The History of Safety Glasses

July 4, 2017

Safety glasses should be worn by personnel in manufacturing, construction, medical, some service industries and sometimes sports. Although eye injury is a higher risk for these individuals, many people do not wear eye protection for one reason or another. Here is the history of safety glasses and how they evolved in protecting our eyes; when we remember to wear them.

Roger Bacon was the first reported celebrity to wear glasses, or at least to use a device called “reading lenses.” The first real glasses were made by Italian monks around the 1280s. It wasn’t until 1880 that an “eye protector” patent was issued to P. Johnson, an African-American inventor. Accurate safety glasses weren’t created until 1914 when Garret Morgan patented safety glass as part of his new invention, the gas mask. “It was not until the outbreak of World War I that safety glasses found their first practical, wide-scale application: as the lenses or Safety Spectacles for gas masks.”

After auto makers saw the success of safety glass, they incorporated it into their car windshields. Eye protection has been a benefit to mankind similar to antibiotics since before this time people would simply go blind, lose an eye, and wear an eye patch. Pirates, who traditionally wore eye patches, did so because the violent nature of their profession meant that many of them lost or damaged their eyes.

Machining, metal shaping, and wood workers are all at greater risk for eye damage due to the shards of material that fly around when working with their machines. In the 1940s companies began making eyeglass protection specifically for these industries. Today, other industries such as medical technicians and scientists who are in danger of blood contamination from spilled or splashed samples may choose to wear eye protection. Some people wear eye protection when playing sports as well.

Half of all eye injuries happen to individuals in manufacturing positions. Much of the time, a lack of safety glasses was the catalyst for increased damage. People might think safety glasses look dumb, or are uncomfortable, or are hard to see through, but they might save your vision. After all, you’ve only got one pair of eyes.

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