Winter Eye Challenges

Winter poses unique challenges when wearing safety goggles. Knowing what features to look for will help in making the right choice.

In some areas, colder winter temperatures mean significant adjustments for those who stay outdoors for long periods of time. Coats, hats, gloves, boots and insulating layers help block wind and keep the body warm, but we also need to pay special attention to our eyes.

Exposure to cold temperatures, wind, and snow glare pose unique challenges to eye safety during the winter months. Injuries from winter hazards can cause these and other eye problems:

  • Eye pain
  • Blurred or decreased vision
  • Light sensitivity
  • Vision loss

Protecting your eyes in the winter is essential. However, it’s also easily overlooked.

When More Is Better

When it comes to protecting your eyes in the winter, it’s hard to beat goggles. Not only do they provide outstanding eye protection from the wind and flying particles, but they also offer extra face coverage.

However, make sure you select a goggle designed for use in cold conditions. The average “lab goggle” will become rigid and uncomfortable to wear for prolonged periods in the cold. They’re also prone to excessive lens fogging.

Snowblowing with Goggles

Goggles designed for prolonged winter wear have features similar to ski goggles. Those features include soft, dense foam around the face, dual-pane lenses, and wide, comfortable headbands. Making sure you use a goggle that is ANSI Z87.1-2015 certified for maximum impact protection is also important.

4 Tips for Selecting Cold Weather Safety Goggles

With this general information in mind, also consider these more specific tips for selecting cold weather safety goggles.

1. Anti-Fog Coating

Without a doubt, the biggest problem faced by eye protection in cold weather is lens fogging. The temperature variance between a worker’s face and the cold outside air causes condensation to build up on lenses. Heavy exertion can exacerbate the situation since perspiration introduces additional moisture to the lens area.

Fogged lenses cause frustration due to blurred vision and having to frequently remove eyewear to clear lenses. Even worse, some individuals choose to not wear protective eyewear to avoid fighting with lens fogging. This leaves them dangerously exposed to eye injuries.

Anti-fog coatings are your first line of defense. They help reduce and delay the condensation that can build up on the interior of lenses. However, anti-fog coatings are not foolproof. Lenses still need to wiped down occasionally to remove excess moisture.

When selecting safety eyewear with anti-fog coating, look for advanced coatings permanently bonded to lenses. These coatings offer better performance and last longer between repeated cleanings and lens wiping.

Capstone Goggles

Anti-Fog Spray can also be used. This is especially helpful on eyewear without anti-fog coating.

2. Lens Design

Another important feature for anti-fog safety goggles is lens design. Dual-pane lenses are well suited for winter applications because they feature two lenses separated by an air chamber. The air between the two lens panes acts as an insulator that reduces condensation and thus fogging. Just like other winter eyewear, dual-pane lenses should be treated with an anti-fog coating to maximize their anti-fog performance.

3. Air Flow

Airflow is another technique used to reduce lens fogging. Air vents integrated into the goggle body allows warm, moist air to escape. This reduces moisture buildup on lenses.

Direct venting offers the best performance, but it can’t be used in all situations.  In certain safety environments where liquid/chemical splash is a concern, direct venting is not recommended. Instead, select a goggle with indirect (hooded) vents or no vents at all.

Good airflow is a crucial feature for keeping lens fogging under control. In fact, it’s how the best anti-fog goggles keep their lenses fog free.

Snow Goggles

If you’re working in extreme conditions requiring the absolute maximum in anti-fog performance, consider a goggle with a built-in vent fan. These goggles feature a variable speed electric fan that exhausts the hot, humid air from inside the goggle before it has a chance to condensate on the lens.

Goggles with a built-in fan don’t come cheap. Most cost over $100, and are usually reserved for military and tactical applications where clear vision could mean the difference between life or death. However, Haber Vision offers several industrial goggles that integrate with their Eliminator Fan Module to provide maximum airflow and anti-fog performance.

4. UV Protection

Photokeratitis, basically a sunburn of the eye, shouldn’t be taken for granted. It can happen when someone is outside on a sunny winter day with the sun reflecting off a fresh blanket of snow and isn’t wearing proper eye protection.

