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Finding the Right Eye Protection

By: Rick Pedley, Contributor

Any job that exposes you to hazards that can negatively impact your eyes requires wearing eye protection. Image courtesy of PK Safety.

In honor of Workplace Eye Wellness Month, here are tips to help you keep your vision sharp and your eyes safe at work:

  • Assess your job’s eye hazards and read up on the standards for eye protection in your industry;
  • Choose between safety glasses and goggles, two of the most common and widely-used forms of eye protection;
  • And consider other special requirements you might have, like lens tints, prescriptions and coatings.

In 2021, Prevent Blindness, a volunteer eye health and safety organization dedicated to fighting blindness and saving sight, declared March as Workplace Eye Wellness Month. The month-long event originally came about as a result of the coronavirus pandemic that saw many office workers working from home. They were spending long hours staring at their computer screens, which is detrimental to eyesight. The scope of the event has since shifted to include workers in other industries to provide eye- and sight-saving tips, which is what we want to focus on with the following tips.

Any job in an industry that exposes you to hazards that can negatively impact your eyes, whether they are chemicals, debris, gas or light, requires wearing eye protection. Eye protection PPE includes safety glasses, safety goggles, face shields, welding helmets and full-face respirators. How do you choose the right one for your workplace or job, though?

Assess the Job’s Eye Hazards

OSHA provides guidance for the precautions and protective equipment that different job hazards require. The criteria that OSHA uses for this guidance is based on which equipment and features a worker would need to be able to do their job effectively and safely. While there are variations in the specifics depending on the industry, your eye hazard analysis will come down to being able to answer these questions:

  • What is the task?
  • What eye hazards are present?
  • What protections work against those hazards?
  • Are there industry standards or other regulations that protective eyewear needs to meet?

ANSI Z87.1 Certified

Your eyewear should at least meet the American National Standards Institute/International Safety Equipment Association (ANSI/ISEA) standard for eye and face protection. ANSI Z87.1 is a workplace standard that states that the eyewear protects from several basic job hazards including impact, non-ionizing radiation and liquid splash exposure.

Goggles or Glasses?

An eye hazard analysis should include identifying the task the worker must perform and determining the kind of eye protection that will mitigate related hazards. Image courtesy of PK Safety.

The odds are that your job needs either safety glasses or goggles designed for the worksite’s hazards. Face shields alone don’t provide much protection, and full-face respirators and welding helmets aren’t required for a lot of jobs because of their different applications. Remember that the most effective eye protection is one that’s comfortable because eyewear can’t protect a worker that isn’t wearing it at all.

Safety glasses will look and feel like normal eyewear but should have stronger frames and lenses that are in compliance with ANSI standards. They will typically be made from plastic or polycarbonate. NXT Polyurethane, or Trivex, also offers excellent optical clarity compared to polycarbonate on its own but can be costly. These glasses may also have built-in side shields to protect against flying hazards from more angles.

Safety goggles are tight-fitting and form a barrier around the eyes that offers complete protection from all angles. Certain styles protect against different risks, like direct impacts, dust, chemical splashes or a combination of hazards. Vented and non-vented styles also exist for different applications.

Other Protective Features

Safety goggles and glasses can come with additional features and options that offer extra or more specialized protection for particular workplace hazards. Safety glasses can also be outfitted with prescription lenses if a worker needs vision correction.

Lens coatings can be applied to safety glasses or goggles to make them more effective in different conditions and environments: anti-fog, scratch-resistant and other coatings can be a part of or bonded to certain eyewear pieces. Lens tints can provide more accurate and comfortable visibility in different lighting conditions to avoid strain and fatigue. There is an array of tint options — from clear for normal indoor conditions, to photochromatic lenses that change based on different lighting conditions.

Protecting your eyesight isn’t something that should be restricted to March only. Take care of your eyes and vision year-round, and don’t leave anything to chance when it comes to potential hazards on the job. WMHS

Rick Pedley, PK Safety’s President and CEO, joined the family business in 1979. PK Safety, a supplier of occupational safety and personal protective equipment and manufacturer of its own new FR line GRIT, has been operating since 1947 and takes OSHA, ANSI, PPE and CSA work safety equipment seriously (www.pksafety.com).

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