Magazine article Occupational Hazards

Eye Safety Around-the-Clock

Magazine article Occupational Hazards

Eye Safety Around-the-Clock

Article excerpt

Leading companies are taking eye safety training to the next level and making a push for 24-hour protection.

It's ironic how some people will spend their work day conscientiously using eye protection, only to go home and perform equally dangerous tasks without a second thought about protecting their eyes. This might include activities that range from operating a circular saw or weed trimmer, to pounding nails or using powerful cleaning solutions or solvents.

Progressive companies recognize that employees aren't always highly safety conscious at home, and are taking action to extend the consciousness of eye protection to off-the-job activities. This not only benefits employees through the elimination of pain and suffering, but helps employers field a productive work force free of lost-time injuries.

According to Prevent Blindness America (PBA), the Schaumburg, Ill.-based advocacy group dedicated to protecting eyesight, more than 2.4 million eye injuries occur each year. About one-sixth of those are occupational injuries - more than 365,000 cases per year, according to PBA. So preaching off-the-job eye safety focuses attention on the area where the lion's share of eye injuries actually occur.

"Off-the-job injuries are a big problem," said Tod Turriff, director, eye safety programs, at PBA. "But whether it is an off-the-job or on-the-job eye injury, an employee is bound to lose work time and that has to concern employers.

"We strongly advocate that employers educate their employees about eye safety as a 24-hour mission. And that can take many forms, from stressing the use of safety glasses to including a discussion of eye safety during vision screenings, among other things."

Health care professionals, company safety and health directors and employers all over the country emphasize the benefits of 24-hour eye protection.

"I recommend the use of industrial-approved ANSI standard Z87.1 safety glasses not only on the job, but also at home," said Dr. Paul Bommarito, a Cupertino, Calif.-based occupational vision consultant. "I've personally seen many cases where people have been working at home, cutting the grass or using a drill, and their vision was saved because they were wearing safety glasses. It doesn't take much - a small stone or a tiny piece of metal shot into the eye - to cause a major injury."

Bommarito recommends the use of safety glasses that feature polycarbonate lenses (for superior impact resistance) and side shields. "Most eye injuries result from an object entering the eye on an angle," he said. "On the job or at home, it makes sense to have side shields. Many types of prescription safety glasses can utilize detachable side shields too, which can be used while working, and then removed if the wearer is interested in wearing the prescription glasses under normal conditions."

Bommarito thinks more and more companies are now stressing 24-hour protection for their employees. "Between working in home workshops, playing sports and other leisure-time activities, there is ample opportunity for people to suffer an injury," he said. "The bottom line is, people should be urged to use as much protection as possible."

Eye Safety Starts at Work

Companies that advocate eye protection in excess of statutory responsibilities find it is both good business and in the best interests of their employees.

"We have to pay for all injuries whether they occur at home or at the plant, so we strongly encourage our employees to work safely at home," said Judy Drvenkar, a staff nurse at General Electric in Cleveland who devotes 60 percent of her time to safety responsibilities. "If that means employees taking their safety glasses home, or us loaning them another pair, we encourage them to do either."

Drvenkar said General Electric has sold hundreds of pairs of safety sunglasses at cost to employees for use in nonwork activities. "We have a lot of people who enjoy motorcycling and other outdoor activities," she said. …

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