BS EN 166 UK & Other Key Safety Glasses Standards

If you need to purchase safety glasses for your own business or as part of your role, it’s vital to understand BS EN 166 and other safety glasses standards.

To make the right purchase, you need to understand how British Safety Standards and other ratings should be used in combination with workplace risk assessments to make sure you buy the correct PPE.

Our guide examines why you need to familiarise yourself with standards that apply to safety glasses, and explains what the key standards mean.

Why is Understanding Safety Glasses Standards Important?

In work environments where safety glasses are necessary, understanding British safety standards becomes crucial. These standards and safety glasses go hand in hand in the workplace, essential for staying in line with UK laws.

Following health and safety regulations is a legal requirement. When you buy and use safety glasses marked with the BS standard, you easily demonstrate that you’re meeting these rules. This understanding ensures inspections are problem-free and without legal consequences.

But, knowing these standards has significance beyond just legalities. It ensures that you’re using glasses robust enough to endure the hazards they’re exposed to. Glasses without a BS mark may not be up to the task, potentially putting workers at risk.

Finally, understanding these standards helps maintain uniform safety practices across all work environments. With clear rules available for everyone to see, employers and employees alike have a well-defined safety guide to follow. This uniformity helps keep everyone safe.

BS EN 166 – Personal Eye Protection Standard

To meet regulation EU 216/425, all Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), including safety glasses, must conform to British safety standards. The Personal Protective Equipment Regulations 2018 ensures all employers follow the same safety standards, covering protective eyewear and other PPE like gloves and hats.

EN 166 is the European standard for safety glasses. This standard covers both the glasses’ frame and lenses. Additional numbers and letters indicate the glasses’ strength and optical class.

Glasses marked as BS EN 166 should protect the eyes during tasks such as welding, cutting, and chemical work. Further classification using additional letters and numbers provide more specific protection details.

Optical Class

The optical class indicates how often safety glasses should be worn. There are three levels: Class 1 for continuous wear, Class 2 for occasional use, and Class 3 for very brief use only.

Strength rating

Strength rating indicates the glasses’ impact limit and temperature tolerance. Here are the categories:

  • S denotes the minimum strength, capable of withstanding small objects at 12 metres per second.
  • F stands for a slightly higher strength rating, able to endure small objects at 45 metres per second.
  • B is medium impact level, able to tolerate small objects at 120 metres per second.
  • A signifies high strength, capable of withstanding an object at 190 metres per second.
  • T denotes the ability to handle extreme temperatures, perfect for tasks involving high or low temperatures.

Other Protection Standards

Safety glasses may feature additional numbers or letters for specific protections. These specifications won’t apply to all glasses, only those needing them.

These include:

Chemical Spills

  • 3 – protects against liquid splashes or droplets.
  • 4 – tolerates large particles of dust, over 5 microns.
  • 5 – can withstand gases and dust particles under 5 microns.

Electrical Risks

  • An 8 rating indicates resistance to short circuits of electrical arcs.

Thermal Risks

  • A 9 on the goggles means they are heat resistant in the event of metal splashes.

Lens Treatment

  • K represents an anti scratch treatment on the goggles.
  • N means the goggles have been treated with anti fog treatment.

Understanding these categories helps employers select the right protective glasses for their employees. It’s not compulsory to have all these features, but EN 166 certification is a must.

A health and safety risk assessment for all workplace tasks will guide you on which further protections are needed, if any. You can find these safety standards on the glasses frames. If they’re missing, the glasses don’t meet British standards.

Other Relevant Safety Standards

There are other relevant safety standards for employers and self employed workers to be aware of. The type of work and identified risks will clarify if any of these are required.

Staff should also understand what the different numbers and letters mean as they may need different glasses for different tasks.


BS EN 169 – Welding & Cutting

This standard outlines the protection levels and filter type for welding and similar tasks. These safety glasses protect the eyes during light flame cutting, hard soldering, welding, arc gouging, and plasma cutting.

If the filter information is missing on the frame, the glasses should not be used.

BS EN 170 – UV Filters

This standard assesses the effectiveness of ultraviolet filters, establishing protection levels and transmittance requirements. UV lights can be hazardous in the workplace, necessitating the right eye protection.

However, UV filters should not be used for tasks involving electrical arcs.

BS EN 172 – Sun Glare

This standard defines sun glare filters for safety glasses. These glasses reduce sun glare, promoting optimal eye health for workers frequently outdoors.

It’s essential that these glasses also meet the requirements of EN 166.

UK Health and Safety Laws & Safety Glasses

Risk assessments indicating the need for PPE in the workplace legally require the use of such equipment. Non-compliance can lead to legal action against the company.

UK laws dictate certain standards employers must be familiar with and show compliance towards.

Health and Safety at Work Act 1974

Employers owe their employees a duty of care. This includes ensuring the correct PPE is worn for the tasks at hand. As risks vary by workplace, continuous risk assessments are necessary.

After identifying potential hazards, employers are responsible for taking steps to mitigate them. PPE plays a key role in this process.

Employees should be aware of their legal obligation to respect the rules, which includes understanding the standards required for safety glasses.

Personal Protective Equipment at Work Regulations 1992

Appropriate protection must be in place when there’s any risk to the eyes. This protection should be EN 166 compliant and meet any other necessary standards for specific tasks.

Employers should consider both the immediate danger and the long-term impact of the risk. Eye injuries can be both sudden and gradual.

The PPER 1992 clarifies employers’ legal obligations to provide PPE. Employers are responsible for maintaining and replacing PPE when necessary.

Workers should use the PPE as per instructions or demonstrations, and they should report any damages or breakages to their employer.

The Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999

Regular risk assessments are vital to maintaining workplace health and safety standards. If risks aren’t identified and mitigated, serious implications can arise. Eye safety is critical in any industry where there’s a risk.

Compliance with eye protection standards and understanding their importance is a must for staff. UK health and safety laws impact all business aspects. Regular reviews of risk assessments ensure that risks are minimised as much as possible.

Staying up to date with changes to health and safety laws is also crucial. It’s the employer’s responsibility to stay informed about these changes, which can affect the workplace and may require new training or equipment.

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