One Size Does Not Fit All

Finding the right style and fit of safety eyewear is important to keeping your staff safe

Our eyes are important parts of our lives. People rely heavily on visual information to complete even the most mundane tasks like making breakfast or navigating your way to work. The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) reported that there are roughly 2,000 eye injuries every day in the United States.

These injuries range from small particles in the eye to injuries terrible enough to leave the injured person completely blind. Causes of injury range from particles flying into eyes and chemical splashes to blood borne pathogens spraying up while first responders are assisting patients.

Unfortunately, there is not a one-size-fits-all fix for this issue. You can’t just go pick up a pair of safety glasses at the nearest hardware store, put them on, and assume you are totally safe. There is safety eye wear to fit every specific scenario (think safety goggles versus welder’s helmets) and each of those comes in a variety of sizes to fit each person.

There are so many types and styles of safety glasses and eye protection out on the market that it is important to pick the right one for each person and each activity. Buying one style for everyone can be as bad as not wearing them at all, especially since it may give a false sense of safety.

Obviously, proper fit is going to depend on the size and shape of a person’s face and head. Providing a fit test for each employee can help eliminate this problem. The best way to provide a fit test is to have multiple styles and types of safety glasses on hand and let the employee try them on. While wearing them, look for any gaps larger than the width of a pencil on all sides. If one doesn’t fit correctly, pick up another pair and try them on until you find the perfect fit. The cost of eye wear for every employee is going to be less than the cost of an eye injury for even just one of them.

For some operations, you might need to take your eye protection to the next level. Foam-lined safety glasses can help fill the gaps around employees’ eyes and provide a seal to prevent the smaller particles from going behind the glasses and into the eye. Again, there are multiple types of foam-lined safety glasses. For example, these can be very beneficial while a mechanic is working under a car where there is the potential for dirt, oil, or metal flakes falling into the eye. Keep in mind that foam-lined safety glasses are not a replacement for chemical goggles when you are working with hazardous chemicals. They are splash-resistant, not splash-proof.

Going one step further, some tasks require a full face shield. Face shields come in all sorts of configurations that can accommodate safety glasses being worn underneath them, such as face shields that attach to hard hats and other goggle/face shield combinations. Finding the right fit and face shield for the tasks you will be completing is just a matter of looking to see what’s out there and how they fit into your operations.

Finally, consider establishing an eye protection policy to better communicate safety expectations to your employees. This will allow you to set ground rules for which types of jobs require which types of protective eye wear. Before someone gets something in their eye, educate employees on what they need to do to remove it.

In general, the safest thing to do is to flush the eye at an eyewash station. This will prevent scratching the eye and causing serious damage. When in doubt, get your eye looked at by a professional. Eyes are not something that should be taken lightly. Depending on what actually got into the eye or what was done, a medical professional could be required for treatment.

Take a look at your operations to see if everyone is using the right eye protection for their specific job functions. Ask yourself a few questions such as: does everyone have eye protection that fits their face? What operations need a face shield or goggles? Do we need to have written documentation for when our employees need to be wearing eye protection? If you would like some assistance putting together an eye protection policy or have an eye protection assessment done at your facility, reach out to the CSD Pool’s Safety Management Consultant.

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