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Procuring safety eyewear

23 January 2013

Research carried out among health & safety professionals has highlighted a worrying lack of knowledge about safety frames and their procurement,explains Jim Lythgow The procurement of safety eyewear can be complex as ea

Research carried out among health & safety professionals has highlighted a worrying lack of knowledge about safety frames and their procurement,explains Jim Lythgow

The procurement of safety eyewear can be complex as each different working environment presents its own risks. The starting point for any provision of safety eyewear must, therefore, be a thorough health and safety audit and risk assessment. The high-street optician is not the appropriate person to determine the risks and propose the precautions.

Impact resistance The overall purpose of safety eyewear is to resist impacts which may be of varying levels and from varying objects and substances.

Safety eyewear issued in the UK must conform to the European standard European Normals (EN)166:2002 within which there are various levels of resistance.

Each lens will be marked with the appropriate symbol regarding its properties: Symbol Property S Increased robustness F Low energy impact B Medium energy impact A High energy impact 9 Non-adherence of molten metal and resistance to penetration of hot solids K Resistance to damage by fine particles N Non-fogging properties A worrying 59% of companies believe that wearing ordinary prescription glasses will provide protection from corrosive materials, 31% believe they protect from electric arcs and 25% believe ordinary glasses provide protection from welding materials.

Prescription glasses will not suffice once the energy impact resistance required reaches 'medium' (denoted as EN166 B), or if work involves the need for protection against corrosive materials, electrical arcs or welding materials. At this point, goggles or visors carrying the appropriate EN specifications will need to be sourced. For high-energy impacts, visors or face shields will be required (as defined by EN166 A). In some low-energy impact situations (EN 166 F), safety spectacles or glasses are acceptable.

The right level of protection Usually, safety glasses will include side shields to offer lateral protection, but these should be selected so as not to unnecessarily restrict the field of view. For circumstances where protection is required for more than just the eyes, full-face protection is often appropriate.

Frame options 83% of companies believe that if safety frames are not comfortable they are likely to be removed so comfort is important.

Lens selection Those who regularly need to wear safety eyewear and have a prescription requirement should be provided with safety glasses of the type they most commonly wear - either single or multi-focal.

Procurement routes There are four main stages in the provision of prescription safety eyewear: 1. The manufacture and supply of certified safety frames 2. The eye test to determine the correct prescription 3. The insertion of the appropriate lenses (glazing) in a certified laboratory 4. The fitting and dispensing of the spectacles to the wearer A different supplier can be selected for each of these stages or, a single source can provide the full service, so there are a number of different ways to purchase safety eyewear: From a safety frame manufacturer Manufacturers of safety frames may have regional sales representatives who will set up accounts directly. Pricing is often dependent on volume. The cost of glazing should be included but the optician providing the dispensing service will apply additional, variable, dispensing fees.

Through a PPE catalogue PPE catalogues will often offer a range of plain and prescription safety eyewear. Any discounts will be dependant on volumes. Again, glazing should be included, but the dispenser may apply additional fees.

Through a third-party network coordinator This is a way of procuring safety glasses from a single manufacturer at a fixed price, usually inclusive of dispensing fees, through a range of opticians.

Through an optician The costs incurred will depend on the optician's level of involvement in the process. At one extreme, the optician will source the frames individually from the manufacturer and send them to a certified safety eyewear laboratory for glazing, before dispensing.

At the other end of the spectrum, the optician may have its own range of frames and its own certified glazing facility if the safety eyewear is made in-house.

Final decision Procurement of safety eyewear is a huge responsibility and it is vital to take as much guidance as possible from health & safety experts. A free copy of Specsavers health & safety research 2010 can be obtained by emailing: corporateeyecare@ uk.specsavers.com or by calling the number below.

Jim Lythgow is director of strategic alliances at Specsavers Corporate Eyecare Specsavers will be at Health & Safety '10 Scotland on Stand 88.