For many safety managers, eye safety brings to mind ANSI-approved protective eyewear, OSHA requirements for its use, and the specific eye hazards present in their workplace. These are all important considerations to be sure, but another angle is all too often overlooked: the human angle.
Eye injuries occur at an alarming rate averaging 2,000 per day, with 10%-20% of those resulting in temporary or permanent vision loss, according to Prevent Blindness. Such injuries can incur ongoing—even lifelong—medical care and related costs to an individual and diminish his or her ability to earn a living. Eye injuries also impact a person’s ability to carry out daily tasks and participate in the activities they love outside of work, such as hobbies, sports, outdoor pursuits and spending time with family and friends.
The eyes afford us the sense of sight—the sense most people value above all others, according to JAMA. Often referred to as the windows to our world, our eyes enable us to take in the majority of information about our surroundings. Due to their location and delicate, intricate composition, they are also particularly vulnerable to injury.
The good news is, experts agree that as many as 90% of eye injuries can be avoided by using the proper safety eyewear. For safety managers, providing the proper eye protection from a trusted manufacturer is your best defense against becoming a statistic in 2018.
This article explains how to take a holistic view of eye safety this year, including the eyewear manufacturer, their products and innovations and the people you protect. By doing so, your organization can shift its focus toward what really matters: the family members, loved ones and friends who all make up your company’s human capital.
Get to Know Your Manufacturer
Choosing a safety eyewear manufacturer can feel like a leap of faith. Look beyond manufacturers who treat safety eyewear like a commodity. Instead, look for those that show a commitment to eye protection from every angle.
A trusted manufacturer has a proven history of delivering reliable products with a long-standing commitment to research, development and innovation. That means they listen to you, the end-user, to learn what you need, then develop solutions to improve performance, comfort, fit and style.
Does your manufacturer employ scientists who advance the effects of anti-fog and anti-scratch lens coatings, or develop proprietary lens tints for specialized applications? Is it involved in national standards committees to further the protection of workers or sponsor advocacy programs for industrial safety?
Look for a manufacturer that offers customized sample programs so end-users may try spectacles, goggles, or sealed styles before they buy. By selecting a manufacturer that utilizes state-of-the-art order fulfillment processes you can help ensure a rapid response and uninterrupted supply. Finally, look for responsible, hands-on manufacturers; whether in the U.S. or abroad, they should employ dedicated on-site engineers who ensure that all products meet or exceed internal and national quality standards alike.
Look Closely at Their Products
Once you’ve identified a shortlist of reliable manufacturers, shift your focus toward their product offerings. Safety eyewear comes in a multitude of sizes, shapes and styles—with even more options spanning lens tints, lens coatings and more. Protection is the top priority. Make sure that every pair of eyewear you select is marked with the American National Standards Institute’s Z87.1 stamp, which indicates it meets the requirement for industrial-level impact resistance.
In environments with high-impact hazards, consider eyewear that meets the military standard for ballistic impact protection. In electrified environments, dielectric styles must be worn to avoid conducting electricity. Consider all the special environmental hazards present and be sure the eyewear you select is designed to protect against them. If you have any questions, consult the manufacturer.
Don’t overlook the importance of optical clarity. While meeting all protective criteria, safety eyewear must also deliver exceptional optical clarity. Lenses with even imperceptible optical distortions can cause eyestrain, headache, fatigue and even nausea.
Once you’ve determined the appropriate type of eye protection for the application, consider its style. Among today’s increasingly young and diverse workforce, how good safety eyewear looks is as essential as how well it protects. If workers feel their eyewear doesn’t look good they are likely to remove it, even in the presence of hazards.
In a study of more than 1,050 safety managers conducted by Uvex, aggressive styling and three-quarter frame styles ranked at the top. From sport- and sunwear-inspired styles to classic wire frames and close-fitting designs such as over-the-glasses (OTG) eyewear, there’s a stylish safety eyewear offering to meet everyone’s needs.
Focus on the Person You’re Protecting
You’ve identified a trustworthy manufacturer and selected eye protection that meets the needs of each application. Now make sure you’re focused on the person wearing the personal protective equipment (PPE): the fathers, mothers, loved ones and friends you are charged with sending home safe every day.
Start by educating new and existing workers alike on the specific hazards in their environment, how those hazards may impact their eyes and the importance of always wearing safety eyewear among those hazards. Non-compliance is a leading cause of eye injuries, and workers often cite lack of awareness of eye hazards as the reason for their noncompliance. Fostering a culture of safety in which workers hold each other accountable for wearing their PPE will help bolster compliance.
Next, conduct fit tests to ensure eyewear fits each individual properly. Eyewear that moves out of place upon impact will not protect a workers’ eyes. Furthermore, ill-fitting eyewear is uncomfortable, distracting and therefore likely to be removed. Achieve a safe, snug, gap-free fit by selecting the sizes or styles best suited to each individual. Alternately, opt for versatile new styles with customizability features such as flexible multi-material nose pads, angle-adjustable ratcheting temples, flexible wire-core temples or cushioned brow frames, which deliver a personalized fit across the workforce.
Fogging is the biggest challenge faced by workers wearing safety eyewear. Caused by environmental factors like heat and humidity as well as the heat naturally generated by worker exertion, it’s also nearly impossible to avoid. Yet maintaining a fog-free view is vital to workers’ well-being. When tasks are conducted with fog-obscured vision, individuals risk eye injury and bodily harm to themselves and others, as well as damage to equipment or goods.
To combat fog, look for anti-fog coatings that are permanently bonded to the lens, last more than 30 washes, employ dual-action hydrophilic and hydrophobic properties and undergo rigorous batch testing at the point of manufacture to ensure evenly distributed application and to maintain excellent optical clarity. It’s worth the effort to research and identify the best anti-fog coatings and outfit workers with proven solutions to ensure they maintain a clear, safe view of tasks and hazards in every environment.
Finally, don’t overlook eye hazards caused by natural and artificial light. From quick, direct blasts of light such as that from the arc to cumulative exposure to ultraviolet rays, visible and invisible light can cause serious damage to the eyes. Be sure to provide the appropriate lens tints for the lighting in every application indoors and out, and explain the importance of their use.
No employer wants their workers to suffer an eye injury and its devastating effects. When it comes to protecting workers’ vision, there’s more to consider than meets the eye. By taking a holistic view of eye safety—including the manufacturer, the products, and the mothers, fathers, loved ones and friends who rely on them—we can make great strides in reducing occupational eye injuries and improving worker wellbeing.
Wanda Sanchez-Miller is senior product marketing manager for Honeywell Safety and Productivity Solutions’ Uvex Safety Eyewear Business, a provider of protective eyewear.