Safety glasses came into general use as the lens of gas masks made during World War I. They have been developed for a wide variety of uses since then, including protective eye wear for welders, firemen, participants in racing or other sporting events, factory workers and home workshops.
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In 1880, P. Johnson invented and patented an "Eye Protector." In 1914 Garrett Morgan patented the gas mask which included a lens made of safety glass. However, safety glasses did not come into general use until after World War II when they were developed by the service and construction industries as a protective measure for their workers.
Safety glasses come in a few general types. There are lenses fit into hoods such as welders and firemen wear. One type looks like regular eye glasses, usually with slightly larger lens area to better protect the eye, sometimes with a plastic guard along the side as well. Another type has a protective lens set into a plastic cup that fits around the eye so that nothing can come in through the sides. These are usually held on by an elastic band. Safety glasses these days come in a wide variety of styles to fit any fashion and safety requirements.
The function of safety glasses is to protect the eyes from flying particles or objects or caustic liquids or vapors that could irreparably damage them.
In the 1980s, polycarbonate lenses were developed and for the most part have replaced laminated glass in all safety glasses as it is much stronger and lighter.
Do not wear regular eyeglasses when safety glasses are required. The frames and lenses are not designed to resist impact in the same way that safety glasses are, and you could be seriously injured by depending on your regular eyeglasses to protect your eyes.