The intensity of the sun’s glare bouncing off the snow can be overwhelming and uncomfortable. Plus, exposure to high levels of UV light can lead to macular degeneration, cataracts, and corneal sunburn.

Tinted polycarbonate lenses are the best way to combat this combination of sunlight and reflected UV exposure. Common lens tints such as gray, brown or mirrored are suitable for most outdoor applications.

Keep Calm and Wear Your Eye Protection

There are many options available in anti-fog goggles. To help get you started on choosing the best ones for you, here’s a list of recommended anti-fog goggles.

With all of winter’s discomforts, unique challenges, and hazards, it’s easy to forget about or even ignore eye protection. These suggestions will help keep your eyes safe during the cold winter months ahead.

Do you have any questions, comments or suggestions about winter eye protection?
Please post them in the comments section below.
By | 2018-11-07T19:32:15+00:00 November 9th, 2018|All Posts, Safety Tips|5 Comments

About the Author:

Michael Eldridge is a US Marine Veteran and the founder of SafetyGlassesUSA.com. He's passionate about protective eyewear and promoting vision safety. In his spare time, he enjoys target shooting, fishing, CrossFit, mountain biking, camping with his family and watching Detroit Tigers baseball.

5 Comments

  1. Glenn Jones December 3, 2013 at 6:46 pm - Reply

    Excellent article Michael. Very informative.

  2. Jeffrey M Pepper January 8, 2018 at 12:36 am - Reply

    I work in the Arctic the winds and blowing snow are rippingly painful, besides the brutal cold and the only area you can’t cover is your eyes! For slope workers what is the best extreme weather goggles in your opinion?

    • Jeff January 12, 2018 at 7:06 pm - Reply

      Good question, Jeffrey. Please bear with me here on my long answer.

      I would first direct you to our Extreme Anti-Fog Goggle section. While they aren’t necessarily all made for your harsh conditions, fogging certainly must be a problem for you, among other things. I think a dual pane lens and/or a fan is your best bet, and probably the larger coverage area the better. For those reasons, I would lean toward either the Bolle Chronosoft, or one of three FAN goggles: the ESS Profile Turbofan, the Haber Barrow with Dual Lens, and the Smith Outside The Wire Turbo Fan. The Haber Barrow can come with the Eliminator fan module that easily installs on the inside of the goggle’s brow, or you may buy it separately, or skip it altogether. Both the Chronosoft and Barrow offer dual-pane lenses, which is already an improvement in harsh, cold conditions without a fan.

      The fan, as you can probably guess, is designed to force air inside the goggle and expel humidity. Potential drawbacks to the fan goggles are: 1) a low and subtle, but high-pitched hum while the fan runs; and 2) the fan will pull in colder air, potentially making your face cooler/cold while it clears out moisture. There is also a more porous brow guard to the fan goggles, leaving more area for cold air to enter. But the moisture equilibrium helps prevent fogging. Should you choose the Haber Barrow with the fan, there are two Eliminator options — the regular and the Plus, which is intrinsically safe. You can decide which applies to your environment. These are the four I would look at. I cannot say that one is better than another, as I’ve not directly compared them under your conditions.

  3. Jon Gilmore October 28, 2018 at 12:37 pm - Reply

    Planning a Yellowstone Winter trek with plenty of skimobile rides in between. Would a dual lens with a polarized finish work, in your opinion. Is there a better option for snow glare and wind protection? Thanks.

    • Michael Eldridge November 1, 2018 at 5:10 pm - Reply

      Thank you for your question, Jon.

      A dual-lens is a good idea when it comes to winter goggles because they provide better fog resistance than a standard lens. Polarization will help reduce snow glare and improve visual contrast. However, caution should be used. “Cheap” polarized lenses can reduce some of your depth perceptions while riding on the snow. To maximize contrast and depth perception, you’ll want to look for a high-quality polarized lens in a brown, copper or vermillion lens color.

      In my opinion, a snow goggle is the best eye protection for snowmobile use. Have fun on your epic trip to Yellowstone!

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