Millennial desires reshape safety glasses market
Product enhancements focus on what workers want
Marcel Vander Wier
A new generation of workers is putting its trademark stamp on eye protection — style is now king.
Safety glasses are taking the fashionable route, thanks to the demands of millennials, says Mino Alkawam, product manager with Protective Industrial Products Canada (PIP) in Laval, Que.
“They want something trendy,” he says. “They don’t want to go and put on the same eyewear that their fathers put on. They want something flashy; they want something with colours; they want something that is beautiful.”
Safety sunglasses are a new addition to the PIP Canada production line — blue-mirror and gold-mirror options included. The lightweight Hummingbird line includes a smoke lens option with black temples and DynaShield coating — a polyurethane-based solution that lasts much longer than standard anti-fog solution.
And while millennials want protective eyewear that is relevant, an aging workforce is placing additional demands on the industry, according to Wanda Sanchez-Miller, senior product marketing manager with Honeywell Safety Products in Smithfield, R.I.
One size no longer fits all, she says.
“The need to fit the variety of different facial profiles has grown, and the need for something that is attractive, that is stylish… has become more and more of a need,” says Sanchez-Miller.
“Comfort is still really key. Fit is more important than ever because of the diverse facial profiles that we have out there. You want all of those things, but you want it also in something that you can wear on the job and off the job.”
Honeywell’s Avatar brand was launched in 2017 to address this need. Attractive and lightweight, an angle-adjustable ratchet temple and wire-core temple allow users to properly fit the eyewear to their face, she says.
Avatar is also fitted with indirect venting and anti-fog coating to prevent steaming issues.
What workers want
Comfort and functionality remain high on the list when it comes to eyewear, says Bev Borst, advanced safety specialist with 3M in London, Ont.
“Safety eyewear needs to feel good while providing optimal protection,” she says. “Workers are looking for safety eyewear that they can comfortably wear for an entire shift.”
“Key features also include premium anti-fog coating, adjustability of nose pieces and eyewear temple arms. Another key attribute that is consistently requested is sealed eyewear to protect from flying debris.”
Safety glasses cosmetics and appearance have improved dramatically over the last few years. The “clunky” look of the past is gone in favour of “high-end, high-fashion sunglasses,” according to Claudio Dente, president of Dentec Safety Specialists in Newmarket, Ont.
All eyewear protection offered by Dentec offers both “tremendous cosmetics” and “incredible comfort,” he says.
And while style is the trend of the day, comfort and facial diversity opportunities available through ratcheting temple arms and lens-tilt options are also important, he says.
“At the end of the day, what you want is the safety glass to stay up high in position at the top of the nose bridge,” says Dente. “You do not want it sliding down.”
“We make sure it looks good, it’s comfortable, they fit great,” he says. “We have a variety of styles that if one won’t accommodate the plant population, we have something else that they’ll be able to introduce to appease everybody’s comfort, looks and the requirement for a particular application.”
Future is foam-lined, OTG
In 2019, goggles lined with foam gaskets grew in demand in an effort to block out airborne particles, says Alkawam.
“That’s something new,” he says. “If you go 10 years back, nobody really bought something like this.”
PIP Canada’s response to the shifting market was the Volcano Plus — rimless safety glasses with removable foam gaskets.
“That shows we’ve listened to customers,” says Alkawam. “We’ve seen how the trends are becoming in the market. We have to adjust.”
Many companies now require the usage of foam-line glasses due to a high number of eye injury incidents, says Dente.
Safety glasses with elastic straps that can mount to the temple arm such as the DustDevil or Sand Viper ensure the foam is secured and the fit is tight, he says.
The aging workforce will leave its own mark on eye protection in the years ahead, says Sanchez-Miller.
Going forward, more workers will require prescription eye glasses, which are inadequate as eye protection, she says.
“When you wear prescription glasses in a factory environment, that’s not protecting your eyes,” says Sanchez-Miller. “Prescription glasses are not necessarily safety glasses.”
To prepare for the expected surge in demand, Honeywell launched an OTG (over-the-glass) version of the Avatar, including three adjustments on the nose bridge to ensure proper fit, she says.
The weight-distribution design allows the Avatar OTG to fit comfortably over prescription glasses, while an anti-reflective coating works to reduce glare.
Steam and scratch problems will always be present with workplace eyewear, as glasses are prone to take a beating — falling to the ground or being left in toolboxes, says Alkawam.
Manufacturers combat these issues by applying anti-fog and anti-scratch layers — the standard being one of each, he says.
More protective layers bring up the price of the eyewear, and can make or break a sale, says Alkawam.
“It’s unfortunate that still in Canada, with all the standards and the regulations that we have, that people still look upon buying safety products in general — and specifically eyewear — depending on price.”
“The reality is you get what you pay for,” he says. “An economic product is not going to give you the same comfort and fit that’s going to be best for the worker, in reference to a product that is double the price.”
A recent innovation by 3M is the Scotchgard anti-fog coating, says Borst.
The coating retains its effectiveness for at least 25 washings, allowing workers to wear this eyewear longer.
Alongside goggles, face shields are also highly effective in terms of eye protection, says Dente.
Face Tech is Dentec’s latest offering for workers using a grinder. The new one-piece design protects the face fully from crown to chin, and includes polycarbonate sidebars which a visor mounts into, he says.
The gear protects against spray of debris and the impact of heavy objects in similar fashion to a hockey helmet, says Dente.
“Our Face Tech face shield works as an integral system, meaning that the visor mounted in the face shield, mounted in the suspension, acts like a shock absorber.”
Without chin support, a heavy object could press a flat visor into the user’s face, with the potential of injury, he says.
The “unique curvature” of the chin support encapsulates the neck and throat area of the user, completely sealing against the collarbone while the user is looking down to grind a specific object.