More than 100 of the 2,000 U.S. employees who sustain an eye injury daily lose at least one day of work, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration enforces workplace safety standards, and the Code of Federal Regulations outlines personal protective equipment requirements, including eye protection. It requires employers to purchase non-prescription safety eyewear for employees.

Employer Obligations

OSHA requires all employers to identify workplace eye hazards and the type of eye protection each warrants. Based on this hazard assessment, employers must buy the appropriate eye safety wear, make sure it fits each employee, train employees on the proper use, care and importance of eye protection, and ensure that employees wear it. The law prohibits employers from asking workers to provide eye-safety equipment. Employers may approve a worker's voluntary request to use his own eye protection, but they have responsibility to confirm that it provides adequate protection.

Prescription Safety Glasses

OSHA ruled in 2007 that employers do not have to pay for non-specialty prescription safety glasses that a worker wears for personal use and off the job site. The agency cited a provision that allows employers to provide alternative types of eye protection, such as goggles that fit over prescription glasses, and the example of contact lens wearers who require non-prescription safety glasses, as rationale for exempting prescription safety eyewear from company-provided protective equipment. However, employers must pay for employees' prescription safety glasses when they mandate that the protection remains on company property.

Alternative Protection

In lieu of prescription safety glasses, OSHA requires employers to provide, at no cost to employees, goggles that allow corrective lenses to be placed behind the goggle lenses or that employees can wear over their eyeglasses. The goggles must not interfere with the wearer's vision and must fit comfortably. If the employer opts to provide one pair of protective eyewear to each position, rather than to each employee, disinfecting procedures must be followed between each use. Employers do not have to pay for replacement eye protection that employees lose or intentionally break.

What to Buy

Worker safety means more than good employee relations: Maintaining a safe work environment prevents productivity losses, keeps insurance premiums down and avoids worker's compensation expenses. To arm your workforce with proper eye protection, look for non-prescription safety glasses and goggles that carry ANSI labeling, by American National Standards Institute. It includes a "Z87" or "Z87+" mark to indicate that the lenses, frames and side shields meet impact or high-impact compliance standards. Other labeling, such as "D3, D4 or D5" for dust, specifies which hazard the eye protection addresses.