A Brief History of Safety Eyewear


Eye protection means serious business in a variety of medical and industrial industries. Here’s a brief look into the invention and evolution of safety glasses.

Eyewear is more than a means for vision correction or aesthetic purposes. As the windows to the soul, the human eyes are some of the most vital organs that comprise the human body. Without sight—a purely physical, sensory experience—we lose a true sense of connection to our environment and surroundings.

In fact, sight is conceivably the most important and valuable physical sense for safety and preservation. This fact explains why eyes need to be protected with appropriate eyewear to avoid injury, illness, or harm in many circumstances. To better understand modern safety glasses worn today, let’s take a closer look at their roots with a brief history of safety eyewear.

The Origins of Protective Eyewear

The exact timeline of safety eyewear conception is unknown, but the use of optical aids has been around since the 11th century. The invention of eyeglasses as we know them today is said to have been in the 13th century, but they were only mere spectacles at the time. However, as the years passed, glasses became increasingly common, functional, and advanced in design.

The beginning of protective eyewear goes back in time to an African-American inventor named Powell Johnson. Johnson received a patent for the first-ever design of eye-protectors with a specific intention in mind. Puddlers (ironworkers), firemen, and furnace men used these goggles as they required eye safety protection from bright lights, strong glares, and fiery conditions.

A Flux of Occupational Injuries: Workplace Hazards

While sharing a brief history of safety eyewear cannot tell the whole story, the times preceding and succeeding the second Industrial Revolution brought about the wide-scale use of safety glasses. The mining, agricultural, manufacturing, scientific, and medical fields employed more and more people. Those in the military also used safety glasses in gas masks during the World Wars.

Significant advances after improved technology and design to best reflect the critical role of eye protection. Due to present-day employment legislation, mandatory health and safety requirements have helped reduce the number of ocular injuries or contact occurrences with airborne particles.

Personal Protective Equipment: Modern Safety Glasses

A variety of safety glasses, safety goggles, and face shields are now available for a wide array of possible applications. This type of eyewear is a key protection strategy in employment and hobbies. To name a few, there’s protection from lasers, flying sports balls, gunshots, radiation, projectile liquids, airborne pathogens, or dangerous chemicals.

In the medical field, especially during the current pandemic, there are diverse types of protective medical glasses that serve alongside scrubs and gloves as proper PPE. No matter one’s profession, safety eyewear has surely come a long way from its beginnings to protect people in their workplaces.

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