By Glyn Jones
Workplace Hazard Assessment
A key to preventing eye injuries in any hazardous environment is recognizing the hazards, following an objective process for hazard evaluation, and selecting and implementing an appropriate control strategy. Safety eyewear is typically part of the control strategy and the type of safety eyewear selected varies with the worksite hazards present. The two things you need to know in selecting proper safety eyewear are:
- how to go about assessing the workplace to determine the hazards present, and
- the types of safety eyewear appropriate for the different hazards identified.
How can we best assess the hazards? There are a wide variety of hazards but those with the potential to cause harm to the eye include:
- Biological hazards and work involving bacteria, viruses, insects, plants, and animals.
- Chemical hazards and working with any substance that may enter the eye, including reactive solids, splashing liquids, molten metal, fumes, and aerosols.
- Physical hazards such as exposure to excessive visible light, ultraviolet, infrared, and LASER radiation.
- Safety hazards such as projectiles, dust, dirt, flying debris, and other particulate matter.
Any work that creates these types of potential exposures creates a risk of eye injury.
A hazard assessment should always be completed at the work site before work starts. This may be referred to as a field-level hazard assessment (FLHA). It would involve a discussion of the work to be completed with all employees, a review of all recognized hazards, and confirmation of the plan to control the hazards. A written record of this review would be completed and all employees that participate would typically sign off on the document.
For fixed or routine operations, complete the hazard assessment once and formally record it as a task-specific hazard assessment (THA) or job safety analysis (JSA). Completing the JSA or THA process should involve employees who routinely complete the work or supervise these work operations, and who are skilled at it. The resulting document would be communicated to all employees who do this work and they would use it as a guide to safe work. A JSA or THA would be reviewed and updated regularly by employees involved in this work.
Choosing the Right Safety Eyewear
What are the types of safety eyewear appropriate for the different hazards?
- For people working in environments with hazards like flying debris and other projectiles, they can be protected by using a range of safety glasses. Flat safety eyewear sits flat against the wearer’s face and provides protection from impact hazards and should be supplemented with a face shield. Tight-fitting safety eyewear or gasketed safety eyewear have improved performance.
- Dust hazards are commonplace. The dust may already be part of the workplace environment, or it may be generated by work operations like cutting wood or concrete, or metal fumes. Safety glasses with wrap-around side shields provide the best protection. There is safety eyewear that has a dam around the lens to help prevent dust and debris from entering. Sealed safety eyewear or gasketed glasses have a tighter seal around the frame to prevent hazardous materials from entering. If the dust is being blown around, close-fitting or sealed safety eyewear will provide greater protection. These types of safety eyewear ensure a better seal around the eyes that helps to prevent the dust from getting behind the frame and into the eye. If conditions are extreme, wearing goggles may be the best choice.
- Chemical hazards create a risk of eye injury from splashing liquids or direct vapour exposure, and in this case, indirect vented goggles with a chemical-resistant lens are recommended. If splashing is likely, the use of a face shield may be required too. If chemical vapours are an issue, a full-face respirator will protect the eyes and prevent inhalation.
- Special hazards may include exposure to molten metal or UV, visible, and IR radiation. Welders need to wear a welder’s mask over a close-fitting respirator to protect from metal fume exposure and sparks. The face shield needs to be fitted with a lens to protect from UV and other harmful radiation. In other cases, safety eyewear with custom tinting specific to the wavelength of UV, visible, or IR radiation may be required.
How to Help Your Employees
The risk of eye injury at work is real. Employees need help in perceiving the risks associated with the work they plan to do. They need education about the potential consequences of exposure to the hazards, and they need to follow the hierarchy of controls, reduce the risk, and stay safe. Hazard assessments are important and this information must be used to select the best safety eyewear for the circumstances.
We need to remind employees that their eyes are easily damaged and the importance of wearing safety eyewear every day. It’s also important that the safety eyewear is properly fitted to the employee’s face so it fits well and is comfortable to wear for the entire shift. In the Eyesafe prescription safety eyewear program, all safety glasses are fitted to the employee and meet all provincial or federal compliance regulations. You can learn more on our website at www.eyesafe.ca.