Archive Notice - OSHA Archive

NOTICE: This is an OSHA Archive Document, and may no longer represent OSHA Policy. It is presented here as historical content, for research and review purposes only.

OSHA requirements are set by statute, standards and regulations. Our interpretation letters explain these requirements and how they apply to particular circumstances, but they cannot create additional employer obligations. This letter constitutes OSHA's interpretation of the requirements discussed. Note that our enforcement guidance may be affected by changes to OSHA rules. Also, from time to time we update our guidance in response to new information. To keep apprised of such developments, you can consult OSHA's website at

January 7, 1976

Mr. E. E. Dunne
Safety and Training Coordinator
Exxon Chemical Company U.S.A.
Post Office Box 1607
Baton Rough, Louisiana 70811

Dear Mr. Dunne:

This is in response to your letter of August 29, 1975, addressed to Mr. Powell of our Baton Rouge Area Office, regarding the use of photosensitive (variable tint) lenses in eye protection.

The four questions you asked shall be answered in the same order.

Question 1: Is the intent of the standard purposely designed to exclude variable tint lenses?

Answer: Yes, at this time the lenses cannot meet the requirements of ANSI Z87.1-1968, as adopted by OSHA eye protection standards.

Question 2: Can variable tint lenses be classified as "clear" lenses by OSHA?

Answer: The only area the OSHA classifies "clear" lenses is where eye protection is required. In this area variable tint lenses would be classified as "clear" lenses by OSHA when these lenses transmit not less than 89 percent of the incident luminous radiation and meet the other requirements of ANSI Z87.1-1968, as adopted by OSHA eye protection standards.

Question 3: If a man is prescribed variable tint lenses by his ophthalmologist, would it be necessary to apply for a variance for this man, assuming the lenses are not in compliance?

Answer: Yes. This answer is based on the assumption that the employee's exposure at the worksite requires compliance with ANSI Z87.1-1968, as adopted by the appropriate OSHA eye protection standard.

Question 4: Would it be wise for a company to recall all variable tint glasses from the field until these issues are settled?

Answer: No. It would be wise to evaluate the employee's exposure at the worksite to ascertain if eye protection is required by OSHA standards. Where eye protection is required, the applicable OSHA standard would apply. Where there is no applicable OSHA standard, Section 5(a)(1) of the Act may apply. An eye exposure to laser beams may be in this category.

The Act provides several ways to seek relief from a particular standard. Section 6(d) of the Act affords an opportunity for an affected employer to apply to the Secretary for a rule or order for a variance from a standard. Section 6(b) of the Act gives the opportunity for an interested person to petition the Secretary to promulgate, modify or revoke any occupational safety and health standard.

OSHA Field Information Memorandum #75-43, dated June 27, 1975, in part, makes the following statement: "The purpose of this memorandum is to remind you that the design, construction, testing and use of devices for eye and face protection must be in accordance with ANSI Z87.1-1968."

In "Section 2 Exceptions" of ANSI Z87.1-1968 the following statement is made: "When reference is made to this standard for statement(s) of compliance with the standard, such statement(s) of compliance must include all performance requirements in their entirety." Emphasis added.

From the foregoing one can conclude that photochromic (variable tint) safety lenses are not in compliance with ANSI Z87.1-1968 and, in turn, not in compliance with related OSHA standards.

A copy of your correspondence with this letter is being forwarded to OSHA's Division of Standards Development for their consideration.

If I may be of any further assistance, please feel free to contact me.


John K. Barto, Chief
Division of Occupational Safety Programming