Why “fit” is the most important aspect of choosing safety eyewear

June 5, 2023

By Glyn Jones

Why “one size fits all” seldom works

Despite millions of workers wearing safety eyewear to protect their eyes from the many hazards at work, eye injuries caused by flying debris, chemicals, radiation, and other factors are common. Yet, protecting your eyes from injury is as simple as: 1. Selecting the eyewear for the task; 2. Keeping it maintained; 3. Wearing it properly.

A key aspect of ensuring safety eyewear performs is the fit. If the fit is good, it is more likely to be worn and provide the intended protection. Many workers complain that their safety eyewear is uncomfortable, restricts their field of vision, is subject to fogging, or is simply not stylish. When workers complain about wearability, a major contributing factor can be the “one size fits all” approach that many organizations take to safety eyewear management.

Key components of well-fitted eyewear

The impact of ill-fitting eyewear can have serious consequences and increasingly, employers and manufacturers are paying special attention to the need for fitting safety eyewear for today’s diverse workforce. New designs are more stylish and better prioritize the “fit factor” across a wide range of wearers. This is important because a particular design or style of safety eyewear that one employee finds comfortable may be uncomfortable to another. Differences in face size, shape, and facial features all come into play and can impact comfort. Optimizing your safety eyewear “fit factor” is critical for four important reasons: protection, comfort, visual performance, and durability. Let’s look at each of these more closely.

1. Protection

Safety eyewear must fit properly in order to best provide the designed and tested protection.  This means being fit closely to the face to protect against flying dust or debris.  The fit needs to align with the wearer’s facial contours and not dig into their forehead or cheeks. The arms need to be the proper length so that there is a proper fit over the ears.

Properly fitted safety eyewear provides good coverage of the soft tissue areas around the eyes. The gaps between safety eyewear and the face need to be optimized. If it is too big, debris can enter. If it is too small, the safety eyewear may rub uncomfortably against the face. CSA safety standards state that the gap should be 6mm or less if there are flying projectiles or 6-8mm in other environments. A gauge is available for some safety eyewear to allow you to measure this gap as part of the process of properly assessing the fit.

CSA  Z94.3.1 recommends that the eyewear fit should be assessed every two years or whenever significant changes occur to an employee’s physical condition.

2. Comfort

Well-fitted safety eyewear is more comfortable to wear, even for extended periods of time. Compliance of use is very closely related to wearer comfort. Poor-fitting safety eyewear can cause headaches and discomfort on the bridge of the nose and the tops of the ears. This can be a challenge because facial structures can vary so much from worker to worker. For example, the facial structures of men and women are different, and the facial structures of people of different ethnicities can be different. Designers working with engineers engage in thorough research and development, leading to innovative safety eyewear designs that account for differences in the height, width, or location of cheekbones, nose bridges, and ears, as well as overall head size and shape.

Compatibility with other personal protective equipment, like hard hats, earmuffs, and respirators is another important factor affecting fit and comfort. Ensuring that all the required personal protective equipment fits comfortably together is a key to wearer compliance. This is one of the major reasons that a good fit in safety eyewear can be a challenge. If the safety eyewear isn’t comfortable it will not be worn.

3. Visual performance

If safety eyewear fits properly, lens distortion can be minimized, and the wearer’s vision will be unobstructed, ensuring that they can see in all directions without any major blind spots. This is a key aspect of the field performance of safety eyewear. Obstructions or lens distortion can create a visual impairment that can increase the risk of incident and injury. Anti-scratch coatings increase performance, and this will further increase wearer confidence in their PPE, leading to greater wearer compliance.

4. Durability

Proper fit also reduces the likelihood that the safety eyewear will become dislodged and dropped.  Proper handling leads to fewer scratches and this may increase the longevity of the safety eyewear. A proper fit also involves ensuring the eyewear stays put while the wearer moves their head through the full range of normal motions such as left-to-right, up-and-down, and shaking the head, even when in hot and humid conditions.

The Eyesafe™ edge

The fit of safety eyewear is critical for ensuring it is comfortable to wear, provides clear vision, withstands the rigour of the job, and provides the intended protection. All of these factors encourage improvements in compliance of use and the protection of employees’ eyes. If employee compliance with safety eyewear is an issue at your workplace, you will need to offer a choice of safety eyewear that provides the necessary protection. Employees will tell you comfortable safety eyewear is easy to remember to use every day.

The Eyesafe™ program offers a full range of safety eyewear models to accommodate different workers and hazards. Finding the right “fit” to maximize wearability is an integral component of the Eyesafe™ process. When your employee visits an Eyesafe™ clinic, they meet personally with the onsite eyewear experts to ensure fit, vision correction, and comfort.

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