Your workplace eye safety policy checklist

August 14, 2023

By Glyn Jones

Occupational Health & Safety Program Requirements

Alberta legislation requires employers to develop an occupational health and safety (OHS) program. The cornerstone of any OHS program is a written policy, which helps to:

  • define and promote the program,
  • describe the commitment of the employer and employees to assess and control hazards and ensure safe work, and
  • increase overall program effectiveness.

A good OHS policy includes guidelines related to the control of specific hazards. Things like working at heights, confined space entry, respiratory protection, and eye safety, are all good examples of workplace protocols that are improved by developing policies to guide employees’ behaviours.

How to Write an Eye Safety Policy

When it comes to eye safety at work, employers will be more successful in realizing their objectives if they develop a clear policy to promote the eye safety program. Such a policy communicates the employer’s commitment to eye safety, and it must be signed by senior management, made available to employees, reviewed regularly, and updated as needed. It will define the plan of action and the methods that have been deliberately chosen to meet OHS requirements and ensure workers’ eyes are protected on the job.

As you develop your eye safety policy, use the following checklist to ensure it is effective and compliant:

  • Acknowledge that the employer is ultimately responsible for worker health and safety.
  • Involve senior management and worker representatives in the preparation of the policy.
  • Hold all levels of management accountable for carrying out health and safety responsibilities.
  • Commit the organization to be compliant with all applicable OHS legislation and other requirements related to eye safety.
  • Commit to protecting workers’ eyes by eliminating hazards and reducing risks as much as possible.
  • Ensure it is relevant and appropriate to the nature and scale of the eye hazards and risks associated with the work of the organization.
  • Assign equal importance to the organization’s other policy objectives.
  • Include a plan to document, make available, and communicate to all relevant parties.
  • Include a schedule to regularly review and update as appropriate to ensure continual improvement.
  • Look for partners, such as Eyesafe to oversee and assist with compliance.

Policies versus Procedures

How you implement your eye safety policy will determine program success. As they say, “the devil is in the details.”

Responsibilities, resource allocation, and a means of ensuring accountability all need to be clearly defined, assigned, communicated, and applied throughout the organizational structure. Worksite procedures and program activities need to be connected to the policy and support its implementation.

While the assignment of responsibilities is important, avoid being too specific in your policy. The policy is your overarching guideline, which will be implemented using more detailed written procedures. Procedures are generally more flexible, and this method allows changes to be made as circumstances warrant. For example, many OHS policies specify the use of PPE. However, it may not be necessary to list the specific type of safety eyewear that must be worn by a worker in the policy. It would be more appropriate to simply state that all workers must use safety eyewear specified by the employer and as required by the nature of the work. The selection and use of safety eyewear would then be driven by the results of a thorough field-level hazard assessment or task hazard assessment and conveyed in a procedure. Depending on the types of tasks performed and the hazards present, it may be necessary for the employer to become fairly specific and detailed in outlining hazards.

Program Success and Maintenance

Employees’ active and ongoing participation is required to ensure program success. This starts with clearly communicating the policy and associated procedures and requirements to all relevant parties. There are many ways to do this, such as:

  • orientation to the policy and the procedures;
  • ongoing training;
  • health and safety committee’s involvement in the process; and
  • Toolbox Talks and safety meetings — Eyesafe blogs can help guide Toolbox Talks topics and help with answering questions

It is important that members of senior management participate in safety training and meetings and demonstrate their commitment by always wearing safety eyewear while in the workplace.

After the eye safety policy has been prepared and implemented, it must be monitored to assess its effectiveness. Some of the best ways to monitor policy effectiveness include job observation of employee compliance with safety eyewear use and review of the frequency of refresher training. The policy and related procedures will also need to be updated and amended from time to time to keep pace with the changes occurring at the workplace, industry “good practice” guidelines, and applicable legislation, codes, or standards. An annual review is best.

Eye safety is important in all workplaces. The risk of eye injury at work is real. The starting point for any eye safety program is a dedicated policy. With your policy as a cornerstone, connected to effective hazard assessment processes, workplace eye safety is possible every day.

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