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Eyecare: are your workers covered 100%?

01 February 2017

If there is a need for safety eyewear in a particular area of the factory floor, for a particular role, safety managers are erring on the side of caution and making the entire factory floor a safety eyewear zone. Jim Lythgow, director of strategic alliances, Specsavers Corporate Eyecare suggests that this precaution has an impact on the procurement of safety eyewear.

Eye and eyesight protection is arguably one of the most important aspects of PPE. Indeed, eyesight is so valuable that there is now a growing trend towards 100% safety eyewear in areas that are deemed hazardous. It has always been important that eye protection is comfortable but extended wear means that comfort and fit must be given even greater precedence, for a greater number of people. We have undertaken research over many years which has shown that people are likely to remove safety eyewear, when it is not safe to do so, if it is not well fitting and comfortable. The solution to this problem is quite simple: to allow employees the opportunity to actually try on different styles of safety eyewear and to have eyewear professionally fitted.

Choosing safety eyewear from a catalogue or online is not ideal. No-one expects everyday glasses wearers to all wear the same style and to buy their glasses without trying them on. We don’t believe this should be any different when the glasses are actually there to protect eyesight.

Professional fitting of safety eyewear is a quick and simple process, which is generally cost-free. It is designed ensure that the safety eyewear fits correctly round the temples and across the bridge of the nose. Badly fitting safety eyewear may not only be uncomfortable but may also not fully provide the necessary protection from impacts.

With 100% safety eyewear policies in place, using over goggles for glasses wearers is unlikely to ever prove the best solution. Quite apart from the light refraction caused by two sets of lenses, is the issue of the discomfort caused by wearing two sets of eyewear. Prescription safety eyewear is likely to be the best solution in the majority of cases.  

A policy of 100% safety eyewear may actually have further benefits over and above safeguarding vision from possible chemicals, sparks or flying objects. While it is not obligatory for employers to provide an eye examination prior to providing safety eyewear, not doing so could result in a new prescription being required very soon after new eyewear has been provided, which makes little financial sense.

Far beyond an added bonus, a full eye examination can have huge additional benefits. Using special optical cameras, the optometrist is able to view the blood vessels at the back of the eye and can detect small changes that cannot be seen anywhere else in the body without invasive procedures. Certain changes can indicate cardiovascular disease. Thickening of the blood vessel walls, or narrowing of the vessels themselves, can restrict blood from reaching the retina - this may be indicative of high blood pressure. Spotting this is important as high blood pressure affects one in three adults but, in many cases, is symptomless.

These systemic conditions that can be detected through eye examinations also include such disorders as diabetes, raised cholesterol, arthritis, thyroid problems, multiple sclerosis and others. Of course, eye examinations can also detect a huge range of ocular conditions, including cataract, glaucoma, age-related macular degeneration, ocular tumours, and more.

With the ability to detect so many serious illnesses and conditions, often before any symptoms become noticeable, a simple eye examination can have a big impact on health and wellbeing. This is turn, can have a positive impact on productivity.

Midland Aerospace is one such company that has adopted this approach for prescription safety eyewear. With the production team carrying out tasks like CNC machining and manual milling, fabrication, detailed assembly work, and paint preparation and application, it is vital that they have the appropriate safety eyewear. While it would technically be sufficient for Midland Aerospace to provide over goggles for those who wear glasses for everyday use, the company has chosen to provide prescription safety glasses, as these provide greater comfort.