How to specify suitable safety eyewear

Published:  30 August, 2019

Clair Weston, uvex marketing manager, takes a look at how to specify the most suitable safety eyewear for the wearer.

Workplace risk is an acknowledged reality but the implementation of a well thought through safety policy will significantly reduce such risk. Our eyesight is precious and demands the selection and provision of high-quality safety eyewear which not only ‘protects’ but which enhances wearer compliance due to excellent comfort and fit features. It’s clear that high quality personal protective equipment (PPE) can significantly reduce the high real cost of personal injury (productivity, litigation and income) while enabling more people to return to their families safe and sound.

Despite the availability of high-quality safety eyewear, the frequency of incidents directly affecting the eyes and eyesight, is alarmingly high. The evidence indicates that this is largely due to inappropriate safety eyewear being used or that eyewear is not being worn at all. Both causes are avoidable.

Eye injuries sustained in the workplace can be caused by a multitude of factors including the ingress of airborne materials, chemical splash, direct impact from any number of materials and from the environment, namely ultraviolet light and glare. The combination of a wide range of tasks carried out in diverse workplace environments create the potential for multiple risks, which, if possible should be ‘engineered out’, but where this is not the case, job specific risk assessments should define the type of safety eyewear to be worn.

Types of eyewear

Safety eyewear is primarily classified as either spectacles or goggles and for a very good reason – it is predominantly about the level of impact protection each provides. Safety prescription eyewear is available in both spectacles and goggles. Laser protection eyewear is available from selected manufacturers.

Safety spectacles certified to the core EN166 standard, provide protection against low energy impact, specifically up to 45 meters per second. Safety goggles properly certified to EN166 provide medium energy impact protection, specifically up to 120 meters per second and should be regarded as the mandatory option for those using high power tools such as nail guns or angle grinders. In contrast, safety spectacles are not recommended for use for such applications.

Safety goggles are equally recommended where the task involves the risk of chemical or molten metal splash, exposure to gases or vapours which could be harmful to the eyes or environments where there is a high degree of airborne particulates.

Choosing the right safety eyewear

So, how do you choose the right eyewear? Employers have a duty of care to ensure that workers are provided with appropriate PPE wherever the risk assessment defines that as necessary. There are several areas for consideration when selecting eyewear suitable for your workforce.

The first and most vital thing to remember is that one size does not fit all. Head and facial shapes all differ requiring a range of eyewear from which employees can select. Involvement in this process not only ensures a proper fit, crucial for the wearer’s safety, it also increases the likelihood that eyewear stays worn throughout the working day. A good fit also takes into consideration the ‘wearability’ of safety eyewear, which should include the following:

Eyewear should deliver a low-pressure, lightweight fit with even weight distribution. Injection-moulded hard and soft components around the brow, nose and on side arms not only increases comfort but ensures eyewear stays put. Adaptable features such as lens inclination and extendable side arms allow wearers to achieve the ultimate close fit (to keep hazards out) and find a position that means they can work comfortably, confidently and with as little distraction as possible.

Lens optical quality reduces eye strain, fatigue and headaches (optical class 1). Lenses with excellent optical quality are free of aberrations and imperfections – allowing the wearer to see using as close to natural vision as possible. Low-quality safety eyewear can result in poor optical clarity, one of the biggest factors in eye fatigue due to tiny distortions in the lens.

The type of environment in which the work is undertaken should influence the lens shade(s) selected. For example, are employees working indoors under harsh, bright lights? Are people frequently moving between indoors and outdoors, between light and shaded areas or are they working outside in the sunshine where the intensity of the sun can be a hazard in itself? The selection of lens tint that is right for the environment together with the highest quality of lens engineering and performance all positively affects compliance.

Compatibility with other PPE such as respirators, hearing protection or helmets should also be taken into consideration.

Let’s talk about fogging

Due to the way that safety glasses or goggles should fit, close to the head keeping dirt and debris out, it can cause moisture build up, especially if the wearer is doing a physical job which can result in the lens fogging. How you choose which coating you need depends on the environment and the application being performed. Some coatings offer anti-fog performance on the inside, where it is most needed, and a scratch-resistant hard coat on the exterior of the lens. Others are anti-fog and scratch resistant on both sides making them suitable for environments with high humidity.

However, not all anti-fog coatings are created equal. The tests conducted for the coating performance are optional tests for manufacturers, requiring the anti-fog coating to perform for a minimum of 8 seconds on first use. Where many coatings fail is in the longevity of the anti-fog performance.

Traditional hydrophobic anti-fog coatings are soap-based, washing off after a handful of cleans, making the eyewear ineffective and unusable. As soon as lens coating performance diminishes, employees try to compensate and compliance drops rendering the eyewear useless. Therefore, it is important to look out for manufacturers of permanent hydrophilic coatings that have been bonded onto the lens and last the life of the eyewear.

When ‘wearability’ is designed into safety eyewear, employees are more likely to keep it where it should be, on their face and in front of their eyes. It is possible for employees to have high-performing, comfortable, properly fitted specs or goggles that keeps dust and debris out, in a style and design to ensure there is something for everyone.

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