Vision of safety

25 November 2020

Despite a fantastic selection of safety eyewear on the market, there is still a significant number of incidents affecting the eyes and eyesight. Here, uvex provides guidance on how to select the most suitable safety eyewear for the wearer.

WORKPLACE RISK is an acknowledged reality and the implementation of a comprehensive safety strategy should significantly reduce such risk. Our eyesight is precious and demands the selection and provision of high-quality safety eyewear which not only ‘protects’ but which enhances wearer compliance due to its design providing excellent comfort, fit and stability features. It’s clear that the provision of high quality personal protective equipment (PPE) can significantly reduce the real cost of personal injury (productivity, litigation and income) while enabling more people to return to their families safe and sound at the end of the working day. 

Despite the availability of high-quality safety eyewear, the frequency of incidents directly affecting the eyes and eyesight, remains high. The evidence suggests that this is likely to be due to inappropriate safety eyewear being used (eg wearing spectacles when goggles are indicated) or that eyewear is not being worn at all. The factors which give rise to either outcome can clearly be addressed. 

Eye injuries sustained in the workplace can be caused by a multitude of factors including the ingress of airborne materials, chemical splash, direct impact from any number of materials and from the environment, namely ultraviolet light and glare. The combination of a wide range of tasks carried out in diverse workplace environments create the potential for multiple risks, which, where possible should be ‘engineered out’, but where this is not the case, job specific risk assessments should define the type of safety eyewear to be worn.

Types of eyewear

Safety eyewear is primarily classified as either spectacles or goggles and for a very good reason – it is fundamentally about the level of impact protection each provides. Safety prescription eyewear is available in both spectacles and goggles. Laser protection eyewear is available from selected manufacturers.

Safety spectacles certified to the core EN166 standard, provide protection against low energy impact, specifically up to 45 meters per second. Safety goggles properly certified to EN166 provide medium energy impact protection, specifically up to 120 meters per second and should be regarded as the mandatory option for those using high power tools such as nail guns or angle grinders. By definition, safety spectacles are clearly not recommended for use in such applications.

Safety goggles are equally appropriate where the task involves the risk of chemical or molten metal splash, exposure to gases or vapours which could be harmful to the eyes or environments where there is a high degree of airborne particulates.

Choosing the right safety eyewear

So, how do you choose the right eyewear? Employers have a duty of care to ensure that workers are provided with appropriate PPE wherever the risk assessment defines that as necessary. There are several areas for consideration when selecting eyewear suitable for your workforce.

The first and most vital thing to appreciate is that one size does not fit all. It is understandable that Companies might prefer to standardise on one or very few styles but the probability that all wearers will enjoy the same quality of fit is very low and this induces risk for some. Head and facial shapes differ widely requiring a range of eyewear from which employees can select. Personal involvement in this process not only ensures a proper fit, crucial for the wearer’s safety, it also increases the likelihood that eyewear stays worn throughout the working day. A good fit also takes into consideration the ‘wearability’ of safety eyewear which should include the following.

Eyewear should deliver a low-pressure, stable, lightweight fit with even weight distribution. Injection-moulded hard and soft components around the brow, nose and on side arms not only increase comfort but increases the probability that eyewear stays where it should be-on the face. Frame adjustability features such as lens inclination and extendable side arms allow wearers to achieve a customised, close fit (to keep hazards out) so ensuring that they can go about their work comfortably, confidently and with as little distraction ( from the PPE being worn) as possible.

The Optical Quality of lenses is often assumed but should never be taken for granted. Optical Class 1 is the benchmark for safety lenses and the best performing lenses are those which achieve the Optical Class 1 rating over the entire surface area of the lens. Optical Class 1 lenses perform two vital functions, 1) to provide the wearer to see with as close to natural vision as is possible and 2) to reduce the potential for eye strain, headaches and fatigue -all of which are debilitating and capable of increasing personal risk at the place of work. 

The effects of UV on the skin are well known however, the cumulative effect of UV on our eyes is less well recognised. As few as 7% of the population associate UV radiation with eye disease yet the eye is the most susceptible organ to damage caused by sunlight. The name uvex is derived from ultraviolet exclusion, marking our leading position in recognising the damage of UV exposure and developing innovative technology which protects against it. uvex is the only safety eyewear manufacturer able to offer UV protection up to 400nm across its entire range covering UVB and UVA rays. 

Polycarbonate lenses filter UV ensuring that most safety eyewear meets the EN166/EN170 standard which specifies UV protection up to 380 nm, however, the WHO (World Health Organisation) and latest scientific studies state that this level of protection is insufficient and recommend the higher 400nm protection level. 

The type of environment in which the work is undertaken should influence the lens shade(s) selected. The obvious questions to pose include: Are employees working indoors under harsh, bright lights? Are people frequently moving between indoors and outdoors, between light and shaded areas or are they working outside in the sunshine where the intensity of the sun can be a hazard in itself? The selection of lens tint that is right for the environment together with the highest quality of lens engineering and performance all positively affects compliance, while mitigating risk. A better understanding of the risks of exposure to “blue light” – from multiple sources ( screens, phones, TV, LED lighting ) has led to the development of lens tints such as uvex’s CBR65 designed specifically to block the more harmful wavelengths of blue light from the spectrum. 

Compatibility with other PPE such as respirators, hearing protection and helmets should also be carefully considered and the more so now, when many more workers are required to wear masks as a result of the CV19 threat.

Let’s talk about lens fogging

Due to the way that safety glasses or goggles fit, close to the head keeping particulates out, moisture build up, especially if the work is physical and demanding,can result in the lens fogging.  How you choose which coating you need depends on the environment and the application being performed. Some coatings offer anti-fog performance on the inside, where it is most needed, and a scratch-resistant hard coat on the exterior of the lens. Others are anti-fog and scratch resistant on both sides making them suitable for environments with high humidity. 

However, not all anti-fog coatings are created equal. The tests conducted for the coating performance are optional tests for manufacturers, requiring the anti-fog coating to perform for a minimum of 8 seconds on first use. Where many coatings fail is in the longevity of the anti-fog performance. 

Many traditional hydrophobic anti-fog coatings are detergent-based, which can be eliminated after a number lens cleaning actions rendering the eyewear ineffective and requiring replacement and additional cost. When anti-fog performance reduces there is a tendency for wearers to re-position the spectacle to create ventilation or to remove the spectacle completely-in both cases promoting risk and of course a compliance issue. When considering which safety eyewear to choose it is important to check that lenses feature Hydrophilic coatings -coatings which due to the application process, provide anti-fog protection for the life of the product-supporting compliance, managing risk and reducing costs over time.

When ‘wearability’ is designed into safety eyewear, employees are more likely to keep it where it should be, on their face and in front of their eyes. It is entirely possible for employees to be provided with high-performing, comfortable, well fitting spectacles or goggles that keeps dust and debris out, in a style and design to ensure there is something for everyone. 

For more information visit