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Safety glasses VS safety goggles: which are best to protect your eyes?

Safety glasses and goggles have become a staple PPE accessory alongside safety gloves, safety boots and protective earmuffs/ earplugs. Safety glasses or goggles are particularly important in industries such as construction, welding and carpentry to protect the eyes from dust, sparks and wood chippings.

It is not surprising that safety glasses and googles have become so popular, but when were they first introduced? How many different types are there? And are safety glasses or safety goggles better at protecting the eyes?

Read on to open your eyes to the fascinating world of optical safety in the workplace!

Through the looking glass: A history of eye safety

The first glasses to help with vision impairments were created way back in the 1800s by Italian monks for purposes such as reading. From there glasses began to be worn by many people (who could afford them) and enabled those lacking that perfect 20:20 eyesight to experience the world in the whole new way.

The first specific eye protective gear was created by P. Johnston. His patented ‘eye protector’ consisted of two layers of semi opaque cloth that fitted together to create a protective screen in front of the eyes. This was intended for the use of firemen to protect their eyes against the harsh and bright lights of fires. Unfortunately, these cloth style ‘eye protectors’ offered no protection from impact, were difficult to see through and quite flammable… It seemed the first ‘eye protector’ was set to cause more harm than good.

Edouard Benedictus

The next few years passed without many changes or discoveries regarding safety glasses and goggles until French scientist Edouard Benedictus had a bit of an accident.

Benedictus was busy working in his laboratory climbing up a ladder to retrieve supplies when he clumsily knocked over a glass flask. The flask fell to the floor. A smashing noise announced the glass shattering over the floor and Benedictus braced himself to clear it up, however to his surprise the pieces of broken glass still hung together. After inspecting this strange occurrence, he found that the flask had been used to store cellulose nitrate – a liquid plastic. Even though the flask had been cleaned, a trace of the solution had coated the flask’s interior with a thin layer of plastic that now held the glass together.

At the time accidents in automobiles were skyrocketing and many people were being injured by the shattering of the windshield glass. Seizing this opportunity, Benedictus experimented with the liquid plastic and used it to coat glass for car windshields making them safer.

Before this point people would simply lose an eye or go blind, which is why so many pirates wore eye patches – their dangerous job meant that many of them lost or damaged their eyes. The number of people who experienced eye damage fell by a three-fold thanks to Benedictus’s accident and the invention of safety glass.

World War 1

This safety glass protected people in their cars over the next few years and in 1914 a new use for the safety glass was found. Garret Morgan was creating the gas mask to protect citizens and soldiers alike during the First World War (WW1), he found that the safety glass was the simplest, cheapest and therefore the best way to protect the eyes.

This caused safety glasses to become widespread for the first time.

Safety goggles jumped into the mix in 1935 with the reinvention of protective eye wear for the fire service. These goggles had round lenses and used a thick band the strapped around the back of the head to keep them secure. Similarly, melter’s safety goggles were available for steel workers to protect their eyes from sparks, impact hazards and glare.

PPE Regulations

Fast forwarding to 1979 laws changed and safety goggles and glasses were no longer required to be the traditional unattractive circular shape. Instead, they were allowed to be designed in any form so long as they passed the tests for durability. This gave way for more designers to start to create their own versions of safety glasses and goggles – causing the market to boom. Today, safety glasses and goggles are created with the user in mind. Both glass and, more often than not, plastic are used in designs.

Many ranges of protective eye wear that are available to purchase today, such as our Portwest collection, are now fashionable, comfortable and compatible with many other forms of PPE.

Safety Goggles vs safety glasses

What are safety glasses?

Special pieces of strong glass or plastic in a frame that fits tightly to a person’s face to protect their eyes from dangerous chemicals or machines

Cambridge dictionary

What are safety goggles?

Glasses that fit close to the face protecting the eyes from chemicalswindwater, etc.

– Cambridge dictionary

As you can see the main definitions are extremely similar on paper, however they are two different forms of PPE, even though they both protect the same area of the body.

Keep reading to our next section to learn more about these differences.

When it comes to deciding which safety goggles to opt for there are a large number of different styles to choose from:

  • Safety goggles with eye cups: completely cover the eye socket and are available in ridged or flexible designs. Specific versions of the eye cups are listed below.
  • Direct vented: These safety goggles stop any large particles from entering the ear area. They also help to prevent fogging due to the airflow.
  • Indirect vented: Bestsafety goggle choice to protect against liquid and chemical’s from splashing the eyes. These goggles also enable air to flow through, again helping to prevent any fogging occurring.
  • Non-ventilated: Prevent splash entry and droplets with this style of goggle. No air can enter the eye area which may cause fogging.
  • Cover safety goggles: Created to enable people to wear over corrective eyewear (e.g. prescription glasses) without disturbing the eyewear.

Differences between safety glasses and safety goggles

Both safety goggles and safety glasses have positive and negative attributes, according to the National Safety Council the most prevalent difference between these two types of protective eyewear is that; glasses do not seal against the face and therefore are not protective against chemical splashes or droplets of chemical mist.

Eye protection EN Standards explained

When buying a pair of safety glasses or goggles you should look out for PPE that has an EN standard of EN166, EN170, EN171 or EN172. This shows that the safety glasses or safety goggles have passed the appropriate tests deeming them safe to use and efficient enough to offer you top protection.

Unfortunately, if you require a specific type of protection from your safety eyewear it is not as simple as just looking for a pair with one of those standards. It becomes more difficult when choosing based on the UV protection, light transmission, and lens strength. However, do not worry! Luckily you have found the right place to get the answers you need.

