LOOKING BACK – FEBRUARY 2011

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EYE SAFETY IN THE WORKPLACE

The turn of the 20th century not only saw a rise in industry, but also a rise in industrial working accidents. In
1909, the New York State commission on Employers Liability found that 20,000 industrial accidents had resulted
in 4,000 deaths. When the industrial industry became obligated to pay workers for accidents, regardless of
fault, interest in industrial safety had become a priority. It was during this time that the first safety goggle,
called Saniglas, was developed by Julius King Optical Co. in co-operation with American Optical Co (AO).
Since then, AO became synonymous with eyewear safety. AO produced a variety of industry-specific safety goggles,
which could be found in its 1935 Eye Protection Catalog (shown above at left), such as goggles for railroad, furnace, and
melter workers. Designed for steel melters, the AO melter’s goggle (shown above at right) featured a heavy, non-corrosive
metal frame and reinforced bridge to protect eyes from sparks, flying scale, and glare—all while providing insulation
for comfort. All AO goggles for impact-protection services were fitted with the nearly facture-proof Super Armorplate
lenses. With its arching curve, Super Armorplate lenses had to be capable of withstanding the impact of a steel ball dropped
from a height of 6 ft. This concept of lens impact strength and base curve is still relevant today to FDA impact testing.


Photos Courtesy of Dick Whitney, Curator, Optical Heritage Museum, opticalheritagemuseum.org.
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