Are Firefighters Allowed To Wear Glasses?

Working as a firefighter isn’t your typical job. Tasks performed while on duty have physical demands and require your body to be functioning at peak condition. Because of this, there are certain requirements needed for applicants looking to pursue a career in firefighting and vision is one of them. So let’s find out, are firefighters allowed to wear glasses?

Are firefighters allowed to wear glasses? Yes, firefighters are allowed to wear glasses when they are not responding to a fire. Firefighters who need glasses have the option of wearing contacts or having eyeglass lenses mounted inside their masks.

Needing eyeglasses shouldn’t be, and isn’t in most cases, something that would disqualify someone from having a fulfilling career as a firefighter. There are some special considerations that need to be taken into consideration, however, as well as criteria that disqualifies a small portion of candidates. The criteria is put into place to ensure that candidates whose vision would put them at risk for potential danger while working keeps them from working as firefighters.

Disqualifying Criteria

Of course, there are some people that can potentially be disqualified from becoming a firefighter. For instance, someone with poor vision even while using corrective lenses should not become a firefighter. Don’t be discouraged! With modern technology, in most cases, corrective surgery can improve a person’s vision greatly and bring it to a level that would allow the candidate to become a firefighter.

To quote the National Fire Protection Association, the standard is “far visual acuity less than 20/40 binocular, corrected with contact lenses or spectacles, or far visual acuity less than 20/100 binocular for wearers of hard contacts or spectacles, uncorrected.” So, in a nutshell, if the candidate’s vision is less than those standards, corrective surgery will need to be completed prior to becoming a firefighter.

Wearing Glasses On Duty

Providing they don’t meet the disqualifying criteria discussed above, a person that needs to wear eyeglasses is able to work as a firefighter. During the hiring process, candidates will take a vision exam to determine it’s safe for them to do the tasks required of a firefighter. Once a candidate passes the eye exam, they will need to maintain the vision standards after being hired.

Can’t Wear Them To A Fire

When responding to a fire call, firefighters wear a self-contained breathing apparatus or SCBA. The SCBA is what keeps the firefighter breathing clean air when in an environment with smoke or dangerous chemicals. The SCBA consists mainly of a mask, tubing, and a wearable air tank. The mask worn is specifically fitted to each firefighter to create a tight seal. It’s important the mask has a tight seal so the firefighter doesn’t breath in anything other than clean air from their tank. Thus, the reason glasses can’t be worn when working at a fire scene. The brackets of the glasses break the seal around the mask and therefore put the firefighter in danger by exposing them to the air in the environment.

You Will Need To Adapt

Due to not being able to wear glasses while wearing the mask and responding to fire calls, people that require glasses will need to adapt a little bit to be able to safely do the job. For some, this means wearing contacts while for others, it may mean they need corrective surgery before being considered as an applicant. The adoptions needed are largely dependent on the level of vision and preference of the firefighter.

Lens Mounting Kits

Lens mounting kits make it so that prescription lenses can be affixed inside of the mask worn by firefighters when responding to and fighting fires. Once the lens has been mounted, they stay inside the mask so the firefighter will be prepared when a fire call comes in. Critical time is saved and after mounting, it’s very low maintenance. Having the lens mounted inside the mask is a great and reliable method of maintaining vision standards. Lens mounting kits are available for the majority of SCBA manufacturers. If hired by a department, normally they will supply you with the mounting kit or cover the cost if not.

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Contact Lenses

Wearing contact lenses while on shift is the most widely used method among firefighters. Most contacts can’t be worn at night but there are a couple of options that are able to be worn 24 hours a day. Wearing overnight contacts is the easiest option for shift work. Simply put them in upon arrival to work and they will last the entire 24-hour shift.

Candidates are encouraged to check their department’s protocol on contact lenses. Some departments don’t allow firefighters to wear contacts while on duty for fear that they may melt while working inside of a burning building. That being said, firefighters have worn contacts for their entire careers and never run into a problem. Check safety instructions on the contact lenses for more information.

Lasik Surgery

Although one of the most evasive methods compared to the other options already discussed, Lasik surgery has an extreme benefit and upside for someone with poor vision. The risk/reward for surgery is much in the patient’s favor. As pointed out earlier, if the candidate has what is called a “Category B” disqualifying condition – meaning less than 20/40 vision while wearing corrective lenses, Lasik surgery is the only option. Ideally, the surgery will improve the candidate’s vision enough to be eligible for employment. Many people have had much success with Lasik surgery and advocate highly in favor of it.

Glasses Firefighters Wear On Duty

There isn’t a one size fits all type of glasses for firefighters. There are so many different situations and environments firefighters can potentially find themselves in so they must be prepared for anything and have the right equipment for it. Here are the main types of eye equipment that’s necessary for firefighters that are on duty.

Safety Glasses

When firefighters aren’t responding to fires, they are responding to other emergencies. This includes car accidents, medical emergencies, and lift assists. For these type of calls, all firefighters – not only firefighters requiring glasses for vision, need to wear safety glasses to protect their eyes from unwanted exposures. Firefighters that require corrective lenses wear safety glasses that have been made to their prescription lens need. Prescription safety goggles are readily available in several different styles. These glasses or goggles are the most worn among the firefighters.

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Sunglasses

When working outdoors in the sun, firefighters need protection from the sun. To do this and to enhance their vision on the scene of the incident, firefighters wear sunglasses, often polarized. As is the case with safety goggles, firefighters that require corrective lenses need prescription-grade sunglasses that meet their individual needs.

Light Duty and Reading Glasses

There are other tasks required by firefighters that don’t involve physical activity or exposure to dangerous elements. Firefighters are also responsible for writing incident reports and reading up on new practices in the treatment of patients. These tasks don’t require heavy-duty eye protection. Firefighters doing these types of activities can wear standard glasses or their everyday glasses. It is recommended to have a strap on the glasses to be hands-free and to avoid misplacing them. 

Old School Thought Process

There are some firefighters out there (we all know a few) who are stuck in their ways and stubborn to a certain point. Some firefighters who wear glasses do nothing to adapt and wear nothing inside their masks. They are under the mindset that it’s difficult to see through the mask anyway when it fogs up and there is smoke everywhere, so they do nothing to enhance their vision while wearing their SCBA mask. This way of thinking is irrational and should be discouraged. Anything that can be done to improve someone’s vision should be done. Firefighters should take the necessary steps and precautions to protect and improve their vision.

Interested to know what kind of schooling firefighters need? Check out this article: https://civilservicehq.com/firefighter-math-test-practice-7-tips-and-tricks/

Declining Vision

In some cases, vision problems can become progressively worse. In the worst of cases, prescription glasses nor surgery improve or stop the problem from getting worse. In situations where firefighters have already been hired and are working if their vision declines to a level that’s unsafe, the firefighter is taken out of the field. Some departments do their best to find firefighters in this situation a light-duty job that they are capable of. If nothing is available or the firefighter is no longer to work anymore, they will be forced to retire. Disability would undoubtedly be offered along with any pension the fire department may offer.

Related Questions

Are you able to be a firefighter if you’re colorblind?

Yes, being colorblind doesn’t disqualify someone from working as a firefighter.

Can you be a firefighter if you have asthma?

Yes, people with asthma are eligible to become firefighters if their asthma is under control. It is the firefighter’s responsibility to control their condition.

Are police officers allowed to wear glasses?

Yes, you are able to wear glasses or contact lenses while working as a police officer.

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Please note: This blog post is for educational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. Please consult a legal expert to address your specific needs.