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Scratches and other surface abrasions on protective eyewear can shorten their life cycle by scattering light from the image, which will compromise visual performance. Although scratch and abrasion resistance testing is well developed, there is little information available regarding visual acuity through lenses scratched in an actual work environment.We collected protective eyewear from mine and smelting operations that had been returned because vision through the lenses was unacceptable due to scratches and abrasions. Forward scattered light was measured on both cleaned and partially cleaned lenses using both haze and light diffusion measurements. Visual acuity through a selection of lenses was determined for both high and low contrast letters under photopic light levels.Lenses with scratches in the central region had haze values ranging from one to 30 per cent. The highest haze values were measured on lenses that were both scratched and covered with dirt, whereas haze values less than 10 per cent were measured on lenses that had the dirt removed and just had scratches in the central region. Light diffusion values were highly correlated with haze. Visual acuity for high and low contrast letters became worse as the percentage haze increased but the linear correlation was only moderate.The appearance of the scratches on the lens surfaces strongly suggests that they were a result of improper lens cleaning. The findings also suggest that haze values less than two per cent or a luminance reduction factor less than 3.0 cd/(m2 lx) are unlikely to affect high and low contrast acuity.