It can be said without debate that current use of eye protection in the workplace has long been driven by OSHA regulations and by employers practicing good risk management. Yet every day an estimated 1,000 eye injuries occur in American workplaces and the financial cost of these injuries are enormous - more than $300 million per year in lost production time, medical expenses and workers comp.
Employees have long thought of eye protection usage as a mandate and typically only consider the benefits of wearing protection after an accident occurs.
While the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that nearly 60 percent of workers injured reported are not wearing eye protection at the time of the accident, the other 40 percent of those injured were wearing some form of eye protection at the time the accident occurred.
Eye protection has long been uncomfortable, ill-fitting and manufactured without thought or consideration for the varied needs of the user. Today, advancements in safety features and the drive for making eyewear more comfortable and adjustable for the individual wearer, make compliance in the workplace an easier task for the user.
All of these choices, however, do create an unintended consequence: With so many choices, how do I choose the right kind of eye protection?
Analyze the environmental threats. It is of outmost importance that every risk is considered, analyzed and matched to the appropriate eyewear product.
Consider not just impact protection, but also chemical splash exposure, airborne dust and particulates, heat exposure and optical radiation (light). Every risk, no matter how small, should be treated with equal importance.
Match the threat with protection features. The fleet maintenance professional’s toolbox has many tools that at first glance perform the same function, but you know different, right? The same goes for eye protection.
The toolbox should have more than one pair of safety glasses, goggles or full-face mask protectors, because you will not find one product that will meet all of your needs.
The American National Standards Institute’s Z87.1-2010 standard for safety eyewear goes a long way toward defining how a product should perform. However, it is important to look for “beyond compliance” features that will ensure a product will afford the greatest level of protection for the user, while at the same time providing comfort, fit and style that drive compliance from the wearer.
Don’t skimp on safety. There is an abundance of low-cost, sub-standard products that lack proper certification from a third-party testing and certification center.
As a manufacturer, this can be costly. But ultimately it assures the user of the quality of the product, as well as ensures that the manufacturer is committed to providing the safest products on the market.
Special features to accommodate every user. Talk to a safety professional for assistance with the different features available.
For safety eyeglasses, consider lens tinting options for indoors and outdoors, as well as tinting that offers protection while cutting and grinding steel.
Careful consideration must be given to fit and comfort, and features such as extended and ratcheting temples, wide, narrow or adjustable nosepieces may require you to try before you buy.
Reader options are now available for safety eyeglasses that offer magnification levels for most users.
You may want to consider a prescription safety eyewear program, offered by many safety distributors.
Women in the workplace also deserve eye protection with a fit that is optimized for their features, and offers a more feminine look.
For cutting and grinding steel, consider eyewear with foam lining that meets Fire Retardant (FR) standards, and lenses that offer IR (infrared radiation) 3.0 or 5.0 protection, depending on the use.
For chemical splash and hazardous contaminant safety goggles, proper fit around the face and the appropriate venting and air circulation options are highly important considerations.