OCT 16

What Does Z87 Mean on Safety Glasses?


If you are in the market for a new pair of safety glasses, you are lucky in that there is a long list of features and attributes that you can choose from. On the Rx-Safety website, for example, you can use the available filtering options to find safety glasses based on frame style, face shape, size, frame colors, and frame features. Regardless of the type or number of preferences that you may have, you are sure to find the perfect pair of safety glasses on our website. When looking for safety glasses, you may consistently come across different types of markings on the glasses. For instance, whether you are shopping in-person or online, you may see a “Z87” marking. This isn’t just for decoration. Instead, Z87 signals that this particular pair of safety glasses have passed stringent safety standards.

Whether or not the Z87 marking is actually relevant to you and your needs, it is helpful to understand what it is and what it signifies. Doing so will help you make the most informed decision when purchasing your next pair of safety glasses. This article will explain what Z87 means.

ANSI and the Z87 Standard

To truly understand what Z87 means, we need to take a step back. Safety glasses are extremely important tools when working or playing in challenging conditions. Whether you are in an environment with lots of flying dust, debris, or lasers, failing to protect your eyes can lead to serious eye problems—including blindness.

From their initial design to the manufacturing floor, safety glasses, at their core, are designed to protect your eyes from injury. While there are stylish safety glasses, things like aesthetics and style are much less of a priority than protecting your eyes in the most challenging situations.

Nevertheless, not all safety glasses are made alike. Several decades ago, eyewear professionals discovered that there were inconsistencies in whether safety glasses were truly “safe” or not. To address this problem, key actors in the eyewear industry agreed on voluntary standards that would objectively judge the safety of safety glasses. These standards are promulgated by a private, nonprofit organization called the American National Standards Institute (“ANSI”).

Warden Safety Glasses

While there are other eyewear standards in the marketplace today, it is easy to argue that ANSI standards are the most widely respected. They are so well respected that the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (“OSHA”) uses ANSI standards to determine whether employers are complying with OSHA standards in the workplace.

To be clear, there isn’t one universal standard that ANSI determines for safety glasses. There are several different standards that slightly vary in factors like impact resistance.

This is where Z87 comes in. Z87 is one of the standards for ANSI eye protection. It lets you know that your safety glasses have passed a series of stringent tests that examine the durability and impact-resistance of your safety glasses. In this discussion, we are technically speaking about the Z87.1 standard.

It defines the occupational and educational eye and faces protection. Since 2003, the Z87.1 standard has been updated twice (the revisions occurred in 2010 and 2015). The revisions, for the most part, focused on product performance and attempted to harmonize these ANSI standards with other international eyewear standards.

The Z87.1 standard has testing criteria for frames and lenses for two levels of performance: basic impact and high impact. Any pair of glasses meeting the Z87.1 standard must undergo intensive testing. Some of the tests include exposure to non-ionizing radiation and chemicals and durability to flammables and corrosion.

While basic impact presents you with a standard level of eye protection, high impact means that your glasses passed an additional series of tests, signaling their durability and functionality in stressful conditions. As just one example, if a pair of safety glasses are ANSI Z87.1 high impact certified, this means that the glasses passed a so-called “high mass” test.

In this test, a 500-gram pointed weight is dropped from five feet onto the lenses of the safety glasses. The goal is to see whether the lens or glasses will shatter or break when exposed to this external force.

So ultimately, let’s return to the Z87 marking on a pair of safety glasses. If you look at a pair of safety glasses that are Z87 certified, you will notice that there will be a simple “Z87” marking on the inside arm of the glasses. This means that these safety glasses passed the Z87.1 standard.

If you see a plus sign next to Z87, however, this means that your glasses are impact-rated. As discussed above, impact-rated safety glasses must pass an additional series of safety tests, giving you even more confidence that your safety glasses will protect your eyes in dangerous conditions.

Why This Matters

You may be asking yourself: why does any of this matter? There are several reasons.

First, the ANSI Z87.1 standard can give you the confidence that your pair of safety glasses can undergo massive stress. Instead of worrying about whether your safety glasses will hold up in challenging conditions, you can focus on the work that is in front of you.

Along with this peace of mind, you may come across a situation where your employer demands that your glasses are Z87 certified. If your job requires you to work in environments with flying dust or debris, for instance, OSHA regulations require that your employer supply safety glasses. As described in OSHA regulations, these safety glasses must meet certain ANSI standards, and if they don’t, your employer may be subject to sanctions from OSHA.

Worker Using Angle Grinder
Worker Using Angle Grinder in Factory and throwing sparks

OSHA regulations don’t require your employer to purchase new prescription glasses for employees, however. If you wear prescription glasses in your everyday life, your employer must give you goggles “that allow corrective lenses to be placed behind the goggle lenses or that employees can wear over their eyeglasses.”

However, if you want to purchase and wear your own prescription safety glasses, you should be able to do so—provided that they comply with the relevant ANSI standard. In most cases, this is ANSI Z87.1, but you will want to ensure that you are meeting the standard before purchasing your new pair of prescription safety glasses.

Understanding Z87

Ultimately, we hope that you have a greater sense of what Z87 is and why you may see a Z87 marking on your next pair of safety glasses. Once again, Z87 signals that your pair of safety glasses meet several rigorous standards for your eye health.

In other words, the Z87 standard provides an objective look at a pair of safety glasses that you are considering. If you are looking for a pair of safety glasses but notice that your top choices are not Z87 certified, you may want to think twice about purchasing them.

At Rx-Safety, we are proud to offer an extensive inventory of safety glasses that are Z87 certified. To easily find those glasses, you can use the filtering options on our website. Simply navigate to the “Safety Rating” option and select your preferred safety rating. From there, you will see a list of safety glasses that meet the Z87 standard or any other standard that you need.

And if you have any questions? Don’t hesitate to contact us by clicking the “contact” link above. We are happy to further discuss Z87 and answer any questions that you may have.

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