The safety glasses industry is unlike any other in the enormous eyewear market. Strange markings and dizzying acronyms don the products–and confusing industry lingo dominate marketing materials.
Fortunately, few of the many brand-specific markings and technical lingo matter when it comes to the actual safety of your safety glasses.
Except for one: Z87. (Actually, there’s two when you consider Z87+.)
What Does the Z87 or Z87+ Marking On a Pair of Safety Glasses Mean?
In simple terms, the Z87 or Z87+ markings on safety glasses mean that they’ve been put through rigorous testing to ensure they’ll protect your eyes in the case of a projectile or other foreign matter striking your safety glasses.
Now, time for some of those confusing acronyms we mentioned earlier. These rigorous testing protocols that safety glasses need to pass to wear a Z87 or Z87+ marking are written by the American National Standards Association (ANSI). This non-profit organization helps ensure the uniform quality and standards of safety for personal protective equipment and many other products used in various industries. The requirements of safety glasses fall under the Z87.1 section (Occupational and Educational Personal Eye and Face Protection Devices) of the ANSI standards, thus the Z87 or Z87+ markings.
But ANSI doesn’t actually enforce the standards it writes. In fact, conforming to ANSI’s standards is completely voluntary. So, why do manufacturers follow the ANSI standards at all, including Z87 and Z87+?
Enter: the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). This branch of the Department of Labor enforces ANSI’s standards and helps ensure the relative safety of workers in the United States.
Even though conformity to ANSI’s standards is voluntary, it can easily become mandatory, and commonly does, through OSHA. This is via a process called “incorporation by reference,” which basically means that OSHA can point to an ANSI standard and mandate that it’s followed. Through incorporation by reference, ANSI’s standards often become law, enforced by OSHA.
Still, some manufacturers of safety glasses simply do not follow the testing protocols of ANSI’s Z87 standards–yet claim their products are ANSI certified. But section 2.3.5 of the ANSI’s Z87.1 standard reads, “The protector manufacturer shall provide test results to the purchaser upon request.” This means that, if in doubt, you can request confirmation that the safety glasses you’re considering have, in fact, been tested to the ANSI Z87.1 safety standards.
What’s the Difference Between Z87 and Z87+?
Some safety glasses are marked with Z87, but others are marked as Z87+. What gives?
These respective markings identify the safety glasses’ ability to handle different levels of impacts. While Z87 testing only subjects a pair of safety glasses to one test, in which a steel ball is dropped from a height of about 4’ onto the glasses (and the frames and lenses must remain intact to pass), Z87+ requires additional testing.
The high mass impact test uses a heavy, yet slower-moving spike directed at the lens. The high velocity impact test utilizes a fast-moving, yet small projectile. And the dart penetration test punishes with a low mass, low velocity sharp object. In all these tests, the frames and lenses must remain intact, and the lenses must not impact the head figure’s eyes.
For a pair of safety glasses to be marked with Z87+ they must pass muster with both the testing for Z87 certification and these additional tests.
In addition, safety standards require lenses to undergo a minimum of 10 optical clarity tests that search for any unacceptable level of haze, visual light transmittance, refraction, astigmatism or prismatic power. Each of these tests ensure the lens does not cause images to shift, be incorrectly altered or lose discernable focus.
Why Should You Care About Z87 or Z87+ Markings?
Eyewear that is not safety rated typically will not protect against forceful impacts, and can leave your eyesight at risk when the unexpected happens. Whether you’re on a jobsite, working around the house or otherwise putting your eyesight at risk, it’s important to protect it with ANSI Z87 glasses.
Edge started with a vision to protect yours. Never content with the status quo, our restless imagination and determination to disrupt an industry drives us to create truly unique safety glasses. Visit our collection of Z87 sunglasses, ANSI safety glasses and military eyewear to learn more or shop today.