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Safety glasses can be categorized based on the material their lens, are constructed with. Usually only three main materials – glass, plastic, and polycarbonate – are used to construct the lenses used in safety glasses.
Safety glasses with lenses made of glass are not common, but they do occur. They are used only in special circumstances where the density of the glass is needed based on the chemicals handled, or environment the employee is working in. However, safety glasses constructed of glass are easily scratched, and present a hazard if they fall and break.
Safety glasses can also have plastic lenses. Plastic lenses are preferred over glass lenses due to their ability to resist breaking if they fall or drop. Plastic lenses are often used in areas where chemical solvents are located, because they resist breakdown.
Polycarbonate is the most common type of material within the lenses of safety glasses. It is chosen more often than plastic because it is stronger and resists breaking. Polycarbonate lenses are especially useful in areas of welding, where they can be coated to prevent ultraviolet rays entering the eye.