By Glyn Jones
Every eye safety program needs to start with employee education and an emphasis on when and why safety eyewear is crucial. Another critical aspect of any eye safety program is selecting proper safety eyewear based on the outcome of a hazard assessment.
To choose the right safety eyewear, consider the specific eye safety hazards in your workplace, the types of approved safety eyewear available for the identified hazards, and the selection of the right safety eyewear based on performance, comfort, price, and aesthetics.
Various workplace hazards pose risks of getting dust, dirt, flying debris, and other projectiles in your eyes, or risk of eye injury from chemical, molten metal and fumes, and radiation. A comprehensive assessment of the jobs and tasks that may create an eye injury hazard must be completed, including observing the work in progress This hazard assessment will help you develop a control strategy and identify the type of safety eyewear you will need.
If you haven’t looked at the safety eyewear market recently, you may be surprised by how much it has changed. Innovations from research and development labs now allow leading manufacturers to develop lenses and shields for a wide range of specific uses. All Eyesafe lenses must meet CSA standards and frames must meet either CSA or ANSI standards.
- CSA Z94.3-15 Eye and Face Protectors applies to eye and face protectors used in all occupational settings where hazards to the eyes or face may exist.
- CSA Z94.3.1 Selection, Use and Care of Protective Eyewear provides further guidance.
Available CSA-approved safety eyewear encompasses a range of options, including plain safety glasses, prescription safety glasses, goggles, face shields, and specialty safety eyewear such as welding helmets. When selecting the right safety eyewear for your workplaces, you will need to consider various attributes of each of these options, such as performance, comfort, price, and aesthetics.
Types of Safety Eyewear
Safety glasses: Safety glasses are the most common type of protective eyewear and are suitable for a wide range of work environments. They are designed to protect against impact, and, if a seal is present, flying debris and dust, making them ideal for construction, manufacturing, and woodworking.
Goggles: Goggles provide better protection against chemical splashes, flying dust, and impact compared to safety glasses. They are commonly used in laboratory settings, chemical manufacturing, and healthcare settings where there is a risk of exposure to hazardous chemicals or infectious diseases. They provide, in most cases, D3 rating of protection under ANSI Z87.1 safety standards.
Face shields: Face shields provide full-face protection and are suitable for environments where there is a risk of exposure to chemical splashes, molten metal, or other high-velocity impact hazards. They are commonly used in metalworking and woodworking. Face shields cannot be made with prescription lenses.
Welding helmets: Welding helmets provide protection against welding arcs, sparks, and infrared and ultraviolet radiation. They are typically used in welding, metal fabrication, and other activities that involve high levels of heat and radiation. Workers must wear prescription glasses underneath their helmets.
Respirator masks: SCBA (Self-Contained Breathing Apparatus) can be fitted with prescription safety lens inserts. These frames can be inserted and removed from the mask.
Features of Safety Eyewear
Prescription: Prescription safety eyewear provides the same level of protection as regular protective equipment, but with prescription lenses. These offer superior function to OTG safety glasses designed to fit over regular prescription glasses. They are suitable for a wide range of work environments and Eyesafe glasses are customized to fit individual needs. If employees are wearing prescription safety eyewear it is important to make sure the prescription is kept current.
Specialty options: The safety eyewear selected needs to be able to perform under often harsh conditions. In addition to selecting the right type of safety eyewear there are a range of coatings, tints, and lens types available to meet the performance and comfort requirements of any work environment. There have been big advancements in new lens technologies that prevent fogging and scratches. Tinted lenses now come in a wide range of colours designed for ultimate performance enhancement. For people working outdoors, dark-coloured polarized lenses may improve visual comfort, contrast, and depth of vision while reducing eye strain.
Comfort: Compliance with safety eyewear use is highest when it is comfortable across the range of temperature, humidity, and work activities being completed. The peripheral view needs to be clear and undistorted. Employee feedback surveys and job observation are great methods for evaluating wearer comfort. Questions to consider: Are they wearing their safety eyewear consistently? How often do they need to adjust the equipment? Do they need to take off the safety eyewear for certain tasks? All of these factors are telling of employee comfort.
Price point: When considering costs, make sure to consider more than that initial cost. Think about how long the equipment will last and durability. If you opt for inexpensive safety eyewear that is easily broken or scratched, you will end up buying more often. Cheap safety eyewear can also have problems like poor lens clarity, distortions in the periphery of the lens, and fogging, which make them less effective.
Aesthetics: Don’t underestimate aesthetics, as employees appreciate stylish and fashionable safety eyewear. For better or worse, safety eyewear has morphed from a simple way to provide eye protection to a form of self-expression. As a result, manufacturers offer a full range of options that cater to individual styles and personal preferences.
With so many safety eyewear options available, making the right choice might seem overwhelming. Fortunately, Eyesafe will help you select the best options for your employees by feature, activity type, and hazards. Eyesafe optometrists can provide professional guidance for employees across a wide range of industries and jobs, as well as general eye health and safety. Eyesafe optometrists work with employees across a wide range of industries to the proper safety eyewear is selected for every job.
Choosing the right safety eyewear requires time to consider many factors. Hazards, policy compliance, performance, price, and aesthetics all impact the performance and efficacy of your eye safety program. Stay informed about the evolving safety eyewear market to continue providing the best protection for your employees.
Glyn Jones is a partner at EHS Partnerships Ltd. in Calgary. He is a consulting occupational health and safety professional with 35 years of experience. He is a regular safety conference speaker in Canada, and he provides program design and instructional support to the University of New Brunswick’s OHS certificate and diploma programs.