Many workplaces and jobs require the use of ANSI Z87.1 certified safety glasses. But, what do these letters and numbers mean? Why is the ANSI certification necessary? How does it help protect your eyes?

ANSI Z87.1 Defined

ANSI is an acronym for the “American National Standards Institute“. They’re a nonprofit organization whose primary mission is “To enhance both the global competitiveness of U.S. business and the U.S. quality of life by promoting and facilitating voluntary consensus standards and conformity assessment systems, and safeguarding their integrity”. Wow, that’s a mouth full! Their job is to create uniform testing standards and guidelines for a variety of products and equipment used by businesses in nearly every sector.

The  Z87.1 portion references the American National Standard for Occupational and Educational Personal Eye and Face Protection Devices. These standards are used to ensure personal eye and face protection devices provide the necessary protection from impact, non-ionizing radiation, and liquid splash exposures.

The ANSI Z87.1 standard has been updated twice since 2003, with revisions in 2010 and 2015. The purpose of these updates is the continued focus on product performance and attempts to harmonize with international standards while keeping the needs of the end user in mind with consideration to workplace hazards and regulatory obligations. The current ANSI Z87.1-2015 standard continues to differentiate protectors based on specific risks with additional emphasis placed on enabling users to select the appropriate protector based on their environment and the hazard.

Construction Worker Edge Safety Glasses

Selecting the appropriate eye protection for your environment and it’s potential hazards is critical.

General Requirements For ANSI Z87.1

Most people take safety seriously and realize the importance of safety certifications. However, since most people have never read the ANSI Z87.1 document, they may not fully understand what this certification covers. The ANSI Z87.1 certification helps in this effort by providing a certification system organized based on encountered hazards. This standard means the choice of safety eyewear revolves around what best represents the protection needed for the specific hazards encountered in the workplace. The most common hazards include:

  • Blunt impact
  • Radiation
  • Splashes and droplets
  • Dust
  • Small dust particles

Most safety eyewear manufacturers now provide packaging and product information revolving around how products meet these standards. In fact, many online retailers even organize their virtual shelves according to these specific hazards. Some examples are safety glasses, splash goggles, dust goggles, etc.

Testing Processes

Safety glasses have a critical job to do, and there’s simply no room for error or malfunction. ANSI Z87.1 certified safety glasses undergo intensive testing that ensures they’ll protect eyes as expected. Tests include basic and high-impact for lenses and frames, exposure to non-ionizing radiation and chemicals. Tests also include durability to flammables and corrosion.

The following video from Edge Eyewear does an excellent job of demonstrating the different tests performed on safety eyewear. When you see how badly the non-safety-rated eyewear fails these basic tests, you’ll never want to purchase non-safety-rated eyewear again.

Product Markings

Starting in 2010 with additional updates in 2015 the ANSI Z87.1 standard now requires lens & frame marking that are efficient and easy to understand, which helps make the selection process simpler and the wearing of proper safety eyewear more likely. Those product markings indicate ratings in the following areas:

  • Impact: Z87+” indicates high-velocity impact, and “Z87” alone means basic impact
  • Splash and droplet: D3 for splash and droplet and D4 for dust
  • Fine dust: D5
  • Welding: W (plus the shade number)
  • UV: U (plus the scale number)
  • Infrared light: R (plus the scale number)
  • Visible light filter: L (plus the scale number)
  • Prescription: Z87-2 on the front of the front of the frame and both temples
  • Head size: H indicates products designed for smaller head sizes
  • Other: V for photochromic and S for special lens tint

All safety markings for ANSI Z87.1-2015 safety eyewear must be permanent and clearly marked on the frame or lens. Also when picking safety eyewear, keep in mind that some activities may require goggles or a face shield. These items should have safety markings as well.

Product Marking Examples

ANSI Z87 Product Markings

ANSI Z87.1-2015 product markings on a pair of Bolle Safety Glasses.

The image above shows a pair of Bolle Safety Glasses with the new ANSI Z87.1-2015 product marking requirements. The “Z87+” portion indicates this eyewear meets the high-velocity impact requirement. The “U6” means the eyewear has a UV rating of 6, which is the highest rating on a scale of 2-6.  The S indicates a special lens tint because these glasses feature Bolle’s ESP lens, which is slightly tinted.

You may encounter safety eyewear with only “Z87” or the “manufacturers mark” with a “+” stamped on the lens or frame. These products, which are still safe to use, were produced before or just after the 2010 standard. They still meet ANSI Z87.1 high-velocity impact safety standards, but don’t have the new product marking requirements from the recent 2010 & 2015 standards.


The temple arm from an Oakley M-Frame 2.0 is marked with Z87 to indicate it’s ANSI Z87.1 certified.

Workers in almost every industry are exposed to hazards that could cause serious eye injury. When combined with 100% compliance to a mandatory eye protection program, the right safety eyewear, based on the current ANSI Z87.1-2015 safety standards, helps ensure that doesn’t happen.

Do you have questions or comments about ANSI Z87.1? Feel free to leave a comment below.