: Polarized prescription lenses are not typically recommended for safety glasses as polarized filters can make it hard to read LCD screens. Polarized lenses are typically only recommended for sports and activities where light reflection is prominent as it will eliminate glare off of surfaces such as water, pavement, and snow.
Light Conditions for Safety Glasses: Whether you are using your prescription safety glasses indoors, outdoors or a combination of both it is important to consider your light conditions when selecting a lens tint.
When to Select a Neutral Lens (Grey Base): If you typically wear your prescription safety glasses or sunglasses in bright full sunlight conditions a grey base lens is usually going to be your best options as grey base lenses cut out harsh glare and offer superior visual clarity in bright, full sunlight conditions. Grey base lenses are neutral lenses that lets you see true color as it is without altering it which is what high contrast lenses do. Grey base lenses will darken the environment without making it high contrast, which the eye translates as light. A grey based lens will be ideal for bright conditions and all day wear as it will put less stress on the eye by dulling the light that is transmitted.
When to Select a High Contrast Lens (Brown, Copper, Rose, and Amber Base): If you typically wear your prescription safety glasses or safety sunglasses in varying light conditions where you are in and out of shadows, require increased depth perception, or improved definition between objects a high contrast lens will usually give you the best optical experience. Brown, copper, rose, and amber base tints are all going to be high contrast lenses that amplify color making objects more defined and easier to differentiate.
Transition, and Photochromic Lenses for Safety Glasses: If you are wearing your safety sunglasses or glasses in varying light conditions you may want to consider a transition or photochromic prescription lens as it will automatically shift the lens tint by either increasing or decreasing the Visible Light Transmission, meaning your lens will automatically get darker as the sun gets brighter and as the sun goes down or you go indoors your lenses will automatically lighten.
When to Select Transition and Photochromic Lenses: Transition lenses are most commonly selected for safety sunglasses when you are wearing them both outdoors and indoors. Transition lenses are available in multiple sunglass tints. Some transition lenses will go from a sunglass tint to completely clear while others, such as the Oakley Iridium Transitions, will never be completely clear due to the iridium or mirror coating. These transition lenses are often times referred to as photochromic lenses and will have a light tint to them even when indoors. Most photochromic sunglass lenses will never transition to completely clear but will noticeably self-adjust to changing light conditions.
Progressive Lenses for Safety Glasses: If you have an add power or require reading glasses a progressive lens is a great option for safety glasses or safety sunglasses. A progressive lens is a lineless bifocal that “progresses” smoothly from the distance prescription in the upper portion of the lens down to the reading magnification in the lower portion of the lens. A progressive lens will eliminate the need readers and multiple pairs of glasses and sunglasses as it combines both your distance and reading magnification into one lens.
High Index Lenses for Safety Glasses: High index lenses are available in safety prescription glasses and are recommended for most patients who have a strong prescription (typically -4.00 or higher). These types of lenses will cut back on the thickness of the lens by bending light more efficiently than regular lenses. High index lenses are also made from a denser lens material and therefore do not require as thick of a lens to correct nearsightedness or farsightedness. Patients with stronger prescriptions will be able to fit into more styles of prescription safety sunglass frames by selecting a high index lens. It is important to note that these lenses come in multiple indexes. A high index 1.67 lens is recommended for prescriptions of -4.00 or higher where high index 1.74 lenses are recommended for prescriptions of -7.00 or higher.
Digital vs. Non-Digital Lenses for Safety Glasses: Digital lenses are always going to be recommended for prescription safety glasses as a digital lens will eliminate any peripheral distortion. Digital lenses allow the patients prescription to be accurate from edge to edge of the lens. This digital technology is most beneficial in high wrap prescription safety sunglasses that have a curved lens as opposed to a flat lens. Non-digital lenses have more of an optical center than digital lenses, which means you can get some peripheral distortion with a non-digital lens as your prescription won’t be completely accurate from edge to edge.
Prescription Safety Sunglass Frames: When selecting prescription safety glass frames we recommend a high wrap frame that has at least an 8 base curvature. An 8 base lens curvature will offer full peripheral and temple coverage from light, hazardous objects, or materials. In certain situations a 6 base curvature lens will also be sufficient for safety glasses but will not provide the temple coverage that an 8 base will.
