Magazine article Occupational Hazards

With Safety Eyewear

Magazine article Occupational Hazards

With Safety Eyewear

Article excerpt

Saving employees' sight also means saving a bundle in expenses.

Four or five times a year, people bring safety glasses to me that were damaged in an accident that would have resulted in an eye injury. Lots of glasses that have come to me are damaged from something unexpected like an incorrectly cut metal band that snapped with a razor sharp edge. I save those glasses and use them for show and tell," says Bruce Kapfer, safety director for Revere Copper Products Inc. in Rome, N.Y. "We have not had any serious eye injuries in the six years I've been here -- nothing more serious than dust in the eye."

That is due to the company's sophisticated eye safety program, which has been in place for several years. Protective eyewear is required everywhere in the mill except office areas. In the cast shop, where copper is melted, employees must don safety eyewear with glass lenses (because a splash of molten metal would burn through plastic) and face shields to double their protection. In Revere Copper's other production areas, workers can choose between polycarbonate or glass lenses for their safety eyewear.

Like Kapfer's colleagues, in many work environments today, employers need to be cognizant of all potential risks and hazards to their employees' eyesight. A variety of flying debris causes thousands of on-the-job eye injuries every year, some of which can rob employees of their sight permanently. The majority of these accidents can be prevented by providing employees with the correct type of safety eyeglasses and making sure they are worn.

Maximizing Safety and Productivity

Companies should take every precaution possible to protect employees' eyes and prevent the emotional and financial hardships associated with serious eye injuries. The U.S. Department of Labor estimates that more than 400,000 occupationally related eye injuries occur annually. According to Prevent Blindness America, approximately 100,000 of these cause temporary or permanent vision loss. That translates to a financial impact for employers of more than $500 million in medical expenses, workers' compensation claims and lost productivity, as well as the employees' physical and emotional suffering. Everyone loses.

A safety eyewear program not only prevents the loss of an employee's sight, it is the law. OSHA estimates that 90 percent of all occupationally related eye injuries could have been avoided through the use of proper protective eyewear, heightened safety awareness and loss prevention programs in the workplace.

Providing the Right Eyewear

The right safety eyewear depends upon the type of job being performed. Those who operate machines for a living need protection from flying particles and dust, welders need protection from sparks, and chemical handlers need protection from splashes. Potential hazards to the eyes arise in almost every industry, but those employees at the highest risk are mechanics, carpenters, plumbers, machine operators and other manufacturers. Most problems result when the damaging object gets around and under the eyewear. This can be largely avoided by employees wearing the appropriate style of safety eyewear for their type of work.

All employers should provide proper eyewear. Because different tasks call for different types of protection, employees may be required to Wear a variety of these styles:

* Safety glasses look just like regular ophthalmic eyewear, but have special impact-resistant frames and lenses and may or may not have transparent side shields blocking access to the outer perimeter of the eyes.

* Goggles provide eye protection from hazards coming from above, below and the sides.

* Face shields offer full frontal protection, but should only be used in conjunction with safety glasses because they don't sit close enough to the eyes to act as an adequate safeguard on their own.

* Helmets, primarily used for welding, provide extra head and eye protection from errant sparks. …

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