The (Rx) Safety Net

New eyewear offerings and emerging technologies enhance a growing field


When it comes to prescription safety eyewear, protection is paramount. So, the fact that some of these products also look good is a bonus, and, Rx safety companies say, an important advantage to compliance among Rx safety customers and companies.

“Customers are requesting better comfort along with enhanced protection, and many people want to look good in their prescription safety eyewear,” said Scott Freeman, vice president, Hirshland Optical, an Orefield, Penn.-based dispenser of prescription safety eyewear that services employers of all shapes and sizes. “Many frame manufacturers have gotten on board with frames that provide full coverage, not frames and side shields that leave gaps.”

These new product offerings—coupled with industry initiatives designed to make the dispensing and delivery of prescription eyewear easier and more efficient—have kept the business, as Freeman calls it, a “consistent revenue generator” for specialty retailers, eyecare practices and optical shops.

So what’s new in safety eyewear, and how can it help your business?

Talking Trends: Wraps, Customization and Computer Users
As with any product category in optical, it is incumbent upon dispensers to remain up-to-date on the latest design and material trends—and ensure that their inventories remain so as well.

In prescription safety eyewear, according to executives at wholesale optical lab and supplier Walman Optical, there has been a “significant uptick in wrap frames” offering enhanced side shields in 2017, and more of the same is expected in 2018 as well. This influx of new wrap styles has led to a related increase in wearer demand for anti-fog treatments and digital lenses, with patients seeking “enhanced optics in a 6- or 8-base frame.”

Notably, Walman Optical has also increased demands from employers with safety eyewear programs for computer eyewear and blue-light protection options for their employees. Indeed, as industry and business continue to evolve, eyewear designed to meet the unique vision needs of office workers—particularly those who spend significant time on computers and/or hand-held devices (in other words, the majority of workers, at this point)—will continue to increase in prominence.

Walman Optical’s ProLens Protect
program offers a frame and lens
package for sun, sport and home
safety applications.
With that in mind, Walman Optical executives told VM that the company has plans for 2018 to develop “customizable” industrial eyewear programs that can be tailored to the individual needs of its customers—both ECPs as well as company accounts. In addition, the company will be placing a greater emphasis on the use of Trivex as its material of choice for prescription protective eyewear, particularly in “digital” lens designs, while continuing to add to new frame and lens options to its industrial safety eyewear line.

In 2017, Walman Optical released its ProLens Protect program, a frame and prescription-lens package for sun, sport and home safety geared toward ECPs seeking to educate private-pay patients on the importance of eye protection for a variety of occupational and leisure activities.

Meanwhile, Wiley X, which designs and manufactures protective eyewear for military, law-enforcement as well as civilians and workers needing on-the-job protection, has introduced a number of new products for 2018, including the WX WAVE and WX TITAN Climate Control Series, which features a number of lens and frame design combinations (some outfitted with polarization and/or mirror coatings, in various colors); the WX ACE and WX KOBE Active Lifestyle Series, which features polarized lenses (with various tint options available) in black matte frames; and the WX HAYDEN and WX KLEIN Active Lifestyle Series, which features polarized and non-polarized lenses in various tints in metal aviator frames.

The Marker, from Wiley X, is part of the WorkSight line, which offers high-fashion frames that can be modifi ed into safety eyewear with the addition of side shields.
All of these styles are designed to provide eye protection in a variety of settings, and are Rx-able. The company has also introduced the WX EPIC WorkSight line, which commercial sales director Rob Maser describes as “beautiful dress frames that also double as safety frames when custom side shields are attached,” such as the Marker. Available frame styles include matte black, matte hickory brown and gloss black demi.

Finally, Wiley X has also expanded the color offerings in a number of existing lines, such as the SLAY Active Lifestyle Series (which now includes a polarized emerald mirror lens in gloss demi frame), the WX OMEGA Active Lifestyle Series (which now includes polarized crimson mirror and polarized green platinum flash lenses in a matte black frame) and the WX SAINT Changeable Series (which now includes polarized blue mirror lenses in a matte black frame).

