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Preventing Eye Injuries

Published: 03rd May 2012

Every day an estimated 1,000 eye injuries occur in American workplaces. The financial cost of these injuries is enormous - more than $300 million per year in lost production time, medical expenses and workers’ compensation. No dollar figure can adequately reflect the personal toll these accidents take on the injured workers.

What contributes to eye injuries at work?

Take a moment to think about possible eye hazards at your workplace. A survey by the Labor Department’s Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) of about 1,000 minor injuries reveals how many on the job accidents occur.

• Not wearing eye protection - BLS reports that nearly three out of every five workers injured were not wearing eye protection at the time of the accident

• Wearing the wrong kind of eye protection for the job - About 40 percent of the injured workers were wearing some form of eye protection when the accident occurred

What causes eye injuries?

• Flying particles - BLS found that almost 70 percent of the accidents studied resulted from flying or falling objects or sparks striking the eye. Injured workers estimated that nearly three-fifths of the objects were smaller than a pinhead. Most of the particles were said to be travelling faster than a hand thrown object when the accident occurred

• Contact with chemicals - caused one-fifth of the injuries. Other accidents were caused by objects swinging from a fixed or attached position, like tree limbs, ropes, chains or tools which were pulled into the eye while the worker was using them

Where do accidents occur most often?

• Craft work; industrial equipment operation - Potential eye hazards can be found in nearly every industry, but BLS reported that more than 40 percent of injuries occurred among craft workers, like mechanics, repairers, carpenters and plumbers

• More than a third of the injured workers were operatives such as assemblers, sanders and grinding machine operators. Labourers suffered about one-fifth of the eye injuries. Almost half the injured workers were employed in manufacturing; slightly more than 20 percent were in construction

How can eye injuries be prevented?

• Always wear effective eye protection - To be effective, eyewear must be appropriate for the hazard encountered and properly fitted

• Better training and education - BLS reported that workers were hurt while doing their regular jobs. Workers injured while not wearing protective eyewear most often said they believed it was not required by the situation. Even though the vast majority of employers furnished eye protection at no cost to the employees, about 40 percent of the workers received no information on where or what kind of eyewear should be used

• Maintenance - Eye protection devices must be properly maintained. Scratched and dirty devices reduce vision, cause glare and may contribute to accidents

Description and use of eye/face protectors

• Glasses - Protective eye glasses are made with safety frames, tempered glass or plastic lenses, temples and side shields which provide eye protection from moderate impact and particles encountered in job tasks such as carpentry, woodworking, grinding or scaling. Safety glasses are also available in prescription form for those persons who need corrective lenses

• Goggles - Vinyl framed goggles of soft, pliable body design provide adequate protection from many hazards. These goggles are available with clear or tinted lenses, perforated, port vented or non vented frames. Single lens goggles provide similar protection to spectacles and may be worn in combination with spectacles or corrective lenses to ensure protection along with proper vision. Welders’ goggles provide protection from sparking, scaling or splashing metals and harmful light rays. Lenses are impact resistant and are available in graduated shades of filtration. Chipper or grinder goggles provide eye protection from flying particles. The dual protective eyecups house impact resistant clear lenses with individual cover plates

• Face shields - These normally consist of an adjustable headgear and face shield of tinted or transparent acetate or polycarbonate materials, or wire screen. Face shields are available in various sizes, tensile strength, impact or heat resistance and light ray filtering capacity. Face shields will be used in operations when the entire face needs protection and should be worn to protect eyes and face against flying particles, metal sparks and chemical or biological splash

• Welding shields - These shield assemblies consist of: 1. Vulcanised fibre or glass fibre body. 2. A ratchet/button type adjustable headgear or cap attachment. 3. A filter and cover plate holder. These shields will be provided to protect workers’ eyes and face from infrared or radiant light burns, flying sparks, metal spatter and slag chips encountered during: 1. Welding. 2. Brazing. 3. Soldering. 4. Resistance welding. 5. Bare or light shielded electric arc welding. 6. Oxyacetylene welding. 7. Cutting operations.

Looking at the standard - general requirements

While these will obviously vary from country to country or, as in the case of the Middle East, sometimes even from emirate to emirate, in the United States the employer must ensure that each affected employee uses appropriate eye or face protection when exposed to eye or face hazards from flying particles, molten metal, liquid chemicals, acids or caustic liquids, chemical gases or vapours, or potentially injurious light radiation. The employer must ensure that each affected employee uses eye protection that provides side protection when there is a hazard from flying objects. Detachable side protectors, e.g. clip on or side on shields, meeting the pertinent requirements of the PPE standard are acceptable. The employer must ensure that each affected employee who wears prescription lenses while engaged in operations that involve eye hazards, wears eye protection that incorporates the prescription in its design, or wears eye protection that can be worn over the protection lenses without disturbing the proper position of the prescription lenses or the protective lenses. The employer must ensure that each affected employee uses equipment with filter lenses that have a shade number appropriate for the work being performed for protection from injurious light radiation.

Criteria for protective eye and face devices

Protective eye and face devices purchased after July 5, 1994, must comply with any of the last three national consensus standards, e.g. ANSI Z87.1-1989, ANSI Z87.1-2003 or ANSI Z87.1-2010 ‘American National Standard Practice for Occupational and Educational Eye and Face Protection’. Eye and face protective devices purchased before July 5, 1994, must comply with ANSI ‘USA Standard for Occupational and Educational Eye and Face Protection’, Z87.1-1968, or must be demonstrated by the employer to be equally effective. Eye and Face PPE must be distinctly marked to facilitate identification of the manufacturer.


