Trends in Safety Eyewear: Making a Case for Standardization

Standardization, by definition, is the process by which a standard has been successfully established. According to a recent online survey of 615 customers conducted by Honeywell Safety Products, it is also a trend seen in more and more companies that are making efforts to streamline their safety eyewear program. According to Prevent Blindness America®, thousands of eye injuries occur each day and 90% of those injuries are preventable with the use of appropriate eye protection. The importance of having an effective safety eyewear program is made clearer when one considers that the U.S Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates the cumulative annual cost of all reported eye injuries at nearly $355 million. Standardizing your safety eyewear program can be an effective way not only to protect workers from eye injuries, but also to simplify managing your safety team.  You will also ensure that your workers are wearing the right product for their job, improve compliance and reduce unused inventory of safety glasses, thus saving time, lowering costs and improving profitability.

The results from the survey are indicative of a growing interest in the idea of standardization. An overwhelming 85% of participants in the survey either agree or strongly agree that standardizing safety equipment at their organization can help them better manage their safety program for a variety of reasons. Nearly 70% of respondents offer employees up to four eyewear models, 23% offer five to nine models, while 5.5% offer more than 15 models.  Furthermore, 23% of the survey respondents believe it is more economical to have a smaller number of eyewear models and inventory; 18% believe standardization would make it easier to manage the number of eyewear models; 13% reason that a standardized program would aid in the identification of compliant workers; and nearly 12% think it would save time in managing the number of eyewear models.

The move toward standardization is for good reason. Dan Schneider, Vice President of Operations for Wisconsin-based Janard, Inc., which provides site specific environmental compliance and OSHA required programs and employee training for its clients, sees the need for standardization and reducing the number of safety eyewear models. “As a safety consultant working with company representatives, we see many people in a variety of industries who have a hard time maintaining an inventory of personal protective equipment in general, due to the overwhelming number of types and requirements,” commented Schneider.

Even with the potential benefits, some safety managers indicated that they may be unwilling to take steps to standardize because past experiences with streamlining their eyewear have led to complaints. According to the survey results, the most important areas to safety professionals in helping to develop/maintain a successful eyewear program are how to choose the correct safety eyewear for workers (19%), how users can properly fit and wear their safety eyewear (18%), followed by how standardizing safety eyewear can improve your safety program (14%).  Standardization does not mean eliminating options.  Instead, standardization is more about offering the right options.

For many workers, improper fit, fogging, or scratching may be the leading concerns, and there are products in the marketplace specifically designed to address these concerns.  Safety managers should recognize that it may not be possible to standardize 100%, and your supplier will be able to suggest the appropriate product or product line; for example, he or she may suggest slim-fit eyewear made for slimmer facial profiles or lenses treated with a special anti-fog or anti-scratch coating; or work with you to develop a prescription eyewear program.

Clearly, standardization works, and many companies are beginning to take steps to take advantage of the benefits.  For example, recently, workers at a national auto parts company with seven distribution centers around the country were using a variety of different safety glasses in each of their locations.  The safety director made the decision to move to a standardized program to reduce SKU levels, and to institute a new line of safety eyewear that would meet all safety standards and would provide a comfortable fit for the majority of his workers.  His chosen supplier reviewed the choices and determined the best option based on its flexibility, comfort, and replacement lenses.  The safety director and his workers have been happy with the change, and are now looking to institute the same program for personnel at the company’s other retail locations.

To begin the standardization process, consider the following tips:

  • Hazard Assessment: Thoroughly investigate and document the hazards for each type of job, and provide a safety eyewear solution that meets the needs of each hazard as well as the needs of the worker.
  • Approved Eyewear: Establish an approved eyewear list for plant and job and offer just enough product options to meet the hazard needs in your workplace. Strictly adhere to this policy.
  • Special Issues: Be sure to have product offerings that provide a proper fit for each worker as well as the correct lens tint for each application, i.e. green for IR, amber for low light, and tinted for glare.
  • Team Effort: Include your workers in the evaluation process for choosing eyewear and regularly engage them about the performance of the products they are using. Establish an incentive program for injury-free performance and safety leadership within your plant.
  • Outside Resources: Develop and maintain a relationship with a representative from an eyewear manufacturing company, who will look out for your changing needs and evaluate new products and technology.
  • Cost Considerations: Look at total cost of ownership in choosing safety eyewear.  It may be tempting to go with lower priced eyewear, however, in the long run, the lower priced eyewear may require more regular replacements and therefore, additional costs.

“Taking steps to standardize the majority of your workers would reduce time spent researching which products are compliant, reduce the requirement for the number of different models and reduce the amount of time monitoring employees to make sure they are wearing compliant equipment,” said Dan Schneider of Janard.  “Standardizing on a “shortlist” of compliant types of PPE has the potential to greatly reduce confusion, minimize ordering, and ease the task of identifying compliant equipment. Of course, price is also a considerable factor with today’s fragile economy and standardizing equipment purchases could alleviate the costs associated with multiple vendors.”

About The Survey
The results of this survey are generated from a group of 615 participants, including company owners, safety managers, and operations managers, the majority of whom describe their company’s industry as healthcare (19%), general/light manufacturing (15%), and chemical manufacturing (15%).  Company size runs at 100-999 employees (44%) and 1-99 employees (39%).

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