Few parts of your body are more important than your eyes, and if they are severely damaged, little can be done to repair them.
This is because our eyes are delicate and sensitive, and can be easily hurt. A hard blow may not necessarily cause injury. In fact, all it takes is a tiny sliver or speck of metal, a particle of dust, or trace of chemical to do a great deal of damage to our eyes.
It’s very important to realise how important our eyes are – we use them in most of our daily activities and without the ability to see, we would be considered disabled, or as having special needs. As a result it is crucial to protect our eyes and keep them safe at all times.
Due to the location of our eyes, I will discuss how to protect both the eyes and face in this feature. It is obvious that using the proper Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) can keep our eyes and face safe and protect them from work associated hazards and injuries. I will try to shed light on the selection of the proper eye and face protective equipment relevant to various workplaces and industries. I will also provide some statistics that show the importance of protecting the eye and how much eye and face injuries can affect a community’s economics negatively.
Since issues of safety standardisation are still emerging in the Middle East, and are not necessarily legally enforced, those of us seeking to establish the ethos of a duty of care to our workforces and, indeed, best practise, are inclined to look towards standards that have already been established, and proven to generate safe outcomes.
When we talk about PPE standards, the United States’ Occupational Safety and Health Administration, or OSHA, is an organisation that readily springs to mind. It is very active in setting and enforcing the standards related to PPE in the workplace in order to benefit both the employer and the employee.
The related OSHA standards for eye and face protection are:
• For General Industry 29 CFR 1910.133
• For Shipyard Employment 29 CFR 1915.153
• For Longshoring 29 CFR 1918.101
•For Construction Industry 29 CFR 1926.102
The American National Standards Institute, or ANSI, also sets standards for eye and face protection which are binding in the US as per the OSHA regulations. ANSI standards are Z87.1-2003, Z87.1-1989 and Z358.1-1998.
In addition, the International Safety Equipment Association, ISEA, is the trade association for the manufacturers of eye and face protection equipment. Usually ISEA members have a seat at the table when standards are being written that affect their products. They get a first look at changes in standards, they influence the development of new standards, and they are kept informed of developments on standards around the world.
ISEA is also represented on the following standards committees and panels:
• ANSI Z49 – Safety in Welding and Cutting
• ANSI Z10 – Committee on Occupational Health and Safety Systems
• ANSI Homeland Security Standards Panel
• ASTM E54 – Committee on Homeland Security Applications • CSA Z94.3 – Technical Committee on Eye Protection
• US Technical Advisory Group to ISO TC94
• Technical Committee for Personnel Safety
• SC 6 Eye and Face Protection
In Canada, the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety, CCOHS, set the required standards for PPE including eye and face protection. Besides CCOHS, the Canadian Standards Association, CSA, as part of its duty of standardisation, sets standards for eye and face protection – Z94.3.1-09.
In the UK, the Health and Safety Executive, HSE, adopted the British standards, BS, and European Standards (Norms), EN. Increasingly, European Standards (prefixed EN – European Norm) are being superseded or subsumed by International Standards (prefixed ISO).
Where these are adopted in the UK, they will also be issued as British Standards and be prefixed BS. The British versions of standards (BS EN, BS ISO or BS EN ISO) may have minor differences from the original versions of the standard.
Standards related and applicable to eye and face protection which are adopted in the UK and the European Union are numerous, and may cover protection from ultraviolet light through to filters against laser radiation. A comprehensive document outlining these has been compiled by the HSE and is available to view online, here: www.hse.gov.uk/foi/internalops/oms/2009/03/om200903app3.pdf
You will notice that the UK and EU establish standards for eye and face protection for both work and leisure activities.
According to Prevent Blindness America, each day more than 2,000 US workers experience eye injuries. Each year about 100,000 of these injuries result in temporary or permanent vision loss. Annually, 62,000 eye injuries result in lost workdays. Up to 90 percent of these injuries could have been minimised by wearing proper eye protection.
The US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that eye injuries result in lost production and high costs – more than $300 million per year – and 37,000 missed workdays. BLS also reported that more than 50 percent of workers injured while wearing eye protection thought the eyewear had minimised their injuries, although nearly half the workers also felt that another type of protection could have better prevented or reduced the injuries they suffered. This is why it is very important to select the appropriate eye and face protection and ensure it is worn during work.
According to NIOSH (the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health), eye injuries are common in all industries, but workers in construction, mining, agriculture, and manufacturing have the highest rates of eye injuries on the job. Men have about 80 percent of work related eye injuries. Among workers treated in an emergency department, men had an eye injury rate four times higher than women. Workers less than 45 years of age have an eye injury rate almost three times higher than older workers. Each day, more than 100 eye injuries result in a day or more of lost work time.
These are alarming statistics, and I’m sure you will agree that they demand a commitment to health and safety. The cost doesn’t need to be extreme, but the cost of allowing unsafe practise, accident down time, insurance costs, as well as poor morale, high staff turnover and missed deadlines can be considerably more. These can affect profitability and in case of small businesses it maybe the difference between survival and going under. It seems to be obvious that health and safety matters and worker’s safety, including eye and face safety, is everyone’s business.
