Arc Flash Rating of Safety Glasses

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Hugh Hoagland of e-Hazard evaluates three safety glasses (clear, amber and smoke) for arc rating and the value of everyday safety glasses in arc flash vs. arc rated shields is discussed. This information will benefit line technicians, electricians, and OH&S safety professionals.

e-Hazard includes this new information for their training on NESC, NFPA 70E, and the NEW OSHA 1910.269 standard on PPE and arc flash protection.

Learn more about e-Hazard and arc flash / electrical safety training

Hugh Hoagland

does research and testing of PPE exposed to electrical arcs and is an arc flash expert. Hugh is a Sr. Consultant at ArcWear and Sr. Partner at e-Hazard. Read more about Hugh.

This Post Has 8 Comments

  1. Avatar
    Jim Carlson

    Is there a requirement for safety glasses to be non-conductive ie plastic frames? Is it ok to wear metal frames under the arc rated faceshield?

    1. Hugh Hoagland
      Hugh Hoagland

      “NFPA 70E 130.6(D) Conductive Articles Being Worn. Conductive articles of jewelry and clothing (such as watchbands, bracelets, rings, key chains, necklaces, metalized aprons, cloth with conductive thread, metal headgear, or metal frame glasses) shall not be worn within the restricted approach boundary or where they present an electrical contact hazard with exposed energized electrical conductors or circuit parts.”

      This does allow metal framed glasses IF they are not crossing the “restricted approach boundary” but this quite difficult to enforce.

      OSHA has a different opinion and we recommended to NFPA 70E language about suspending metal framed glasses with a non-conductive means or covering with a face shield or a goggle but the committee has rejected it.

      Here is the unchanged OSHA opinion on OSHA 1910.133. It is conservative but more practical than the NFPA 70E language.


      We understand why a company might choose to follow the NFPA 70E language. IF you choose NOT to, be sure to have an enforceable policy and include your policy as part of your training and auditing.

  2. Avatar

    Plastic frame vs non-conductive frame vs metal frame glasses. Can you wear plastic frame glasses when performing electrical work and/or working in the restrictive boundary? The eyeglass companies list safety glasses as plastic frame and non-conductive separately.

    1. Hugh Hoagland
      Hugh Hoagland

      I’d ask the manufacturer’s technical department. There aren’t really standards for “non-conductive” safety glasses. The critical factor for electrical safety is to have VERY limited metal exposed so that if the glasses fell off they do not fall into electrical parts and cause an arc flash. MANY minimum approach distances would be broken if regular metal framed safety glasses crossed a restricted approach boundary or a minimum approach distance.

  3. Avatar
    Chris R

    Thank you for the comparative testing.For some time I’ve been wondering if regular safety glasses afford any measurable protection against an arc flash.

  4. Avatar
    Jason Baggerley

    Is there any safety glasses that provide a better arc flash and or calorie rating for Arc Flash situations. ie utility crews closing in on a fuse link that blows back. We are trying to increase our eye protection for our employees for these type of occurrences.

    1. Hugh Hoagland
      Hugh Hoagland

      ASTM F2178 Standard Test Method for Determining the Arc Rating and Standard Specification for Eye or Face Protective Products does allow testing eye protective devices. No work practice standard (NFPA 70E, CSA Z462, NESC or OSHA 1910.269) requires this testing because the level of eye pro would be greater than 1.2 cal/cm² and at that point in most standards, a face sheild and/or a balaclava would be required.

      Practically however this is a good thing to think about since the standards are predicting second degree skin burn. Our testing showed that the protective value of glasses worked for low levels for skin burn but in accidents we have seen tinted glasses provide protection from “welder’s flash” from an arc flash. Welders flash is a painful inflammation of the cornea. It is commonly stated that this is due to UV exposure but this is unlikely to be the only cause since safety glasses block 100% of UV. The IR and even the visible light intensity could also play a role.

      In our study we looked at the three glasses blocking of UV, IR and Visible Light. We did this with a low cost spectrometer but didn’t characterize the specific wavelengths, just the overall ability to block. All the glasses blocked 100% of UV but blocked little IR and only a small percentage of visible light.

      While a welder’s flash of burn isn’t usually life threatening, it can cause a lost time injury and does pose an infection risk. There is no requirement to have arc tested safety glasses but our testing and some anecdotal evidence shows tinted works better.

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