From: David C. Finster <dfinster**At_Symbol_Here**WITTENBERG.EDU>
Subject: [DCHAS-L] Query about eye protection policy in academia
Date: Thu, 7 Nov 2019 16:14:47 +0000
Reply-To: ACS Division of Chemical Health and Safety <DCHAS-L**At_Symbol_Here**PRINCETON.EDU>
Message-ID: DM6PR04MB69213BABF92CCB5FA2B9D4ABB2780**At_Symbol_Here**

I would like to query the group about eye protection..  As I understand it, the current and long-standing position taken by the ACS is the recommendation for the use of splash goggles and that using safety glasses is discouraged. 


As a starter, Prudent Practices (2011) states:


Researchers should assess the risks associated with an experiment and use the appropriate level of eye protection:

• Safety glasses with side shields provide the mini­mum protection acceptable for regular use. They must meet the American National Standards Insti­tute (ANSI) Z87.1-2003 Standard for Occupational and Educational Eye and Face Protection, which specifies minimum lens thickness and impact resistance requirements.

• Chemical splash goggles are more appropriate than regular safety glasses to protect against haz­ards such as projectiles, as well as when working with glassware under reduced or elevated pres­sures (e.g., sealed tube reactions), when handling potentially explosive compounds (particularly during distillations), and when using glassware in high-temperature operations.

• Chemical splash goggles or face shields should be worn when there is a risk of splashing hazardous materials or flying particles.”


I have always interpreted the ACS position to intend to apply to (at least) academic labs where:


  1. It is desirable to require student to purchase only one kind of eye protection, and, therefore
  2. Splash goggles are required since they will necessarily protect in “all labs” whereas safety glasses would protect <100% of the time since they would not provide adequate protection in the presence of liquid chemicals.

As a note in prelude to the rest of this email, I’ll observe that at my college we have required safety goggles for at least the past 38 years.  The main argument rests on the two statements above.


I make the following assertions:


  1. Students must wear some form of eye protection in all labs that use chemicals. 
  2. If we wish to teach students how to use any form of PPE, they should be taught how to identify hazards and judge the level of risk.
  3. In our general chemistry program, there are perhaps 1-2 experiments where, in a worst-case scenario it would be advisable to wear splash goggles instead of safety glasses.
  4. Having taught general chemistry for 38 years, I can think of no episode where safety glasses would not have provided the necessary level of eye protection.   Otherwise stated, in general chemistry we have never experienced a “splash episode” that threatened the face at large.   (Frankly, I can think of no episode where any eye protection was actually “used” in the sense of protecting eye contact by a lab chemical – but I am surely not inclined to recommend “no eye protection”.)
  5. Wearing goggles is less comfortable than wearing safety glasses.  “Comfort” does not trump “safety” but, particularly in light of the desire to wear “appropriate PPE” (based on a risk assessment,) it seems inappropriate to have students wear unnecessary PPE (ie, splash goggles).
  6. While I know of no hard data in this matter, conversations with colleagues and the examination of websites suggests that wearing safety glasses is commonplace at many colleges and universities.  Further, conversations with former students who went to graduate school and/or into industry suggest that safety glasses are much more common in these environments (despite the widely held view that “industry is safer than academia”).  Thus, it seems that the ACS recommendation that is widely ignored.

Given these assumptions, I am considering a new recommended policy (that the ACS may wish to consider) that posits that student should purchase both safety glasses and splash goggles and then wear the appropriate eye protection during each lab.  The choice of eye protection can follow an appropriate hazard and risk assessment for each experiment.  There is a financial cost (to the student) for this recommendation, but since most students will progress on to organic chemistry (where the need for splash goggles in likely higher) the cost can be spread out over other parts of the curriculum. The clear advantage to this recommendation is that it fosters the use of RAMP on a regular basis and students are wearing appropriate eye protection all the time as determined by a needed risk assessment that minimizes the risks of hazards.


(The cost issue is not catastrophic:  I found the splash goggles that we use online at $13 and the safety glasses look like about $7.   Interestingly, our bookstore charges $24 for the goggles!)


Of course, any campus can adopt this policy irrespective of ACS recommendations.  And, some campuses may decide that safety glasses are appropriate at all times (but this seems unwise to me).


I welcome the wisdom of the group on this matter.





David C. Finster
Professor Emeritus, Department of Chemistry
Wittenberg University


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