Probably every Australian adult owns a pair of sunglasses, but if you thought about why you wear them your top answer would most likely be to stop the glare. However, sunglasses also play an important role in protecting your eyes from damage such as cataracts, photo keratopathy or even cancer.
There are number of strategies that can be used to protect the eyes from sun damage. One of the best is to employ protective measures such as a broad brimmed hat and sunglasses. The use of a broad brimmed hat will approximately halve the dose of UV radiation to the eyes, as well as providing protection to the face, neck and ears, and sunglasses can protect the eyes were the hat falls short.
Australia is unique in that all sunglasses sold here must comply with the Consumer Product Safety Standard which specifies that they must include UV protection. UV and glare protection are not the same thing and the level of tint does not necessarily correlate with the UV protection. In short, darker glasses do not equal greater UV protection, so check the swing tag when you buy your next pair. All sunglasses that meet the safety standard provide some level of UV protection, but lens categories 0 – 1 only provide some UV protection, whereas categories 2 – 4 provide good levels of protection from UV.
In outdoor workplaces, sunglasses don’t necessarily provide the impact resistance of occupational eye protection so it is important if you are working outdoors it is best to use protective glasses that comply with AS/NZS 1337.1 These offer both impact and sun glare protection. Fortunately, most work wear suppliers offer a great range of glasses that meet this standard in a range of tint levels.
When looking for the best sunglasses, it is good to understand that the best protection comes from a larger frame that fits close to your face and provides protection from the side in the form of a wrap-around design, or has side shields. These reduce stray UV radiation which can reach the eye from around the edge of the glasses.
If you wear prescription glasses you should be aware that they tend to have some level of UV protection built into them, however this is something that you may wish to raise with your optometrist to see if you need added protection. This is particularly the case if you want your glasses to also meet the impact requirements of occupational eye protection.
Eyes are vulnerable, particularly when working outdoors every day. Finding the best protective glasses for your work environment and combining this with a good broad brimmed or legionnaire style hat will provide the best protection.