Education, training, and general awareness of eye safety are keys to any safety program / policy. The question is: How do we get the eye safety message out to all front-line employees, the people providing the service work or doing the production, manufacturing, or construction work? These are the individuals who need to understand the importance of protecting their one pair of eyes. One important way to get the message out is to hold daily toolbox talks.
Creating a Toolbox Talk
A toolbox talk is a short 10–15-minute, informal safety meeting that focuses on safety topics related to specific jobs, workplace hazards, or safe work practices and the need for specific good work planning and controls, including personal protective equipment like safety eyewear.
These talks are normally focused on a few topics and are generally conducted at the job site prior to the commencement of a job or work shift. It’s a very effective way to refresh workers’ knowledge, cover last minute safety checks, and exchange information with the experienced workers. Toolbox talks are also intended to facilitate health and safety discussions on the job site and promote your organization’s safety culture. They may also be referred to as tailgate meetings, team huddles, tailboards, or safety briefings.
A toolbox talk on safety eyewear is great way to bring the necessary attention to the seriousness of incidents that can result in eye injuries. If you are planning an eye safety toolbox talk, plan to bring along a few safety eyewear samples to show people, such as the range of products your company makes available. Since safety eyewear is something we can touch and feel it is great if you have a few samples of good safety eyewear and few samples of scratched, dirty, damaged and safety eyewear for participants to see and hold.
The talks should be a two-way exchange of information. Your employees have a wealth of information about the jobs and tasks and associated hazards. Get them to share their ideas. Keeping the conversation simple and on topic will help to make sure the message sticks. Here are a few discussion points to include to get the safety eyewear conversation going:
- What are some hazards we have onsite that can injure our eyes? Make a list.
- How can we protect ourselves from those hazards? Discuss the hierarchy of controls.
- What are the basics of safety eyewear? Review the design highlighting the lens, frame, and side shields.
- What job tasks require us to wear safety eyewear? What type of safety eyewear would be best? What about the need for face shields?
- How do we inspect safety eyewear? How do we best maintain safety eyewear over the shift for best performance? Review and discuss the condition of the samples provided.
- Why wouldn’t an employee wear safety eyewear when they need to do so?
- How can we help each other to remember to wear safety eyewear all the time?
- To reinforce the need for safety eyewear, discuss the root causes of incidents resulting in eye injuries including:
- Forgetting to put safety eyewear on – it is easy to forget to bring your safety eyewear or to put it on when entering an area where safety eyewear is required. When you move from area to area or from task to task think about the location of specific hazards and think about protecting your eyes!
- Wearing safety eyewear improperly – wearing safety eyewear too low on your nose will not ensure proper protection of your eyes. This may happen if your eyewear is the wrong size or style. If your lenses are dirty or scratched, take time to clean the lenses with a soft cloth and use running water or lens cleaning fluid to rinse off any dirt particles for optimal performance. Remember too that safety eyewear sitting on top your head won’t protect you.
- Wearing the wrong safety eyewear for the task – a pre-job review of the task hazard assessment or the completion of a field level hazard assessment will allow you to properly select the right type of safety eyewear for each job. Watch for changing worksite hazards like having to change work duties from cutting to grinding or working in different lighting environments. This needs to trigger a review of the safety eyewear needed. When working outdoors if the wind picks up and the dust starts to fly it may require a change in eye protection such as the addition of a seal or dust dam.
- Forgetting to upgrade safety eyewear for special tasks– too often special work methods are needed on occasion. This needs to trigger a review of the safety eyewear required. There is a wide range of safety eyewear products available beyond basic safety glasses with side shields. What about coatings or photochromic for changing light conditions and anti-fog for weather related fogging? Know your options, and if needed ask for help.
We need to continue reinforcing the eye safety message with our employees. Remind employees that safety eyewear is specifically designed to absorb or deflect flying debris, splashes of hazardous liquids and radiation. There are frames designed specifically for the task, such as flat, wrap style with a seal or goggles which all offer different protection. Employees should also understand that fit matters. Not only from a safety perspective, but the comfort offered through proper fit often determines if the employee will wear the safety glasses consistently. While no system can be designed to be of total protection for every exposure we face every day, proper selection, use and care will go a long way to ensuring employee eye safety at work. The hazards employees are exposed to can be numerous and they account for a wide majority of eye injuries. As with all safety issues, knowledge and awareness is key. Preventing all eye injuries depends on all employees being aware of the many possible exposure and taking the proper steps to eliminate the exposure. Vigilance is important, but employees should be encouraged to take time to remind each other about the importance of wearing safety eyewear every day.
Glyn Jones is a partner at EHS Partnerships Ltd. in Calgary. He is a consulting occupational health and safety professional with 30 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.