By Glyn Jones
Eye safety and injury prevention are important topics to include in your workplace safety education and training program. The goal is to provide information about the causes of eye injuries, the types of eye protection, and first-aid procedures for various eye injuries. Part of the training and education program will include understanding the types of injuries, recognition of workplace hazards to the eye, understanding the legislation and standards, the types of eyewear available, and the proper selection, use, and care of safety eyewear. A key objective of the training will include prevention measures so that employees understand how to avoid and respond to eye injuries at work.
Many workplaces struggle to find the time to offer specific education and training programs dedicated to eye safety and injury prevention, so consider integrating it into other ongoing safety education. To make eye safety a reality we need to take every opportunity to reinforce the hazards and the need for compliance in safety eyewear use.
Here are seven ideas to help you integrate eye safety education and training into your ongoing safety programs.
- Eye safety can be introduced into the new hire onboarding process. Employees should know the range of types of injuries including impact to the eye, a scratched eye, chemical burns, bleeding in the whites of the eye, penetration of the eye, and digital eye strain. This will help reinforce compliance in using safety eyewear.
- Job specific orientation at the worksite typically will include hands-on training to ensure employees know how to do their jobs properly. This is a fantastic opportunity to review the associated workplace hazards including flying objects or particles and debris, splashing liquids, molten metal and fume, and UV, visible and IR radiation. An employee job specific orientation can easily be adjusted to include information about workplace hazards to the eye.
- Employees that participate as workplace health and safety committee members are typically provided with specific education about the OHS legislation related to the work of the committee and other examples of legislation and standards applicable to their workplace. This is a perfect opportunity to broaden the conversation to include a review of the legislation related to eye safety and Canadian Standards Association (CSA) standards related to safety eyewear including CSA Z94.3 Eye and Face Protectors and CSA Z94.3.1 Selection, Use and Care of Protective Eyewear).
- Employers regularly provide a program of education and training specific to the Workplace Hazardous Materials Information system (WHMIS). This may include information about specific chemical hazards in the workplace. During this review, the protective function of the diverse types of safety eyewear such as vented and unvented goggles can be reviewed. Also, the use of specialty safety eyewear such as face shields or full-face respirators that can be part of an integrated program of eye and face protection.
- Toolbox meetings or tailboard meetings are held daily, pre-shift at most workplaces. A range of toolbox topics featuring eye safety and eye injury prevention can be developed and made available to shift leaders to use from time-to-time. Regularly discussing eye safety is associated with improved safety eyewear use compliance.
- Incident investigation training is provided to workers, supervisors, and managers who are called upon to investigate workplace incidents. As part of this training, it is typical to review past incidents. Including a case study involving an eye injury can be a useful aid to support the training while highlighting the need for complying with safety eyewear use.
- Modern safety management includes safety leadership training for supervisors and managers. Part of this training typically involves teaching these leaders how to have difficult conversations with employees who fail to comply with company policy, procedures, or rules. A way to bolster your eye safety program would be to include a case study in the safety leaders training with an example where a supervisor must have a conversation with an employee who has been forgetting to wear safety eyewear. Reinforcing the proper use of PPE when an employee is observed working without safety eyewear and how to talk to employees about safety eyewear use is an important safety leadership opportunity.
Eye safety and injury prevention can be included in any workplace safety education and training program plan. Having the plan, and the associated measures, in place can help ensure all employees know a bit more about eye safety and can better reduce eye injury risks
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.