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safety glasses and assessing risks

Submitted by sat on 08 December 2015

In brief:

This is a very challenging issue. You are correct that it is essential that staff and students wear safety glasses that comply with AS/NZS 1337.1:2010 so that they protect the wearer from hazards in the laboratory, e.g., splashes, impact, or foreign particles.  For further information on compliant safety glasses, Science ASSIST has previously answered a question relating to safety glasses see: Safety glasses.

There are no regulations that specifically stipulate the procedure for cleaning safety glasses or goggles in a school environment. As you have indicated, it is not practicable for a school to clean a class set of safety glasses or goggles in between classes in a school setting. 

It is important that safety glasses are in good condition, clean and free from dust to facilitate good vision. When safety glasses are shared, the potential for the transmission of infectious diseases is low, however it is important to consider risk control strategies to address this.

Schools can either require the students to provide their own safety glasses, or they should establish systems for the suitable selection, storage and regular inspection and cleaning of safety glasses.

In the majority of cases, where schools provide class sets of safety glasses, Science ASSIST has the following recommendations.


Additional information

Australian Standards: Australian Standards do not specify sanitising or disinfecting and are not prescriptive regarding the type of cleaning required due to the numerous different workplace settings. AS/NZS 1336:2014 Eye and face protection—guidelines contains information regarding the issue, maintenance and reissue of personal eye protection. Institutions that supply and use a large number of safety glasses should ensure that their systems cater for the following requirements for safety glasses.

Transmission of infectious diseases: The risk of environmentally associated laboratory infections is rare.(2) All of the following conditions, referred to as the “chain of infection”, are required for an infection to be transmitted.

Washing with warm soapy water followed by a water rinse and then allowed to dry is considered sufficient to decontaminate shared safety glasses.

The school setting

Most information currently available recommends the cleaning of shared safety glasses in between use. (2, 3, 4) One school setting recommendation is that class sets of safety glasses are cleaned once or twice a school term and suggests the use of disinfectants to control for the transmission of eye diseases. (5)

Schools have a duty of care to ensure that students wear safety glasses when handling hazardous substances. There needs to be an effective system for the storage of safety glasses, as well as their cleaning and maintenance. The table below lists our recommended cleaning options, along with some advantages and disadvantages.

Each student provides their own pair of safety glasses


  • Correct fit is ensured, if student’s own glasses are used.
  • Problem of possible cross infection negated.
  • Students should be able to purchase safety glasses through the school to ensure that Australian Standards are met.


  • Difficulties in ensuring that students will have them when required.
  • Difficulties with storing them if the school chooses to manage this way.
  • Cost to the family.


The school provides safety glasses to be shared

Regular inspections and cleaning are conducted once or twice a term by the laboratory technician.

Washing with warm soapy water followed by a water rinse and then allowed to dry.


  • Systems are in place for the regular inspection of the safety glasses.
  • Minimal cost to the student.
  • Can be scheduled at a convenient time to be conducted by the laboratory technician.


  • Risk of scratching the lens, if incorrect material is used to wash and dry the glasses.

Students to be responsible for individual cleaning of their glasses.

Washing with warm soapy water followed by a water rinse and then allowed to dry.


  • Minimal cost (bucket and detergent).


  • Time consuming addition to the school program.
  • Difficult to ensure  glasses are properly washed each time.
  • Risk of scratching the lens if incorrect material is used to wash and dry the glasses.

Provide alcohol wipes containing 70% isopropyl alcohol.


  • Alcohol wipes are available in a compact self-dispensing canister and is a fast, simple and hygienic method to reduce cross contamination.
  • Alcohol wipes canister can be kept in the lab near the safety glasses rack for ease of use.
  • Used alcohol wipes can be disposed of in the general waste.


  • Alcohol wipes are flammable and careful classroom management would be required to control their use and to avoid their misuse. When Bunsen burners are being used, it may be advisable to place used alcohol wipes in a tub of water to reduce the risk of catching fire.
  • Sensitivity to the alcohol component in the wipes (or if the alcohol hasn’t evaporated before wearing the glasses) could irritate the eyes.
  • Protection is dependent on the students’ ability to correctly clean the safety glasses.
  • Possibility of damage to the lens material from the alcohol component in the wipes.
  • On-going cost to supply wipes and onus on the school to ensure that alcohol wipes are available at all times.


Other considerations

Selection of safety glasses: The wearing of prescription glasses cannot, under any circumstances, be considered as a substitute for normal eye protection. Over-glasses, goggles or face shields should be worn over prescription glasses as appropriate.

Storage of safety glasses: Safety glasses should be properly stored in a suitable rack in a dry place to avoid accumulating dust as well as to avoid the scratching of lenses.

Maintenance of safety glasses: The major issue with safety glasses is that they can become severely scratched and reduce visibility, which causes an additional hazard. Paper towel and some tissues should not be used as they may contain abrasive materials, which will scratch the lens. Other problems with safety glasses are the snapping of the frame in the centre due to students over-flexing the lenses when putting the goggles on or off. 

Contact lenses: Wearers of contact lenses may face additional hazards where items enter the eye. For this reason, special consideration should be given to the type of eye protection or whether contact lenses should be worn for particular activities.


(1) Standards Australia. 2014. AS/NZS 1336:2014 Eye and face protection—guidelines. Sydney, Australia.

(2) American Chemical Society. 2009. Recommendations for Shared Goggle Cleaning American Chemical Society Joint Board-Council Committee on Chemical Safety

(3) Northern Territory Government Department of Education and Training. 2008. Occupational health and safety manual Science Guidelines.

(4) NSW Department of Health. 2007. Infection control policy.

(5) CLEAPSS. 2001. Laboratory Handbook, Section 3 Personal Safety. March, 2017) (login required)

Standards Australia. 2010. AS/NZS 1337.1:2010 Personal eye protection

Part 1: Eye and face protectors for occupational applications. Sydney, Australia.

University of Wollongong School of Chemistry. 2009. Use of Personal Protective Equipment.