Preventing Workplace Eye Injuries
David Roll & Ken Duffie & H.L. Bouton, Plant Safety & Maintenance
Hazards and accidents are most often caused by a combination
of carelessness and unsafe working conditions.
Assessing the workplace, choosing and issuing the proper
safety eyewear and educating employees on the correct use and
storage of their protective eyewear is an excellent start to
an effective safety program. By combining these steps with
safety incentives and corporate policies surrounding the use
of safety eyewear, you will be able to initiate a safety program
that will indeed prevent eye injuries in your workplace.
As an employer, your first step needs to be an assessment
of the workplace. It's your responsibility to conduct a walk-through
survey of work areas to assess possible hazards. Since many
of the jobs in your workplace may not be performed by you,
yourself on a regular basis, employee input can be critical
to completing this survey correctly. If you choose to put someone
else in charge of your safety program, choose wisely. Safety
isn't all common sense, it also has a lot to do with experience
and education. A Certified Safety Professional (CSP) should
be the first individual that comes to mind. You wouldn't hire
a car salesman to rebuild the engine in your car, and likewise
wouldn't want to hire anyone but a professional to fill the
role of safety director.
Next, you must choose the right protective eyewear for each
job. Which hazards a particular job comes in contact with will
determine what type of safety eyewear is needed - spectacles
or goggles. From impact, dust and particles to heat, intense
light, liquids and gases, there are spectacles or goggles that
will adequately protect eyes from injury. In some situations
faceshields are also needed in combination with spectacles
or goggles. Once this is determined, protective eyewear should
be purchased for your employees based on the following:
- Quality - the better it is designed, the longer and better
it will protect.
- Fit - if it doesn't fit properly, it won't protect properly.
- Style - modern styles encourage use and policy compliance.
Comfort - constant adjusting, etc. will inhibit job performance.
- Lens options - do any workers need prescription lenses?
Would they rather wear over-the-glass safety eyewear? Are
anti-fog, anti-glare or indoor/outdoor lenses required?
- Employee feedback - this will make compliance to mandatory
Keeping up to date on OSHA regulations and ANSI standards
is also your responsibility as an employer. It is up to you
to make sure that you are fully aware of these regulations
and standards, and that the spectacles you provide your employees
The issuance of safety eyewear to employees requires more
than a handout. An important thing to remember when issuing
safety eyewear is that in order to put your safety program
into action, you need to communicate and educate your employees.
Merely handing out free safety goggles and glasses and saying "wear
these when you are working or else..." will only get you so
far. Employees need to know why it is important to wear protective
eyewear, and they need you to make it easy for them to do so
effectively. It often helps to recite employee eye injury statistics
to show workers the reality of the hazards around them, and
give them a starting point for improvement.
Concise easy-to-read guidelines should be written, clearly
stating your policies about when protective eyewear should
be worn, by whom, etc. Workers should be encouraged to positively
communicate with each other when they see these policies are
being ignored. You will also need to educate employees about
job hazards and how they can be avoided through proper use
and care of safety eyewear and workplace equipment.
Proper use and storage of safety eyewear:
- Issue free cases, holders and/or straps - cases and holders
serve to protect eyewear from the hazards of the workplace
when they are not being worn. Safety eyewear protects better
when it is in good condition. The longer you can keep it
that way, the more money your company will save in replacement
- Keep them clean - as an employer, make sure there are available
cleaning materials in a convenient location in each work
area so workers won't have to stray too far from their work
station to clean their eyewear. This saves time and makes
it easy for the worker to comply.
- Inspect eyewear frequently - cracks in lenses, loose frames
and missing nose pieces can often contribute to accidents
causing eye injuries. In addition, if a worker is having
trouble seeing what he is doing, or is spending too much
time adjusting his worn out, uncomfortable eyewear, he is
very apt to remove it altogether.
Proper use of machinery and equipment:
- Are operating instructions being followed?
- Are machine guards in place?
- Is a faceshield also needed to aid face and head protection?
- Is enough lighting provided?
- Are the workers concentrating on using the equipment properly?
When words are not enough, it helps to initiate safety incentive
programs and corporate policies surrounding the use of safety
eyewear. As an employer you can't always be there to look over
an employee's shoulder to remind them to wear their safety
eyewear and use their tools and equipment properly. Safety
incentive programs and corporate safety policies should be
in place, used in conjunction with your safety program to prevent
eye injuries in the workplace. There are several types of safety
incentive programs out there; find one you and your employees
agree upon, or create your own. Some of the more popular incentives
are bingo games, monthly drawing contests and quarterly drawing
Whatever the incentive you choose for your employees, make
sure it focuses on the type(s) of behavior you want to change
or improve. If you find yourself unsure of how to prioritize
these behaviors, conduct an accident analysis to determine
what accidents occur most and why. And above all, be sure,
once you have decided on a safety incentive that you publicize
it, over the loud speaker if necessary. If they aren't motivated,
you are doing something wrong. Every step of the way has to
be a motivational tool to preventing eye injuries in the workplace.
While incentives and safety games are motivational because
they are fun, corporate policies surrounding the use of safety
eyewear motivate employees on a different level. Some companies
have gone so far as to make the use of safety eyewear part
of each applicable job description. This says to the employees
that there are no exceptions or excuses for failing to wear
protective eyewear. In order for safety policies and programs
to be taken seriously, safety needs to be categorized as one
of the fundamental objectives of your company, such as quality,
productivity and cost.
Management needs to set an example, by following policies
and sticking with the safety program. And as an employer, you
need to make a point to correct unsafe behavior in all of your
employees and visitors. Safety eyewear should be issued consistently
to anyone in the work area, including management, visitors
and delivery personnel. Any lost or damaged eyewear should
be immediately replaced.
While hazards and accidents are most often caused by carelessness
and unsafe working conditions, eye injuries in the workplace
can significantly be decreased, if not eliminated, by following
these simple guidelines. But remember, if you want to prevent
eye injuries in your workplace, make sure you understand that
as an employer it is your responsibility to make the safety
program work. By assessing the workplace, choosing and issuing
the proper safety eyewear, educating your employees, and initiating
safety incentive programs and corporate policies surrounding
the use of safety eyewear, you will be on the road to an eye-injury-free