Get it right
Failure to wear eye protection is the key factor in most eye injuries. Wearing the wrong type of eye protection – wearing glasses with no side shields, for example – also contributes to a significant number of incidents.
Look at the following elements when making your selection:
• Identify all potential eye hazards by completing a thorough assessment of the workplace
• Eliminate eye hazards through engineering controls whenever possible – remember that preventive and proactive actions are always much better than reactions
• Use proper eye protection if the hazard cannot be completely eliminated
Eyewear such as goggles, face shields, safety glasses, or full face respirators may also be used when an eye hazard exists. The eye protection chosen for specific work situations depends on the nature and extent of the hazard, the circumstances of exposure, other protective equipment used, and personal vision needs.
Be sure that the eye protection fits, or is adjustable to provide appropriate coverage. It should be comfortable and allow for sufficient peripheral vision. Selection of protective eyewear appropriate for a given task should be made based on a hazard assessment of each activity.
Prescription glasses should never be used as eye protection devices in the workplace. Each employee who wears prescription lenses should wear eye protection over the top of the prescription lenses.
Types of eye hazards
Research conducted by the BLS has shown that almost 70% of eye injuries result from flying or falling objects striking the eye. Nearly three fifths of these objects were smaller than a pinhead and most of the particles were travelling faster than a hand thrown item. The other significant source of eye injuries is chemical contact, which may cause as many as one fifth of all eye injuries.
Eye hazards depend on the type of work you do. Examples include flying objects – maybe the result of spin off from certain types of tools or machinery such as grinding wheels.
Harmful dust particles are often found in many types of workplaces and are especially hazardous for those working in the demolition sector. As mentioned before, chemical splashing or spraying is also a common hazard to eyesight. High intensity heat or light commonly found in industries such as welding, brazing and torch cutting, or direct or reflected sunlight are also well known eye hazards. Again, wearing the proper eye protection can help prevent injuries caused by these factors.
Types of eye protection
All protective eyewear used in the workplace must comply with the related eye and face protection standards, and the appropriate protection selected depending on the workplace and the activity. The primary types of eye protection available for use are as follows:
• Safety glasses or spectacles are the most common form of eye protection. They often look like regular glasses but are equipped with impact resistant frames and lenses. Proper fittings of safety glasses are critical. The closer the eyewear fits to the user’s face, the less potential exists for an object to reach the eye. A good fit is also important because it makes employees more likely to wear safety glasses
• Safety goggles offer the most complete impact protection because they form a seal around the eye area. They are designed to prevent small dust particles and chemical splashes from reaching the eyes. There are three main types of goggles: directly vented, indirectly vented, and non-vented:
1. Directly vented goggles offer protection from impact only and should not be used when a splash or vapour hazard exists.
2. Indirectly vented goggles offer the same impact protection as direct vents, but are ‘capped’ to allow for air movement while preventing the passage of liquid.
3. Non-vented goggles have no venting of any kind and will offer protection against the passage of dusts, mists, liquids and vapours.
• Face shields are intended to protect the entire face, or part of it, from impact hazards such as flying fragments, objects, large chips and particles. They are used when you have a very high chance of exposure to an airborne substance. It should be noted that face shields are not considered a primary form of eye protection. These devices are intended to shield the user’s face from certain hazards and must always be used in conjunction with either safety glasses or goggles.
• Welding helmets protect the user from the intensity of welding light, which can cause severe burns to the eye and surrounding tissue.
Comfort and care
For the PPE to act as protective tool, the safety glasses should fit properly. Eye size, bridge size and temple length all vary. Safety glasses should be individually assigned and fitted.
The safety glasses should also fit comfortably over the ears. The frame should be as close to the face as possible and adequately supported by the bridge of the nose. Maintaining the PPE for eyes and face in good condition is very important and to do so the user has to do the following on a regular basis:
• Clean your safety glasses daily. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions. Avoid rough handling that can scratch lenses as the scratches impair vision and can weaken lenses
• Store your safety glasses in a clean, dry place where they cannot fall or be stepped on. Keep them in a case when they are not being worn
• Replace scratched, pitted, broken, bent or ill-fitting glasses. Damaged glasses interfere with vision and do not provide protection
Fit for purpose
I have adopted one schedule from Z94.3.1-09 Selection, Use and Care of Protective Eyewear by the Canadian Standards Association, 2009 (Table 1). I find it comprehensive and it provides a good guide for the reader in selecting the proper eye and face protection.
Eye and face protective equipment is very effective for guarding against accidents. In view of this there is an obvious anomaly, since injuries continue to be commonplace. The use of appropriate PPE and vigilant enforcement of its use by your workforce is a simple and effective measure to remedy the contradiction.
Published: 26th Feb 2014 in Health and Safety Middle East