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Blinded by the light?

31 May 2016

Protecting the eyes in the workplace from the damaging effects of too much sunlight is vital, and not only in summer. Clair Weston, marketing manager at UVEX (UK), provides insight into choosing the right safety eyewear lens coatings.

Most safety eyewear is manufactured using polycarbonate material for the lenses which inherently offers 99.9% UVA/UVB protection. This, together with the addition of coated filters or polarised lenses, protects the eyes from glare and reflections, which helps to keep the eye healthy and free from diseases such as cataracts, glaucoma and macular degeneration, which can be exacerbated by UV light.

Unlike many flat styles of sun spectacles, wraparound style safety sunglasses can improve the protection for the eye and offer increased protection from harmful UV radiation, wind and dust. Such eyewear enhances protection from glare, reduces the risk of squinting, gives good peripheral vision and safeguards the whole eye, including the skin around it.

Twin-lensed uvex polavision sun spectacles have a polarising filter to help darken bright skies, manage reflections off bright and polished surfaces and reduce glare from wet surfaces and water, making it extremely well suited to outdoor environments such as in construction and the maritime and offshore oil and gas industries. The polarised lenses not only reliably protect the eyes from strain but creates a pleasant, comfortable light to work in.

Branded high street sunglasses are unlikely to provide adequate protection for use in the workplace. However, expensive they may be, they are unlikely to carry the necessary lens coatings for industrial use, have the same scratch-resistant and anti-fog lens coatings available on industrial safety eyewear and may not even have the same stringent optical quality standards either.

Hi-tech, permanent lens coatings on safety eyewear can be used not only to improve vision in or out of the sun, but they also protect against fogging, UVB/UVA and infrared light, scratching, chemicals, glare, dust, sparks and static electricity. The coatings also keep the lenses of the eyewear cleaner for longer.

All eyewear must comply with the required safety legislation which is essential for the correct interpretation of warning safety signs and signals at work.

Jobs in different industries

Any safety or procurement manager knows they need to look for quality, innovation, durability, comfort, value for money, whole-life cost effectiveness and good design of their safety eyewear.

However, they also need to consider other factors such as the available lens coatings for optimum optical clarity, effectiveness, safety and wearer comfort. Two of the main reasons that safety eyewear is either not worn or taken off is due to wearer comfort, both in terms of fit and vision, and whether the wearer can see through the lenses, either due to them fogging up or being scratched. So choosing the right lens coating for the right job to keep the eyewear where it’s needed – on the wearers’ faces – is very important. There is no point in employers providing protective eyewear if workers won’t wear it, or won’t wear it for long. A happy workforce makes for good productivity.

The most suitable lens coating should be selected based on the environmental conditions in which the task takes place, i.e. humidity, temperature, and dirt.

If unsuitable lens coatings are used for a particular job, then unwanted consequences such as eye irritation, lack of compliance and confidence in PPE help to lower worker morale and therefore productivity.