Understanding and solving the problem of fogged lenses
Protective eyewear is a crucial part of any safety program. Using protective eyewear can not only help keep employees safe and comfortable in the workplace, but can also translate into fewer injuries, increased productivity and an overall healthier bottom line. Even with the known benefits, making sure workers actually keep their safety eyewear on continues to be a problem in the workplace, especially in environments where lenses tend to fog up.
Lens fogging presents a major challenge to worker eye safety and compliance. As a matter of fact, in a recent survey of Safety Managers, fogging was identified as the most common complaint. Certain environments and some types of eye protection, such as high coverage eyewear and goggles, are particularly susceptible to fogging due to the lack of airflow around the lenses. When a lens fogs it temporarily interrupts the wearer’s field of vision, putting a worker at risk. More often than not, when fogging occurs workers remove their eyewear, which can lead to yet another unsafe situation.
The first step toward solving this problem is to identify the situations where fogging occurs, or could occur. This includes many factory settings (food processing plants, for example), or when an individual’s body heat is warmer than outside temperatures due to physical exertion. Other problematic environments include those that are very steamy, where exertion levels are high, or where people transition between very low temperatures (freezers) and higher temperatures (outside in humid climates).
Once these environments have been identified, the next step is choosing the correct eye protection to solve the problem. In areas where these situations occur, it is important to specify the use of protective eyewear that has been treated with an anti-fog coating. Lens coatings have a major impact on the effectiveness of protective eyewear, especially when it comes to managing moisture and humidity. When an uncoated or hard coated (anti-scratch) lens is exposed to extreme moisture or humidity, minute water droplets build up on the lens which causes fogging. By using specialized anti-fog coatings on the lens, condensation is controlled to help keep vision clear. These anti-fog coatings are applied at the time of manufacture and are bonded to the lens for long-term performance and use.
Selecting eyewear and coatings that offer the best functionality, style and comfort can help increase user compliance. However, just as there are many styles of eyewear on the market, there are also many coatings. Check with your distributor or the manufacturer to learn about the types of coatings that are offered. Be sure to ask about how they perform in the types of conditions that exist in your workplace. Not all anti-fog coatings work the same in every environment. Leading brands, like Uvex, offer high-performance coatings that deliver anti-fog protection in an array of environments so workers are less likely to remove or change their protective eyewear. This improved user compliance delivers better safety results and helps ensure that OSHA requirements are met.
Many people find anti-fog cloths can be an effective solution to lens fogging problems as well. These formulations are safe to use on most lenses and will indeed provide added protection from fogging. However, unlike anti-fog lens coatings, which are permanently bonded to the lens, anti-fog cloths provide short-term protection—several hours—and must be reapplied.
Training is also extremely important. Workers should be trained and supplied with the correct, specified anti-fog eyewear. Remember, an uncoated lens or one that only has an anti-scratch coating will not prevent fogging. If a worker experiences fogging problems and does not understand the difference between the various coatings, he or she may just assume they need to get by with the pair they have. This could lead to an unsafe situation, or even an injury, if he or she removes their eyewear. Check the packaging to verify that the eyewear they are using has the correct coating. Frequently, the abbreviation “AF” will indicate the eyewear has an anti-fog coating. Manufacturers may also have their own brand name for their coatings. For example, Uvextreme® AF is the brand name of the Uvex® anti-fog coating and is often listed in catalogs as “XTR”. Be sure to look for this when ordering.
Keeping employees safe in the workplace is critical. If workers don’t have to remove their glasses to wipe them, their eyes remain protected at all times. As one safety manager told us, “Protecting our employees is the most important thing. If the safety glasses are able to eliminate any need to remove them, we’re way ahead of the game.” Using the right lens coatings can help achieve that goal. The results are a safer workplace, fewer incidents of eye injury, and ultimately increased productivity and profitability.
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