The first indication in a standard will tell you the level of radiation protection. It is easy to spot as it is a single number followed by a dash (-). The level of radiation protection your eyes require will vary depending on the environment where you work so be sure to check this out before purchasing your safety glasses or safety goggles.

2UV Protection (EN170). May affect colour recognition
2C or 3UV Protection (EN170). Indicates the filter allows good colour recognition
4Infrared Protection (EN171)
5Solar Protection (EN172) – 100% UV protection with no infrared protection
6Solar Protection (EN172) -. 100% UV protection – with infrared protection

The next number with show you the light transmission that the goggles or glasses allow. In other words, it identifies how shaded the lenses are, from clear glass to as shaded as your favorite pair of holiday sunglasses!

The light transmission rating for protective eyewear has slightly confusing gaps in the different levels, however it is displayed as a number with a decimal point making it simple to pick out of the list.

1.274.4% – 100%
1.743.2% – 58.1%
2.517.8% – 29.1%
3.18.0% – 17.8%

Last, but not least we have the durability rating. This tells us how strong the lenses on the safety goggles or safety glasses are and what sort of obstructions it can withstand. The durability rating is shown as a letter. Learning what each letter means can be difficult as the order is not alphabetical, so it is best to consult a list like the one below when checking the durability of your eye protection.

FWithstand small objects travelling up to 45 meters per second
BWithstand small objects travelling up to 120 meters per second
AWithstand small objects travelling up to 190 meters per second
TWithstand impacts at extreme temperatures.

Got it? Don’t worry if not. Here is an example of how the standards will appear on a product, what it means and how those safety glasses or goggles should be used.

5-3.1Solar Protection (EN172) – 99% UV protection with no infrared protection. 8.0% – 17.8% light transmission.Outdoor workers who are exposed to bright sunshinePS05 Athens Sport Safety Glasses EN 166 compliant (

Safety glasses and safety goggles issues: and how Portwest has solved them

Most essential items have some downsides or areas where they could improve. This is true with safety glasses and goggles. Below we have outlined the innovative ways that our Portwest protective eyewear range has overcome these issues and the steps taken to make the best possible safety glasses and safety goggles for you to use in your workplace.

Compatibility with other PPE

In high-risk environments it is more likely than not that those workers need to wear more than one item of PPE in order to be fully protected. Of course, the main point of PPE is to keep people protected and safe, if the PPE is obstructing or interfering with another item of PPE it is not doing its job. Safety glasses and safety goggles are most likely to collide with other items that are worn on the head such as welding helmets, hard hats, earmuffs and masks. The Portwest range has taken this into account. A number of Portwest’s safety glasses feature adjustable sides and temple length that enable the user to tailor the glasses to their unique face shape. Our safety glasses also have detachable cords to keep them secure.


To be efficient, it is vital that safety glasses and goggles do not obstruct the vision. Early versions of safety glasses were prone to severe fogging and made wearing them both difficult and dangerous in certain conditions. The tighter the glasses fit the more susceptible they are to potential fogging.

Portwest’s range features safety goggles and glasses that are coated with an anti-fogging solution. These coatings help to provide uninterrupted visibility which in turn increases the productivity of the wearer. They work by causing moisture droplets to flatten out and form a thin film, this reduces the scattering of light and gives a clear field of vision to the user.

The anti-fogging safety glasses and goggles are perfect for those working in hot or humid conditions such as welders and for workers who have physically demanding jobs such as those in construction.


The adjustable sides are not only essential to avoid obstructing other forms of PPE, but also to provide maximum comfort to the wearer. A snug fit keeps the eyes safe, but too snug a fit can be uncomfortable and cause the user to remove the glasses or goggles in hazardous environments. That’s why Portwest have added extra comfort features to their safety glasses and goggles. Soft padding can be found around the ears and nose on certain designs that eliminate the issue of potential uncomfortable scratching or rubbing. Another feature is the gasket which is lined with foam, this keeps out debris from the delicate eye area and adds cushioning.


There is no point wearing safety glasses or goggles if they become impossible to see out of. One of the big factors that can cause this is glare. Many of our range of Portwest safety glasses and safety goggles have added UV protection and grey-tinted or polarised lenses that reduce glare and reflections. These are a great choice for any worker especially for people working outside or with bright lights such as welders.


As mentioned in the history of eye protection section, the first safety goggles and glasses were not what you would call fashionable. The main point of PPE is to keep people safe, however with so many designs now available it is not surprising that people want PPE that looks good too.

Our range of Portwest safety glasses and safety goggles is vast, providing lots of options to suit every budget. As with all Portwest workwear the eye protection range has been designed with the user in mind because we know you want to look and feel good as well as safe whilst at work.

Rounding up

We have covered the basics of what makes a pair safety glasses and how they are different from safety goggles. Both forms of PPE are vital in certain environments and the invention of these clever devices has saved countless people across the years from losing their eyesight or, even worse, losing their entire eye. The above breakdown of the best safety glasses and safety goggles is there to act as a guide to help you to clearly see the wide range of eye protection that we have to offer. Safety gear in the workplace is here to stay and glasses and goggles will remain in our lives as solid protectors for years to come.

Contact Us

The Rapid Fire Supplies customer care team are available to answer any questions that you might have about safety goggles, safety glasses or anything else. Please call us between 8:30 and 19:00, Monday to Friday on 03330 150 330 or email us at

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