Protecting the eyes at work when hazardous tasks are being undertaken has never been easier. It is an issue that is increasingly being taken on board by both employers and employees to protect workers’ precious eyes, health and livelihoods.
Nevertheless, even though they can be easily controlled or eliminated, thousands of serious accidents and injuries to the eye are still occurring every year. These are caused either by workers not wearing their protective spectacles or goggles, or by the procurement and use of the wrong type of protection for the job.
There are so many ways that vital and vulnerable eyes can be injured at work causing irreparable damage to workers’ vision. These range from chemical splash, impact from sand, dirt, dust, falling or swinging objects, flying metal or wood chips, cuts to the cornea, vapours, heat and oil, to infrared and ultraviolet radiological hazards and glare.
Each hazard requires a different type of safety glasses or goggle. The correct one can be determined by an assessment of the hazards and risks within the workplace, related to the individual tasks that workers have to perform. Different jobs in different environments carry contrasting risks and therefore may require different lens coatings and types of eyewear for maximum effectiveness.
Mechanics, woodworkers, masons, plumbers, assemblers, sanders, grinding machine operators, welders and labourers are amongst the groups of workers most vulnerable to eye injuries. Healthcare workers are also at risk of infectious diseases entering the eye.
Types of safety eyewear
The suitability of safety eyewear varies with the job and the industry. Wraparound safety glasses are very effective for protecting eyes from mechanical risks such as flying wood or metal particles in a workshop, or in laboratories, where they can protect against possible airborne glass shards.
Safety goggles also provide impact protection but fit more tightly around the eyes, so providing a greater degree of protection from all angles. They are ideal for safeguarding against chemical splash, for example, and are most effective when they have anti-fog coatings, to compensate for the lack of air flow within them. All safety eyewear can be made up to personal prescriptions if required.
The benefits of wearing protective eyewear
Appropriate and properly-fitted safety eyewear:
- Effectively protects workers from hazards and the risk of injury to the eyes from accidents or mistakes
- Improves vision, with high-tech, permanent lens coatings that protect against fogging, UVB/UVA and infrared light, scratching, chemicals, glare, dust sparks and static
- Enables employees to work for longer periods of time without fatigue
- Enhances the maintenance of concentration levels
- Is compatible and can be integrated with other items of PPE, such as respirators, face shields and helmets
- Is lightweight, attractive, extremely comfortable and easy to fit and wear securely, so the worker does not even notice they are wearing it
- Can be tailored to the task in hand
- Gives peace of mind to both employee and employer
- Allows prescriptions for long or short sight to be incorporated, eliminating the need for glasses or contact lenses, although some models can be worn over these
- Ensures the reputation of the business and avoids costly prosecutions
- Need not be expensive when measured across the life of the product.
Cost in use
This last point is an important one, as buyers, constrained by tight or reducing budgets, are often tempted to purchase the (apparently) cheapest safety eyewear on the market from the vast choice available. But taking a long-term view pays dividends in terms of effectiveness, performance, wearer compliance and value for money.
Very often procuring low-cost eyewear ultimately works out much more expensive and time-consuming, because high-calibre and well-maintained eyewear will not need replacing as often as poor-quality equipment, so fewer products will need to be purchased. It’s true that the more money invested in premium eyewear, the more value and the most benefit are gained over time.
Buying fewer, but finer-quality, products is not just about cost-saving. It leads to reduced waste and avoids worn-out equipment going to landfill, thereby improving sustainability and enhancing the organisation’s environmental credentials, brand image and reputation.
Using higher-quality, longer-lasting eyewear also means fewer orders and less stock held on site, while increasing production time, since employees can get on with the job. Lastly, workers are more likely to wear their protection if it is comfortable and does not keep failing, thus minimising risk, improving safety and increasing efficiency. Wearers will also be better disposed to look after it if it is of superior quality, so increasing its durability.
Changes brought about by technology
Safety eyewear has changed hugely in the last few years, thanks to rapid and ongoing advances in technology. Far from being heavy, ugly, cumbersome and unpleasant to wear, they not only look good, it is now so lightweight and comfortable, and provides such clear, unfogged vision as well as reliable impact protection, that workers often aren’t aware they are wearing it.
Many different types of lens are now available including tinted, polarised to reduce glare, varifocals and prescription lenses so that wearers don’t have to wear their eyewear over their glasses.
Hi-tech, permanent lens coatings have been developed. They bring a host of benefits to the wearer, not only improving vision both indoors and outdoors, but also most importantly, protecting against fogging, UVB/UVA and infrared radiation, scratching, chemicals, glare, dust, sparks and static electricity.
The latest coatings with non-stick nano-technology keep the lenses clearer from contamination and for longer, making dust, aqueous, and oily marks easy to remove and increasing the lifespan of the eyewear.
However, coatings must be appropriate to the task in hand. If unsuitable lens coatings are used, unwanted consequences such as eye irritation, lack of compliance and low worker morale, and therefore efficiency, may result.
Modern eyewear boasts many comfort features, such as padded nose and ear rests, soft, adjustable forehead and nose pieces and non-slip side arms, making eyewear even more enjoyable to wear. Today’s attractive, sporty designs make eyewear unrecognisable from the safety specs of old.
Ever-improving standards of testing safety eyewear are also enabled by the latest technology by means of laser measurement, using sand, wire wool and other abrasives, dirt and liquids. Much research and development is being undertaken into lens coatings to improve the condition and longevity of eye protection. Extensive experiments in research laboratories and hands-on trials in workplaces, along with consistent product controls, guarantee the highest level of quality.
There is no point in supplying the best quality eye protection if workers do not wear it or know how to look after it. They need to be trained (and updated) on the type of work situations that require eyewear and on which type is appropriate for each task undertaken.
How to put on, fit, adjust and take off the eyewear is also important to ensure protection and comfort, as is its proper storage, care and maintenance. Accurate fitting is vital, especially when the job in hand involves dust, vapours or chemical hazards. Compatibility with other PPE such as hearing protecting and helmets is also important to ensure they all work properly.
Selecting the right eyewear and appropriate lens coatings is not difficult, and gives the best chance of user compliance, leading to a safer and happier workplace, fewer eye injuries and increased productivity. It’s a benefit all round.
About uvex group
The uvex group brings together three globally active companies under one roof: the uvex safety group, the uvex sports group (with uvex sports and Alpina Sports), and Filtral. The uvex group is represented in 22 countries by 48 subsidiaries but chooses to do most of its manufacturing in Germany and Europe. Two thirds of the company’s 2.600-strong workforce (as at FY 2016/2017) is employed in Germany. uvex is a global partner to international elite sport and equips a host of top athletes. The motto protecting people is at the heart of the company’s activities. uvex group develops, manufactures and distributes products and services for the safety and protection of people at work, in sport and for leisure pursuits.