Eye Safety on the Job - Importance of Protective Eye Gears

With the constant rise in the occupational health and safety risks at workplace, the need for personal protective equipment (PPE) has drastically shot up. Any job involving hazardous substances or airborne particles poses the threat of eye injury. Managing straps under tension, which may release anytime, or handling chemicals under very high pressures always act as added risks. Although most of the eye injuries in Australia are generally minor, some workplace accidents lead to serious injuries, such as vision loss or blindness. Eye being extremely delicate, even relatively minor injuries might cause permanent vision loss.
Ordinary eyewear cannot offer sufficient protection against injuries. Use of contact lenses might only augment the injury or worsen the situation. This is because, the chemicals tend to concentrate around the lenses or get into the lenses. However, the workplace eye injury risks can be reduced by following appropriate preventive measures. Understanding your work environment and using the right safety gears to protect your eyes will prevent dreadful eye injuries while carrying out high-risk jobs. Before evaluating some of the top safety eye equipment, let us first analyze some of the high-risk jobs that demand eye safety.

What Jobs Demand Eye Safety?

Numerous factors at workplace pose the threat of severe eye injuries. Some of the major factors include the following:
· Dusty environment filled with cement chips, dust, staples, nails, metal slivers and wood chips
· Chemical burns caused by cleaning products and industrial chemicals
· Intense, harmful radiations, such as UV lights and excessively bright lights, laser lights and infrared radiation, to name a few
· Tools and machines that chip chisel, ship, hammer drill, grind, cut, smelt, spray or weld
· Compressed air
Every day several workers need medical help to get their job-related eye injuries treated. Dangerous objects, strike and abrade the eyes of the workers, if they fail to protect their eyes with appropriate eyewear. Apart from dangerous objects, infectious microbes and chemicals tend to adversely affect the eyes of the workers in specific types of workplaces. Besides, 90% of the injuries can be prevented by using right protective eye gears.

Types of Eye Injuries

Although workplace eye injuries are common, most of them require medical help. Some of the major types of eye injuries experienced by the workers at the workplace include the following:
· Chemical burns
· Injuries and complications due to welding flash, such as bright UV light
· Cuts and scratches to the eye surface
· Embedding of the objects and chemical traces in the eye
· Punctures
· Microbial eye infections in case of laboratory, janitor, animal handlers as well as other healthcare workers
Apart from the above mentioned injuries, there are various other forms of workplace-induced eye damages. These include the injuries caused by the flying particles or objects, such as glass or metal. Such accidents generally happen with workers involved in welding. These jobs pose higher risks of eye injuries. However, using an apt eye protection equipment at work will phenomenally reduce the instances of eye injuries.
Well, choosing the right protective equipment for safeguarding your eyes and using them appropriately is also a challenge in itself. Right from analyzing the risk factors at your workplace to opting well-fitting safety eye gears and storing them for the next intended use, everything matters. The best way to choose the right eye protection is to pick one for your eyes based on the type of your day-to-day task.

Go for task Specific Eye Protection Equipment

Wearing eye protection that is specific to a given task will help you in reducing the risk of the injury. Besides, it is always wise to buy protective eye gears that comply with the Australian Standards of safety. In general, these protective gears can be classified based on the impact of the tasks you undertake, which could be:
· High Impact Eye Gears - These are exclusively used in rigorous and high-risk tasks, such as handling nail gun and other explosive power tools. For such tasks, opting for complete face shields, which are marked with the standard 'V' mark as well as the manufacturer ID can be a great choice
· Medium Impact Protective Equipment - Safety clip-ons, side-shielded safety glasses, eye shields, eye cup goggles, face shields as well as wide vision goggles fall under medium impact gears. These can be opted by professionals who are a part of woodworking tasks, machining, grinding and scaling metals, brick cutting, welding, wire handling and stone dressing
· Low Impact Safety Gears - Right from basic eye glasses to safety clip-ons, most of the low impact safety gears are same as the medium impact protective equipment. These are suitable for those who perform spalling, riveting, chipping, managing strap under tension, chemical handling as well as hammering
· Dust Resistant - Using goggles having standard 'D' mark and the manufacturer's ID is an ideal way to protect your eyes from dust
Apart from choosing the right safety, it is also necessary to find the one that fits you well. This ensures optimum results.

Why Should You Choose Well-Fitting PPE?

It is always important to make sure that the PPE you use perfectly fits you, particularly if you tend to use more than one safety equipment. In such cases, one should make sure that all these safety gears can be used together without hampering each other's functionality.
For instance, the safety glasses might restrict a respirator's seal. This might damage the glass causing air leaks. Therefore, it is always a good idea to consult your higher authorities, if you are not sure of using a particular PPE. Furthermore, it is also important to store your PPE under the recommended storing condition. This prevents loss of their functionality due to bad storage.

Initiatives to reduce Eye Injury Hazards

Although there are world-class PPE available today to safeguard your eyes against accidental workplace injuries, as the wise saying goes - "prevention is better than cure", it is better to be safe than sorry. Taking minor initiatives to reduce potential hazards can be a good step to minimize the chances of eye injuries. Some of the generic steps include:
· Installing safety barriers where possible
· Moving high-risk equipment to isolated areas
· Replacing toxic chemicals and high-risk equipment with safer alternatives, where possible
· Regular repairs and maintenance of all the safety gears to ensure that they remain in good working condition
· Signpost equipment and work areas, which require eye protection
· Dusty environments can be dampened by using water
· Using extractor fans, exhaust hoods and other similar equipment to manage dust and fumes
· Thoroughly reading and understanding the material safety data sheets provided by the manufacturers and suppliers for hazardous substances
· Conducting frequent safety training sessions for your workers
· Providing sufficient first aid resources
These preventive measures will surely contribute in reducing the overall eye injuries at work place.

Risk Factors that Contribute to Eye Injuries

Apart from the chemicals and harmful substances, there are various other factors that contribute to workplace eye injuries:
· Instances where the employer does not provide eye protection gears
· At times, workers do not wear the PPEs supplied by the employer or fail to follow the required safety measures
· Employers fail to enforce the usage of PPE or do not train their workers to use them appropriately
· Both the employer and the worker fail to visualize the potential eye injury and ignore eye protection
· Inadequate eye protection, such as using mere eye glasses while the job demands a complete face shield
· Ill-fitting safety eye gears that do not restrict particles from entering
· Poor maintenance of PPE will reduce their effectiveness, thereby leaving the workers susceptible to high risks of eye injuries
Providing adequate PPE and training your workers about its usage will help you in reducing eye injuries at your workplace. After all, healthy workers are one of the greatest assets of any business!

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