What to Look for in Safety Glass Frame Material: Typically a plastic frame is what you will want for a prescription safety glass. Plastic frames that are either injection molded or acetate will absorb an impact without breaking which prevents further injury from the frame shattering or becoming jagged.
Smith Prescription Safety Glasses: Smith Optics created their Elite Ballistic eyewear collection to not only meet but exceed ANSI Z87.1 standards. After years of development Smith has finally released a collection of premium protection sunglasses that offer a perfect balance of Anti-Fog Capabilities, Ballistic Standards, Optical Clarity, and Industrial design. Smith designed their prescription ballistic eyewear collection to fit the needs of the world’s top special operations units and individuals who find themselves in circumstances with high velocity projectiles. Such high threat environments leaves patients with specific demands such as the best fog fighting technology available, MilSpec rated ballistic protection, and superior optical performance.
Smith Hideout Tactical Safety Glasses: The Smith Hideout Tactical prescription sunglass meets both Mil Spec and ANSI Z87.1 standards. The Hideout Tactical Rx sunglasses are a great option for safety glasses as they have an 8 base lens curvature with a wide temple design providing patients with full peripheral coverage. The Hideout Tactical sunglasses are available in black as well as two real tree camo prints.
Smith Hudson Tactical Safety Glasses: The Smith Hudson Tactical prescription sunglass meets both Mil Spec and ANSI Z87.1 standards. The Smith Hudson Tactical Rx sunglasses have an 8 base lens curvature with a wide temple and classic design. The Hudson Tactical sunglasses are the smallest of the frame sizes available in Smith’s Elite Ballistic Eyewear collection.
Smith Frontman Tactical Safety Glasses: The Smith Frontman Tactical prescription sunglasses are the largest of the frames offered in Smith’s Elite Ballistic Eyewear collection with a 66mm lens width and 43mm lens height. The Smith Frontman Tactical Rx sunglasses meet both ANSI Z87.1 and Mil-PRF-31013 Clause 3.5.11 standards provides patients with superior protection in a modern frame that works for both lifestyle and performance.
Smith Director Tactical Safety Glasses: The Smith Director Tactical prescription sunglasses are a great option for Smith prescription safety glasses as they have an 8 base lens curvature and meet both Mil Spec and ANSI Z87.1 standards. Smith’s Director Tactical Rx glasses are available in a variety of lens tints including clear for indoor, night, or extremely low light use. The Director Tactical sunglasses have a 60mm lens width, and a 37mm lens height giving the Director Tactical sunglasses a medium fit and medium coverage.
Smith Chamber Tactical Safety Glasses: The Smith Chamber Tactical prescription sunglasses are a full-rim frame with Hydrophilic Megol nose pads and temples pads that increase their grip as the patient perspires to keep the frame from sliding. Smith’s Chamber Tactical Rx sunglasses offer superior protection as they meet both Mil Spec and ANSI Z87.1 standards. The Smith Chamber Tactical glasses have a large fit and large coverage with a 65mm lens width and a 40mm lens height.
Smith Prospect Tactical Safety Glasses: The Smith Prospect Tactical prescription sunglasses are a small to medium fitting frame with medium coverage. The Smith Prospect Tactical Rx sunglasses are a great option for safety glasses as they meet both Mil Spec and ANSI Z87.1 standards. Smith’s Prospect Tactical sunglasses are available in a variety of lens tints as well as clear for indoor, night, and low light conditions. The Prospect Tactical sunglasses also feature Hydrophilic Megol nose pads and temple pads that increase their grip as you perspire which keeps the frames from sliding.
Smith Terrace Tactical Safety Glasses: The Smith Terrace Tactical prescription sunglasses are a full rim tactical frame with an 8 base lens curvature and wide temples that offer full peripheral coverage. Smtih’s Terrace Tactical Rx sunglasses meet both Mil Spec and ANSI Z87.1 standards and are available in multiple lens tints including clear. The Terrace Tactical glasses have a lens width of 61mm and a height of 41mm which gives them a medium fit and offers large coverage. The Terrace Tactical sunglasses have a modern design with the functionality of an elite performance eyeglass making them a great crossover frame from lifestyle to intense environments.