We know that safety managers wear many hats, and that with so many commitments eye safety can sometimes be overlooked. Yet, we can all agree that the human eye, which is vulnerable and invaluable, is worth protecting.
Vision is our primary means of experiencing the world around us. Without it, our quality of life is diminished and our capacity to earn a living is severely impacted. The combined direct and indirect costs associated with an eye injury can be damaging to employers, as well.
This month, we offer five tips to help improve workplace eye safety. By following these guidelines, safety managers can improve workplace safety, reduce costs associated with injuries and build a stronger culture of safety in the workplace.
1. Make sure protective eyewear matches the hazards
OSHA requires the use of eye and face protection for workers exposed to any hazard that can be injurious to the eyes, ranging from flying objects, chemicals, vapors and particles to harmful light radiation. To determine whether your site requires protective eyewear, conduct a thorough walkthrough and assess all the types of hazards present. Then, select safety eyewear accordingly. A variety of styles may be needed to protect from different hazards in different workspaces.
2. A clear view is a safe view
Safety eyewear not only provides physical protection – it must also provide a clear view to the workspace and nearby hazards. With today’s advances in lens coatings there are more ways than ever to ensure optical clarity is maintained, even in extreme environments.
For employees in high-grit or high-particulate environments, anti-scratch eyewear is a must. Lenses treated with anti-scratch hardcoat can provide up to five times more scratch resistance than untreated lenses. For those working in hot or humid environments, or transitioning between temperatures and humidity, anti-fog lens coatings should be considered. By combining hydrophilic and hydrophobic properties, anti-fog coatings deliver long-lasting protection from condensation.
When workers can see clearly through their protective lenses, they are more likely to wear the lenses continuously, resulting in a better protected workforce. In addition, because coated lenses are more durable than non-coated lenses, they afford exceptional value for safety managers.
3. Comfort supports compliance
It is a proven fact that workers are more likely to remove safety eyewear that is uncomfortable or seems unsightly, even in the presence of hazards. Today, a variety of styles is available to meet nearly every worker’s needs. Different sizes and various adjustability features allow individuals to achieve a personal fit. Furthermore, many protective styles are lightweight, low profile, and incorporate modern styling to encourage all-day comfort. By being mindful of proper fit and comfort as well as style, safety managers can help ensure employees’ acceptance of protective eyewear and boost compliance as a result.
4. Commit to a culture of safety
There’s a buzz around building a culture of safety in the workplace, and it’s worth taking note. When an entire organization shifts its perspective toward safety as a shared interest and responsibility, the results can be extremely beneficial.
One effective way to launch a safety culture is to start with eye safety. Everyone can agree that eyesight is invaluable, and that our eyes are worth protecting. With an organization-wide commitment to eye safety practices, workers and safety managers alike can visibly see who is on board, encourage those who aren’t, and provide positive feedback based on compliance. Employees who are empowered to support their own and their peers’ safety are much more effective than relying solely on an authority figure. (Read more about Building a Culture of Safety)
5. Consider the cost of not protecting workers
When a worker loses his or her sight due to an accident, the cost to that individual is immense. Included are a diminished quality of life, lost wages and medical expenses. What may not be as obvious are the staggering costs a company pays as a result of an eye injury. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that workplace eye injuries cost employers more than $934 million in direct and indirect costs each year.
Eye injury-related costs to a company are complex and vary greatly depending upon the individual incident. In basic terms, though, they can be broken down into direct and indirect costs. Direct costs include workers’ compensation and insurance premium increases, emergency response and medical treatment costs, equipment repair, legal fees and regulatory fines. Indirect costs include lost production, reduced worker morale, reduced company competitiveness, replacement employee hiring and training, damaged goods and administrative support. Before an eye injury occurs, consider what it may cost to your organization.
When it comes to protecting your workforce, be sure that eye safety is a top priority. By providing the proper eyewear for the hazards, ensuring a clear view and perfect fit, and empowering employees in a safety culture, your business can see significant improvements in its overall safety strategy – and its bottom line.