Takeaway: Safety glasses with lens coatings containing the latest anti-fog technology are the surest way to combat fogging.
Fogging is the number one complaint of safety eyewear users. And it's entirely understandable. Dealing with fogged eyewear is not only very frustrating, but also presents a major safety hazard. The fogging effect on lenses can obscure workers’ vision, making them incapable of clearly seeing the dangers around them and leaving them vulnerable to a wide range of life-threatening accidents and injuries.
Workers who deal with the problem by removing their fogged eyewear to see better are in no better of a situation. Without the protection it affords, they run the risk of suffering an eye injury from airborne particulate matter, splashing from chemicals, or falling objects. They also become exposed to harmful visible and invisible light, which can cause loss of vision.
Thankfully, there are things workers and employers can do to minimize fogging and prevent the incidents that result from it.
What Causes Lenses to Fog?
Fogging can result from a number of different causes, but in all cases it's a matter of humidity and temperature, whether from the environment or the workers themselves.
Environmental Heat and Humidity
Hot, humid environments are the leading cause of lens fogging. Moisture in the air causes tiny droplets of water to collect everywhere on the lens—the same process that causes a glass of cold water to “sweat” in the sun. The closer the ambient temperature comes to the dew point coupled with a strong relative humidity, the higher the likelihood that lenses will fog.
Even if the environment is kept cool, chances are the workers who use eye protection have a job that involves physical exertion, which raises their body temperature. When body temperature increases, more sweat is produced, especially around the eyes and face. Instead of dissipating into the atmosphere, that moisture condenses and causes fogging on the inside surface of the lens, especially with sealed eyewear that restricts ventilation and newer wrap-around models that are so prevalent in the market today.
The Trouble with Fogged Eyewear
We mentioned the safety hazards in the opening paragraphs, but fogged eyewear can also cause problems for productivity and compliance.
When a worker's eyewear fogs up, they have no choice but to remove it and wipe it clear. These small interruptions in the work process can really add up over the course of a shift, leading to a significant decrease in productivity.
Workers who are required to wear respirators and safety eyewear at the same time often encounter fogging complications. These workers should be given safety eyewear with long lasting and durable anti-fog coatings that fight moisture by absorbing it into the coating itself, and dispersing it in larger drops that be seen through.
Fogging is frustrating, so it's not uncommon for workers to avoid wearing their safety eyewear throughout a portion of their workday. Not only does this increase their risk of injury, but it's also not in compliance with safety regulations, which can result in steep penalties.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, workplace eye injuries due to non-compliance cost employers an estimated $467 million annually in direct costs, and $934 million per year in indirect costs, such as legal fees and new worker training.
What Can Workers Do?
If you're a worker who struggles with fogging, here is one simple but effective solution you can consider: choose a different style of eyewear.
If possible, choose a style of eyewear that allows more air to flow around the lens, which will reduce the potential for fogging.
What Can Employers Do?
If you're an employer, OSHA says it's your responsibility to make sure that your workers are safe in the workplace or on the job. That means doing more than just providing them with personal protective equipment and calling it a day.
If your workers are experiencing fogging frustrations, here are some steps you can take:
- Introduce the dangers of fogging as part of heat stress training and give workers advice on how to deal with fogged lenses
- Give workers safety eyewear with anti-fog lenses, or train them on how to select the most appropriate anti-fog eyewear (see Employee Rights: What PPE Does My Employer Need to Provide? to learn more about your duty to provide adequate safety equipment).
- Make sure workers know the importance of staying compliant and are well aware of the penalties for not putting on safety eyewear while on the job
- Specifically recommend eyewear with Super Hydrophilic Anti-Fog Coating—it lasts longer than standard hydrophobic coatings. Both hydrophilic and hydrophobic anti-fog coatings absorb moisture and disperse it. Hydrophobic coatings are soap-based and have a low tolerance to chemicals, oils, and regular cleaning. Hydrophobic coatings will disappear over a shorter period of time compared to eyewear with hydrophilic coatings that last five to seven times longer.
Combat Fogging and Prevent Serious Eye Injuries
Workplace injuries can occur in the blink of an eye—literally—and fogged lenses can be a contributing factor. While there are many simple and effective solutions to address the problem, the most efficient way is to simply prevent the problem from occurring in the first place by using safety eyewear with the latest and most effective anti-fog technology.