We need to take the eye safety message to our employees. We have talked about eye protection many times in the past. There is no question how easily damaged our eyes are and how important it is to protect them. In spite of this eye injuries in the workplace are very common.
Toolbox Talks (also known as Tailboards or Team Huddles) are a great way to get the message out and to reinforce it. A Toolbox Talk is an informal safety meeting, conducted at the job site prior to the commencement of a job or work shift. Toolbox talks focus on an aspect of safety related to any specific job or task employees are about to undertaken. These meetings are normally short (10-15 minutes) and cover basic topics such as workplace hazards and strategies for controlling hazards.
Below we have provided a framework for a basic toolbox talk on eye safety and how to get the message out. Keeping it simple and on topic will help to make sure the message sticks.
Eye Safety Toolbox Talk
We all know when to wear eye protection on the job, but today we want to talk about other eye injuries that occur and how to prevent them. The majority of eye injuries do not occur because we failed to wear safety glasses.
Thousands of eye injuries occur to people at work each day. Over ten percent of these injuries result in lost time of a day or more recovery time and many of these result in temporary or permanent vision loss. In almost all cases, experts believe that the right eye protection could have lessened the severity or even prevented 90% of eye injuries in accidents.
Safety Eyewear Basics
Safety eyewear includes safety glasses and lenses with side shields, full-face shields, direct and indirect vented goggles and a range of specialty products like welder’s masks. The full range of products needs to be considered as part of the process of assessing workplace hazards and developing a safe work plan. If you are not sure about which safety eyewear product is right for you, ask your company safety advisor or your Eyesafe Optometrist.
The Common Causes of Eye Injuries at Work
The most common causes for eye injuries at work include, flying objects (bits of metal, glass or debris), chemical splashes or mists, and radiation.
Our Best Defense Against an Eye Injury
There are three basic things we all need to know to be able to prevent an eye injury.
- Know the hazards associated with your work (include eye hazards in your hazard assessment).
- Seek a control strategy that eliminate hazards before starting work (e.g. use machine guarding, work screens, and other engineering controls).
- Always wear proper safety eyewear suitable to your work hazards.
What are the root causes of incidents resulting in eye injuries?
- 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 specific hazards and think about 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 the lenses are dirty or scratched so take good care of your safety eyewear for optimal performance. Remember too that safety eyewear that is sitting on top your head won’t protect you.
- Wearing the right 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 safety eyewear for each job. Watch for changing requirements like having to change to work from cutting to grinding. 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.
- Remembering 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. Know you options, and if needed ask for help.
Remind employees that safety eyewear is actually designed to absorb or deflect flying debris, splashes of hazardous liquids and radiation. No system can be designed to be a total protection for every exposure we face every day, but 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 possibilities of exposures, recognizing them, and taking the proper steps to eliminate the exposure. Vigilance is important, but take time to remind each other about the importance of wearing your 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.