How Safety Eyewear Has Changed Over Time

example of old fashioned safety eyewear

Since its beginning, circa 1880, protective safety eyewear has significantly evolved. The patented “eye protector” by P. Johnson used two layers of semi-opaque cloth to protect those working with fire (i.e., firemen, furnace-men) from the intensity that comes from bright lights. Unfortunately, the “eye protectors” didn’t protect those wearing them from impact.

Today, safety eyewear is worn by those working in industrial and manufacturing industries and even those in the office. Modern safety eyewear protects against high mass/velocity impacts, glare, chemical splashes, fine dust particles in the air, ultraviolet to infrared & even blue light rays depending on the lens coating. Furthermore, modern safety eyewear of nearly any kind can be fitted with prescription lenses which happens to be our specialty at SafeVision by HOYA.

Our business of supporting businesses both large and small by establishing a prescription safety eyewear procurement program has evolved over 75 years. But the history of vision protection and its continued advancement in function, fit, and style options is much older than that. To show you how far safety eyewear has come let’s look at its evolution.

Safety Eyewear From the Beginning

We’ll start by taking you back to 1903 when French scientist Edouard Benedictus accidentally invented the safety glass. When climbing a ladder in his laboratory to grab reagents from a shelf, he clumsily knocked a glass flask to the floor and heard it shatter. But when he looked down, the pieces were still hung together due to a cellulose nitrate solution (liquid plastic) lining the inside of the glass flask.

Shortly after, when reading a story in the Paris newspaper about automobile accidents in which the drivers were getting seriously injured by shattered glass windshields, he thought of the liquid lining in the flask and decided to experiment. This experimentation eventually led to the creation of safety glass used in automobile windshields.

Meanwhile, in the Americas

Around the same time, the United States was making its own discoveries. America’s first optics teacher, Julius King, was growing concerned about industrial eye injuries, which led to his company setting up an industrial safety and eye protection department. Then in 1909, the Julius King Optical Company developed the first safety goggle in collaboration with American Optical. These safety goggles were called SANIGLAS.

In 1914, American Optical directed the industry focus toward the importance of prescription lenses in safety goggles for workers without perfect vision. In fact, they later organized a new division of their business dedicated to prescription eye protection known as AO Safety.

Then in 1935, Furnace Goggles were created for the “furnace men and forge workers” as protection from hazards such as impact, harmful light, and glare. There were also Melter’s Goggles for “steel melters” that protected their eyes from glare, flying scale, and, most importantly, sparks.

In 1940, not long after these safety eyewear options were created, American Optical published the first policy on the relationship between “Ophthalmic Professions to Industrial Safety and Visual Efficiency.”

By its looks, safety eyewear started with heavy frames and function was the focus rather than style. However in 1979, the ANSI standards changed, and safety eyewear was no longer required to be specific shapes. They could now be designed in any fashion as long as they passed high-velocity and high-mass impact tests, proving their strength and durability. This change in standards led to eyewear becoming much more fashionable.

Modern Vision Protection

Structural integrity and clearer vision were at the core of safety eyewear design. But now style and comfort are equally as important. At SafeVision we offer designs that feature soft, adjustable nose pads and different frame shapes as well as sizes to fit all head types. Spring hinges can also make a pair of prescription safety eyewear easier to wear all day. So the style and comfort of a quality pair can affect how long we wear our protective eyewear. OSHA monitors workplace injury statistics and we now know these elements are equally as important to coax those in hazardous workplaces to consistently wear their prescription safety eyewear.

In the most recent years, with the increase in fogging issues due to changes in temperature, masks, and tighter fitting styles, companies like SafeVision have started offering anti-fog lens coatings designed for working in hot and humid conditions, climate-controlled areas, or physically demanding tasks. This coating helps maintain clearer vision and increases productivity. SafeVision has also offers anti-fog sprays and wipes to help keep your lenses clear.

Protect Your Vision with SafeVision

Today, modern safety eyewear is both sophisticated, stylish, and not only PPE but also considered a “medical device” when prescription lenses are included. Making them not only protective equipment but also a fashionable option and necessary for aiding those with visual impairments. The design of prescription safety eyewear is complex and many industries have found it difficult to streamline their procurement process for their employees.

At SafeVision by HOYA our business model evolved from the humble beginnings of AO Safety back in 1945. Now we operate as a division of HOYA Vision Care which means we have the benefit of utilizing lenses, coatings, and optical laboratories from one of the world’s leading optical companies. Furthermore, we offer our own line of ANSI-rated, prescription-ready, safety frames. This history, our parent company, and our product lines make us ideally suited to help outfit any size organization with a prescription safety eyewear program.

Wearing safety eyewear has become a vital part of keeping safe while on the job and improving vision. With their improved quality and style, there’s no reason you shouldn’t own a pair of quality, prescription safety eyewear. SafeVision is here to help both individuals and companies find the proper prescription safety eyewear that meets the needs of any workplace. If you need a corporate safety eyewear program, visit our website at

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