The Evolution of Protective Eyewear: Keeping Construction Workers Safe with Innovation

Protective eyewear is an essential part of ensuring industrial safety for construction workers. With many job hazards on site, there is a constant danger for workers.

From dust and larger debris to sharp equipment and tools, their eyes (a sensitive part of the body) can face harm at any point. With protective equipment like safety glasses, you can reduce occupational eye injuries, offer adequate eye protection, and shield your eyes from impact.

This blog will outline the history of vision protection and preventative eye safety equipment and spotlight the latest innovations in the prevention of eye injuries. 

Types Of Protection Eyewear

There are several kinds of protective eyewear available today, including:

These exist in numerous variations, including different materials, densities and weights, shapes, and more.

Each serves a distinct function to be used for specific tasks around the construction site.

The History & Evolution Of Eye Protection

As with all inventions, protective eyewear did not always exist as we know it today. Let’s take a look at the historical perspective of construction eye protection.

Plastic-based protective eyewear used in  construction

The first patent for an “eye protector” was first granted to an African American innovator known as P. Johnson. This was the initial iteration of eye safety equipment and was intended to keep safe the eyes of firemen, metalworkers, and furnace workers.

Johnson’s invention did not, however, provide even low-impact eye protection or the risk of eye injuries. They were mainly lenses against light or bright lights.

Edouard Benedictus, a French scientist, was the next to contribute significantly to the creation of protective wear.

Through an accident that damaged a glass flask with cellulose nitrate, the scientist discovered that cellulose nitrate could form a thin coating over the glass. This was how he came to experiment with and create safety glass.

This form of glass coating has since been replaced by more durable, anti-fog materials with mechanical impact protection like polycarbonate.

Another of these key interventions was from Julius King, who has come to be known as the United States’ “first teacher of optics”. He established the Julius King Optical Company with eye protection programs that later produced the first safety goggles known as SANIGLAS in 1909.

In 1914, however, was when protective eyewear as we understand it today came to be. Garrett Morgan gained a patent to include safety glass in his gas mask.

The invention became popularly used during the First World War and evolved to auto-making, where the idea came into use as car windshields.

It was in this period, between the 1910s and 1940s, that mandatory eye protection had various industrial applications, including for machine and woodworkers, furnace operators, and more.

Material History Of Occupational Eye Protection

In the initial stages of these eyewear developments, glass was the primary material used.

This was used together with tough resins. Even with this combination, though, the glass presents its own danger to workers.

It could not resist impact sufficiently. If it shattered, it could lead to minor injuries.

It could also result in severe ones like adnexal injury, corneal lacerations, retinal detachment, facial injuries, blunt trauma, visual impairment, brain injury, and other occupational injuries.

Polycarbonate grew popular as an alternative to hardened glass in the 80s as it was highly durable and increased the level of protection. It also resulted in thinner and lighter yet resistant lenses.

Over time, modern safety eyewear manufacturers found that coating it with anti-fog solutions, chemical splashes, and hard coatings produced the best form of protective eyewear.

This is the material that meets the current standards for construction safety glasses today.

Latest Innovations In Protective Eyewear

Much of the innovation in protective wear and designs for eye protection has been around comfort and functionality.

Major changes have focused on functionality detail to ensure that each piece serves as it should for the task at hand. This includes prioritizing varying materials depending on the use case and environment.

It also emphasizes comfortable wear. This is because ill-fitting eyewear can compromise physical safety, impair vision, and lead to mistakes and injury.

A construction worker is wearing the latest protective safety glasses at the jobsite

Prevention of eye injuries in construction has also benefited from general technological developments. Industrial applications of augmented reality and sensor technology have boosted modern safety eyewear capabilities.

Although eye safety gear has primarily been used for eye protection, augmented reality eye gear can do a lot more. Google created the first smart AR glasses in 2011

AR glasses can project information and computer-generated visuals like safety maps over what the wearer sees physically. This can be a useful tool in reiterating safety protocol and identifying potential job hazards.While these glasses have yet to go mainstream, their market size is expected to reach $184.61 billion by 2030.

Best Protective Eyewear Products On The Market

When browsing for a new pair of construction safety glasses, there are several factors you should consider. Primarily, of course, you should think about ocular protection.

Are the glasses for construction workers impact-resistant? What level of protection do they have- frontal protection as well as peripheral protection? And do they offer UV protection for outdoor use and general visibility and clarity?

You also want to factor in durability, particularly for construction work. You don’t want a pair that will shatter easily. Opt for durable lenses made from polycarbonate, so they don’t scratch easily and hamper visibility and tough hard nylon frames.

Finally, you may want to see if your selection has certifications from respected boards, forums, international standards, or organizations.

For example, the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) sets the eye safety standard for modern safety eyewear. 

These are our top choices with guaranteed effectiveness of eye protection while retaining your ease and comfort as you work.


On-site safety is a full-body exercise that requires the consideration of all parts of construction workers in the environment. Even a part as small as the eye requires protection for optimum performance and worker safety.

In safety terms, proper safety eyewear for construction workers is no fashion accessory. They are a necessity!


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