Employees whose occupation or assignment requires exposure to laser beams should be furnished with laser safety goggles which will protect for the specific wavelength of the laser and be of optical density adequate for the energy involved.

What about emergencies?

Emergency eyewash facilities meeting the requirements of ANSI Z358.1-2009 must be provided in all areas where the eyes of any employee may be exposed to corrosive materials. All such emergency facilities will be located where they are immediately accessible in an emergency.

Selection chart guidelines for eye and face protection

Some occupations - not quite a list - for which eye protection should be routinely considered are: carpenters, electricians, machinists, mechanics and repairers, millwrights, plumbers and pipe fitters, sheet metal workers and tinsmiths, assemblers, sanders, grinding machine operators, lathe and milling machine operators, sawyers, welders, labourers, chemical process operators and handlers, and timber cutting and logging workers. The following chart provides general guidance for the proper selection of eye and face protection to protect against hazards associated with the listed hazard ‘source’ operations. Notes to eye and face protection selection chart: 1. Care should be taken to recognise the possibility of multiple or simultaneous exposure to a variety of hazards. Adequate protection against the highest level of each of the hazards should be provided. Protective devices do not provide unlimited protection. 2. Operations involving heat may also involve light radiation. As required by the standard, protection from both hazards must be provided. 3. Face shields should only be worn over primary eye protection - spectacles or goggles. 4. As required by the standard, filter lenses must meet the requirements for shade designations in 1910.133(a)(5). Tinted and shaded lenses are not filter lenses unless they are marked or identified as such. 5. As required by the standard, persons whose vision requires the use of prescription (Rx) lenses must wear either protective devices fitted with prescription (Rx) lenses or protective devices designed to be worn over regular prescription (Rx) eyewear. 6. Wearers of contact lenses must also wear appropriate eye and face protection devices in a hazardous environment. It should be recognized that dusty and/or chemical environments may represent an additional hazard to contact lens wearers. 7. Caution should be exercised in the use of metal frame protective devices in electrical hazard areas. 8. Atmospheric conditions and the restricted ventilation of the protector can cause lenses to fog. Frequent cleansing may be necessary. 9. Welding helmets or face shields should be used only over primary eye protection - spectacles or goggles. 10. Non-side shield spectacles are available for frontal protection only, but are not acceptable eye protection for the sources and operations listed for ‘Impact’. 11. Ventilation should be adequate, but well protected from splash entry. Eye and face protection should be designed and used so that it provides both adequate ventilation and protects the wearer from splash entry. 12. Protection from light radiation is directly related to filter lens density. See note 4. Select the darkest shade that allows task performance.

Relevant training a must

According to the PPE standard, to meet minimum requirements, each employee receiving PPE training must be trained to know at least the following: 1. When PPE is necessary. 2. What PPE is necessary. 3. How to properly don, doff, adjust and wear PPE. 4. The limitations of the PPE. 5. The proper care, maintenance, useful life and disposal of the PPE. So far, we meet minimum OSHA requirements - but one very important element is missing: 6. The PPE standard does not specifically require education of ‘why’ PPE is necessary. So, why is this element so important? Because study after study tells us the most common reason employees don’t follow rules in the workplace is because they don’t know why the rules are important. Educate the ‘why’ as well as the ‘how’ Demonstration is the key Before an employee is allowed to do work requiring PPE, the employer must require each affected employee to:

• Demonstrate an understanding of the training elements listed above

• Demonstrate their ability to use PPE properly Demonstration is really the most common and probably the most effective method to determine employee knowledge and skills, How does the employee demonstrate an understanding of the six PPE training subjects listed above? Simple. Their level of knowledge is measured by asking the employee questions similar to those listed below:

1. What PPE is required for your particular job?

2. When is the PPE required to be used in your job?

3. What are the possible defects your PPE might have?

4. How do you properly care for and maintain/store your PPE?

5. What is the useful life of your PPE?

6. From what hazards does the PPE protect you? The form of the ‘test’ may be either written or oral. If you are training a number of employees, you should give them a written test to best measure individual knowledge. It’s also the intent of most OSHA law that knowledge be measured by written exams. In addition to the oral or written test, the standard requires some kind of method that provides an opportunity for the employee to demonstrate adequate skills.

Other methods

The most common training strategy used in the workplace is ‘On The Job’ training (OJT) - and for good reason. OJT can be very effective because it tests both knowledge and skills during the training process. Online training is also an option, and of course re-training should always be consider in instances where:

• There have been changes in the workplace rendering previous training obsolete

• There have been changes in the types of PPE to be used which render previous training obsolete

• There are inadequacies in an affected employee’s knowledge or use of assigned PPE which indicate that the employee has not retained the requisite understanding or skill

Who should conduct the training?

This is a very important question. Whoever the person training PPE is, he or she needs to be an expert who not only understands how to use PPE correctly, but has a thorough understanding of the importance of doing so. It’s critical that the employee understands the importance of wearing PPE, not only for their safety, but their ‘continuing employment’.

In conclusion

The use of PPE should be considered a last resort when offset against procedures such as making a hazard assessment, and then ensuring all engineering controls are in place to reduce risk. When the use of PPE is deemed necessary, it is obviously important to gain worker compliance in wearing it and to ensure employees have the correct training in place to ensure that this is achieved. This applies as much to the use of eye protection as to any other kind of PPE - maintaining worker safety being pivotal to successful business operations.

Published: 03rd May 2012 in Health and Safety Middle East

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