Safety Eyewear and Emergency Eyewash: Prevention and Preparation Matter

Non-compliance with protective eyewear and emergency eyewash safety standards is still a serious issue in the workplace, resulting in worker injury and hours of lost productivity. For a worker who partially or completely loses his or her sight, the personal cost of an eye injury is immeasurable in terms of a diminished quality of life, as well as lost wages and medical expenses. What may not be as obvious, though, are the staggering costs a company pays as a result of eye injuries. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that workplace eye injuries can cost employers more than $934 million in direct and indirect costs each year. Taking the proper preventative measures before an accident happens is the first step in protecting employees’ eye health. These measures include understanding regulatory and facility safety requirements, providing and installing the proper equipment and adequately training facility managers and employees to help ensure safety is top of mind.

Choosing the Right Eye Protection

Everybody knows protecting your eyes is important, and eye protection can be a significant and visible first step toward having an effective overall safety program. The first step is to define the requirements and the specific eye protection needs of the workplace environment. This can be achieved through an analysis and hazard assessment of the work areas, job applications, access routes and the equipment itself. There should also be an examination of any past eye accident/injury reports to ensure problem areas have been addressed. Vision testing should also be a part of a company’s safety program, as uncorrected vision can be a contributing factor to injuries.

The eye protection chosen for specific work environments depends upon the nature and degree of the potential hazard, the circumstances of exposure and other personal and workplace factors. The ANSI Z87.1-2010 standard contains a selection chart that can help you choose recommended eye and face protection for particular job applications. This eye and face protection is generally of three different types: safety eyewear (spectacles), goggles or faceshields. The most common form of eye protection is safety spectacles that are designed with side protection and can resist an impact up to 150 feet per second.  For workers who also require vision correction, prescription safety frames with sideshields are also available, as are non-prescription over-the-glass (OTG) styles that can be worn in conjunction with regular prescription eyewear. Second, there are goggles, which form a protective seal around both eyes. There are two basic types of goggles; impact and chemical. Chemical goggles have hooded or indirect ventilation paths protecting the worker from chemical splashes. Impact goggles have direct ventilation holes and protect against direct impact or large particles. In addition, there are faceshields which are used in welding, grinding or sanding applications.  However, faceshields are considered secondary protection and must be worn in conjunction with protective eyewear or goggles.

Impact and splash protection, as mentioned above, are probably the first kind of hazards that come to mind when evaluating safety eyewear, but they are not the only consideration. Protection from types of invisible radiation should also be considered.  Where workers are exposed to harmful glare, ultraviolet or infrared radiation, tinted lenses or special filters are essential for protection. Tinted lenses also enhance visual perception by counteracting light distortion and preventing eye fatigue.  <Read More at Uvex Culture of Safety Blog>