Eyewear is an essential part of any personal protective equipment, also known as PPE. The eyes, as well as being some of the most useful and important organs in the body, are also some of the most vulnerable. They are incredibly complex and unlike some other parts of our body, can be damaged relatively easily and are very difficult to heal. The consequences of any injury to our eyes can also be very serious, so we need to be aware of protecting them at all costs and all times.
The first stage to selecting appropriate eyewear is to carry out a risk assessment and identify the key areas of risk that might affect your eyes. The dangers and risks in any workplace differ, as do the potential causes of problems. The hazards that affect eyes can largely be grouped into several categories. Identifying these will make your eyewear selection process a lot easier.
The majority of impact injuries result from falling or flying objects, including sparks striking the eye. Many of these objects are very small, even smaller than a pinhead, but can still cause serious damage including abrasions, punctures and contusions. When working in an impact zone you should at least be wearing safety goggles, preferably with side shields. Secondary protective face shields may also be advisable.
High temperatures, sparks or splashes of molten materials are understandably not very good at all for your eyes. If you work in any kind of pouring, casting or furnace conditions, then heavy-duty eyewear is essential. Goggles with special-purpose lenses are advisable, as are side shields. Depending on the intensity of the heat you may need to adjust your protection levels.
Direct contact with chemicals can be very damaging to eyes, so anyone working in close proximity to hazardous substances needs to protect them. An inappropriate choice of eyewear can be very dangerous, with chemicals being able to penetrate around the glasses or even though material not suitable for use in these circumstances. Mists, vapours and fumes can be equally as damaging as splash hazards so a strong seal is important. Correctly fitted goggles, face shields or masks are very important when working with chemicals.
Dust build up in the eyes can happen quickly and repeated exposure can be damaging. Eye-cup or sealed goggles can be worn. They don’t need to be too heavy duty with lightweight and flexible goggles suitable but a good seal is important.
Laser work or high concentrations of light can have very serious consequences for eyes, with some lasers being more powerful than looking directly at the sun. Retinal burns, cataracts and even permanent blindness can result from even small exposures so optimum care must be taken. Determine the power and strength of the light source you are working with and choose eyewear that is appropriate for the conditions.
In all situations involving a need for eyewear, it is your employer’s responsibility to provide you with the equipment you need to protect two of your most vital organs. Never take chances and if you are unsure don’t do the work.