Keeping an Eye on Worker Safety - Goggles, Glasses & Face Protectors
It’s all fun and games until someone loses an eye, and an expensive worker’s comp claim is kicked into motion. In the course of the work day, it’s easy to forget to wear safety googles, glasses, or face shields. Ask the 2,000 people a day who injure their eyes on the job. 10 – 20% go blind, either temporarily or permanently. OSHA determined that in 90% of the accidents, the correct eye protection would have prevented the injury.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) notes that 70% of eye injuries at work are caused by flying or falling objects or sparks striking the eye, and estimates that nearly three-fifth of the objects were smaller than a pinhead.
Something as simple as wearing the proper eye protection could prevent 90% of eye injury claims, so why doesn’t anyone want to wear it? There are three main factors, poorly fitting, uncomfortable equipment which hinders vision, little to no training about the proper eyewear, and worker self-consciousness.
You, as the employer, are responsible for making sure your crew has the right eye protection. When it comes to safety glasses, one size doesn’t fit all. Many employees complain about their eye protection not fitting properly. Common complaints include glasses that are too tight, which can lead to headaches, lose fitting glasses that slide off, scratches, and blurry lenses which impede vision, and leads to eye fatigue. In Florida, fogging glasses is a big concern.
If workers are too busy paying attention to adjusting safety glasses, it slows down the speed and overall quality of work. Poorly fitting glasses can be a safety risk too, when the wearer is focused on the glasses and not on the task at hand.
Having adjustable, comfortable eyewear can drastically improve a worker’s compliance to PPE safety rules. When buying safety equipment, employers should take into consideration the suitability for job conditions, and a fair combination of protection and comfort.
Do your workers know what type of eye protection to wear and when? BLS reported that while the vast majority of employers furnished eye protection, about 40% of the workers received no training on when and what kind of eyewear to use. Specific tasks call for the correct eye and face protection. While wearing at least some eyewear helps, the proper type could prevent or minimize injuries even further.
When personal protection equipment is uncomfortable and unattractive, worker compliance drops. The most common excuses are: “They’re uncomfortable.” “I look stupid.” “They look ridiculous.” “I’ve never needed it before.” “It’s not necessary, the employer is just doing a CYA.” “I can’t find it.” “I don’t have the time.” “It won’t happen to me.” “I don’t want to.” “I forgot.”
Excuses stem from avoidance for taking responsibility, why they don’t understand why they should do something, or lack of motivation to change habits.
The most cost effective way (link to article: Personal Protection Equipment: Reducing Costs Not Safety) to make sure your workers are wearing comfortable eye protection is to let them buy the necessary eyewear so it fits properly, and to reimburse the employee for the purchase. If the worker feels like they made the choice based on their comfort and style, they’re more likely to wear it. It gives the worker a sense of control, instead of feeling oppressed or forced.
Another way to get company-wide compliance is to make sure that the supervisors set a clear example, and that the most respected team members wear safety glasses, and talk to their co-workers about why the protection is needed. This makes it clear to the rest of the crew that the right thing to do is to wear protective eyewear.
Tips to Prevent Workplace Eye Injuries
Identify areas and tasks that present eye hazards by inspecting all work areas, tasks and equipment for eye hazards.
Workers need protective eyewear that fits well and is comfortable. Have eyewear fitted by an eye care professional or someone trained to do this. Provide repairs for eyewear and require each worker to be in charge of their own gear.
Have ongoing safety talks to highlight the need for protective eyewear. Add eye safety to your regular employee training programs and to new employee orientation.
Make sure everyone understands not only why they need to wear eye protection, but which type of eyewear is designed for the specific task or hazard.
During training or safety meetings, review your company policy on discipline for failure to use PPE. Talk about how the costs of injuries and downtime will affect them.
If workers get the proper training, understand why they need to wear eye protection, and have a say in choosing it, they’re more likely to take their safety seriously.