How to Choose Safety Eyewear With Colored Lenses

How to Choose Safety Eyewear With Colored Lenses

Safety eyewear isn’t like your everyday sunglasses or eyeglass prescription. Eye protection at work will look and protect your eyes differently while still enabling you to see. Protective eyewear frames and lenses will come in types like wrap-around glasses, glasses with side shields, vented or unvented goggles, and filtered lenses. You’ll also need to consider the hazards that you have at the workplace when purchasing them: not all glasses protect equally against flying debris, powder, liquid, or specific types of light radiation. On top of that, eyewear must be comfortable, properly fitted, well-suited to perform the job at hand, and provide the appropriate protection to wearers.

While safety eyewear needs to meet certain requirements based on your industry and country (e.g., the ANSI Z87.1 standard in the United States), these requirements aren’t the only part of the process. Certain lens colors offer expanded protection for workers’ eyes across industries. While color might seem like a superficial choice in eyewear, it really does impact protection and performance.

The goal of colored lenses is to reduce eyestrain and allow greater visibility in the lighting conditions of your job site, whether you’re indoors or out, looking at computers or snowy hills, or in bright or dim environments. Protective eyewear with colored lenses can look attractive, but without research into the advantages and disadvantages of different colors, employers might spend a lot of money on glasses that fit an aesthetic but don’t allow workers to see clearly. You’ll also need to consider the tasks that workers will be doing in those lighting conditions. For instance, driving will require different lenses than hiking outdoors, and some jobs and tasks may require variations or greater protection than a single lens color can provide.

When selecting the right safety eyewear lens type, ensure lens color is part of your risk assessment process and due diligence—your workers and their eyes will thank you. Before buying boxes of safety glasses, consider which of these different lens colors you might need, and talk to your safety supply dealer if you have further questions specific to your job.


Clear lenses are the most common color for safety glasses. They’re good for many indoor applications with “normal” light conditions and are standard for most jobs that require safety glasses. There’s no tint to offer protection from light, but clear lenses are ideal for indoor jobs in properly illuminated areas with impact hazards. For safety glasses with clear lenses and used indoors and outdoors, they may have a mirrored coating.

Gray, Smoke, or Brown

Gray, smoke, or brown-colored lenses in safety eyewear offer protection from the sun and glare to reduce eye strain and increase comfort. Outdoor mobile equipment operators and construction workers would benefit from these lenses. Though they’re great for bright conditions, they aren’t appropriate lens tints for indoor work, and wearers will need to have an adjustment period to allow their eyes to adjust to indoor lighting if they have to come inside at all. These lenses are particularly great for snowy conditions or by the water, where there’s a lot of glare and bright lights without distorting colors. Among these options, most of our manufactures use gray lenses. Gray safety glass lenses are a lot like your everyday or prescription pair of sunglasses.

Amber, Yellow, or Orange

If lighting conditions at your workplace are dim, consider amber lenses. This tint attracts light rays for better contrast in low-light conditions, which means that shapes and shadows are more distinctive than they would be with clear or smoke lenses. If your worksite has limited illumination or you do dawn, dusk, or nighttime outdoor work or driving, amber lenses might be for you. Yellow and orange lenses also block blue light, which can cause haze, so they’re not suited for tasks requiring color recognition but are great for being in front of a computer all day or driving in fog, rain, or snow.

Pink or Vermillion

Pink lenses reduce glare from fluorescent and halogen light sources. They also provide high contrast while reducing equally, which means better color recognition even in low light situations.

Purple or Blue

Blue and purple lenses enhance contrast—blue is good for excessive yellow or sodium vapor light, whereas purple is better for green or bluish surroundings. Both are good for outdoor applications that need contrast, although blue lenses are also commonly used indoors.

Other Specialty Lenses

Safety glasses lens colors are a big part of eye protection, but they’re not the only component. So you’ll want to consider eyewear color as well as other qualities for certain jobs. Many safety glasses and safety goggles come with prescription lenses for workers who need corrective eyewear but can’t wear glasses or contact lenses at work.

Mirrored lenses have an external coating over a smoky lens and sometimes clear lenses. They’re great for reducing the eye strain that comes from time spent in natural light and glare. They’re best for outdoor and bright-light applications.

Polarized lenses offer protection from glare that goes beyond what brown lenses offer. The glare from a lake, ski slope, or road can create an especially intense glare and cause eye fatigue and visibility problems while being difficult to avoid. They tend to be costlier and can be tedious when using a mobile phone, tablet or electronic screen. Consider polarized lenses if your work conditions involve a lot of light reflecting off smooth, horizontal surfaces, or you’re just especially sensitive to glare.

Welding shades are a very specific and robust type of protection designed for welders. The light radiation caused by this work is intense enough to severely and permanently injure the eyes. This type of work can’t be done with standard safety glasses but requires infrared (IR) filtered lenses with shade numbers appropriate for the task. Note that filters are not the same thing as lens colors. IR filters protect from excessively bright or harmful rays like those caused by welding, whereas lens color can provide comfort to workers by reducing eye strain and enhancing lighting under certain conditions.

Indoor/outdoor lenses are preferred for situations where there are frequent changes in lighting conditions. Workers who frequently move in and out of buildings, like forklift operators, need to reduce eye strain without constantly switching between pairs of safety glasses. These versatile lenses also offer good color visibility, reduce glare from artificial lights, and allow more visible light through than gray lenses. Interchangeable or photochromic lenses will also offer protection for individuals working in a range of lighting conditions but research the choices before making your purchase.

PK Safety Protective Eyewear

Safety eyewear needs to fit well and comfortably and function in the hazards you and your team face at work. Lens color is about more than just aesthetics—it also plays a role in the protection level and comfort of the person wearing them during their tasks. If you still have questions about choosing the right eye protection for your job, reach out to PK Safety’s safety experts by calling 800.829.9580 or using our online contact form


Oct 7th 2022 PK Safety Team

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