Today we continue our discussion on preventing eye injuries in the workplace. Selection of protective eyewear appropriate for a given task should be made based on a hazard assessment of each activity. Although safety glasses may look like normal dress eyewear, they are designed to provide significantly more eye protection. The lenses and frames are much stronger than regular eyeglasses. Safety glasses must meet standards of the American National Standards Institute (ANSI). Look for the Z87 mark on the lens or frame.
Safety glasses provide eye protection for general working conditions where there may be dust, chips or flying particles. Side shields and wraparound-style safety glasses can provide additional side protection.
Safety lenses are available in plastic, polycarbonate and Trivex™ materials. While all types must meet or exceed the minimum requirements for protecting your eyes, polycarbonate lenses provide the highest level of protection from impact.
Goggles provide protection from impact, dust and chemical splash. Like safety glasses, safety goggles are highly impact-resistant. In addition, they provide a secure shield around the entire eye and protect against hazards coming from any direction. Goggles can be worn over prescription glasses and contact lenses.
Full face shields protect workers exposed to chemicals, heat or blood-borne pathogens. Helmets are used for welding or working with molten materials. Face shields and helmets should not be the only protective eyewear. They need to be used in conjunction with safety glasses or goggles, so the eyes are protected when the shield is lifted. Helmets or goggles with special filters to protect the eyes from optical radiation exposure should be used for welding or working with lasers.
Safety glasses must fit properly to provide adequate protection. Also, eye protection devices must be properly maintained. Scratched and dirty devices reduce vision, cause glare and may contribute to accidents.
Contact lenses can’t provide significant protection from eye hazards in the workplace. However, there is no evidence that wearing contact lenses increases the risk of eye injury.
Contact lenses may actually increase worker safety and productivity because they often provide improved vision in the workplace. Individuals who wear contact lenses usually have a wider field of vision than with eyeglasses. They also often have less visual distortion, especially with higher power lens prescriptions. In addition, wearing contact lenses instead of eyeglasses can improve the fit and comfort of eye safety equipment, such as goggles and full-face respirators.
In some cases, such as when hazardous chemical fumes are present, the safety of contact lenses may need to be determined on a case-by-case basis. Check your employer’s safety policy regarding the wearing of contact lenses. Your optometrist can help your employer and you determine whether you can safely wear contact lenses in your workplace.
Seek medical attention as soon as possible following an injury, particularly if you have pain in the eye, blurred vision or loss of any vision. Come in and see us for a comprehensive eye exam and discuss personalized options for your eyes.
Dr. Patrick Utnehmer, Promenade Optometry & Lasik, (951) 296-2211.