Hilco has expanded its OnGuard line of industrial safety eyewear to include nylon frames in “camo.” Many of the frames can be augmented with optional side shields.
Similarly, Hilco’s “OnGuard” line of industrial safety eyewear features a growing array of frame and lens options for those with prescription protection needs, either at work or for play. Designed and manufactured according to ANSI Z87.1 and CSA Z94.3 standards for protective eyewear, the OnGuard line offers an array of materials, colors and styles, as well as lens and lens treatment options.

Newer styles include nylon frames in “camo,” and many of the frames can be augmented with optional side shields. Other frame material options include titanium and flex titanium, as well as wrap and “non-conductive designs.” Lens options include plano, prescription and sun, the latter of which have been manufactured according to ANSI Z80.3 standards.

Kenmark’s style W036 features a molded, clear polycarbonate front with side shield protection and comes in a variety of colors.
Kenmark Eyewear is another frame maker that continues to expand and refine its safety eyewear collections. “In 2018, we will be building off the success of the five new launches in 2017, with the W036 really being the direction modern safety eyewear is heading,” said marketing director Marissa Cundiff.

“The style features a molded, clear polycarbonate front with side shield protection, a TR90-injected nylon top brow and temples that are double injected with rubber feature a core wire in the tip for ease of adjustment. This style comes with a vented rubber nose pad to offer the utmost in comfort and fit as well as a detachable foam sweat bar that snaps into the interior of the nylon top brow. The sport-styled rectangular shape fits a variety of face types and its four-color range offers up a pink coloration for women,” she said.

Making Safety Simpler
Although the vast majority of independent ECPs and eyewear retailers dispense prescription protective eyewear—83 percent in 2017, according to figures from Jobson Optical Research’s Sport Eyewear MarketPulse study—the category can be challenging, what with the need to navigate patients’ insurance as well as varying employer requirements for safety.

However, several vendors in the safety space have taken steps to make prescription eyewear fulfillment easier for providers, wearers and employers alike. Eyelation, which assists companies in the establishment and ongoing management of prescription safety eyewear programs for their employees, has launched a novel product-ordering platform for its customers. The web-based platform, which enables customers to submit prescription safety-eyewear orders online, via their mobile devices, is designed to further streamline and automate the ordering process.

According to Eyelation CEO and founder Brad Kirschner, the new ordering system is designed to serve as an adjunct to the company’s popular kiosk program. Developed for larger companies and facilities with significant safety eyewear needs, Eyelation’s kiosks are placed on-site, providing employees with 24/7 access to a wide array of prescription products. The kiosk’s on-board software guides users through the ordering and, if applicable, insurance claim processes. Kirshener told VM that, to date, more than 500 companies are using the kiosks.

“With the new, web-based system, we are trying to make it easier for smaller and medium-sized companies to have access to our ordering and benefit management systems,” he added.

Kirschner, whose family owns an optometry practice in suburban Chicago, noted that the company is also “trying to foster a more collaborative environment” between companies with safety eyewear needs and ECPs in their local areas. Companies working with Eyelation have the option of having their employees notified by email with reminders as to when they are due for new prescription safety eyewear, and refer them to a single ECP for an eye exam.

(Top) The Hoya F9800 W-BC SS Smoke features side shields. (Bottom) Hoya’s stylish Attitude 6 Brown Black with Tortoise.
Speaking of ECPs, Hoya executives said the company will leverage the 3M safety prescription eyewear business unit, which it acquired earlier this year and renamed the Hoya Safety Division, to better serve the three Os, laboratories and companies needing prescription eye protection through two programs: Eyes On Safety, which is designed to serve as a vehicle to grow the ECPs’ business in their local markets, and the company’s comprehensive network of ECPs who provide dispensing services for many large companies across the U.S. Eyes on Safety is an initiative in which Hoya assists ECPs in the development of a safety program.

The company plans to expand the program significantly in 2018. According to Bruce Scott, general manager for Hoya’s prescription safety business unit, both programs are designed to help ECPs market their practice and capture second pair sales as well as new business from the family members of safety eyewear clients.

“Work has been returning to the U.S. and the rate of off-shore displacement has reduced,” said Scott. “This is good for all in the safety eyewear market.” Scott believes safety Rx is a valuable opportunity for ECPs, because “it provides a simple avenue to market their business to prospective patients at no expense.”