Should eye be safe?

To ensure you protect yourself and those you are responsible for, it is important to have an effective eye and face safety program in place that is committed to by management and is agreed upon by all staff/contractors and visitors to the area.

AS/NZS1336 – 2014 eye and face protection provides recommended practices and guidance for the selection, care and use of eye and face protectors.

The committee that developed the AS/NZS1336 found that the following activities contribute to successful eye and face safety:

  • An assessment of hazards.
  • Determination of eye and face hazard areas.
  • Elimination or confinement of eye and face hazards.
  • Vision screening.
  • Referral for optometrical, ophthalmological examination or both, where necessary.
  • The universal wearing of suitable eye and face protectors for those persons at risk
  • Educational campaigns on eye safety.
  • A critical examination of working conditions, particularly lighting, layout and planning of buildings and processes, form a necessary part of an eye and face safety program.

This article will discuss one aspect of eye safety – the wearing of appropriate eye protectors.

Why is eye safety important?

As we become more aware of the risks of eye and face injuries, it is astonishing to see people continuing not to wear the correct eye protectors.

In my surrounds, I see the lawn mowing contractor wearing sunglasses but not safety glasses.

At a recent construction site, I observed workers wearing their hard hats, safety boots, and hi-visibility clothing, but not all were wearing safety glasses. About half were wearing fashion sunglasses.

Safety glasses have come a long way since the 1980’s. Back then, the glasses were traditional in style, and not something that you would wear outside of the workshop. Today’s choice of safety glasses are so wide and varied that you could spend the whole day deciding which ones you are prepared to buy.

As I work in the industry, I recognise the majority of brands of sunglasses and also safety glasses. That is why I can say that I readily know when a person is wearing a pair of AS/NZS1337.1 safety glasses or wearing a pair of fashion glasses.

How can injuries be prevented?

As noted above, in addition to machine guards and training, wearing of safety eyewear helps prevent eye injuries.

Certification – Most safety glasses in Australia are certified by an independent body. With certification, you can have confidence that the manufacturer is subjected to an independent audit on an annual basis. Certified safety eyewear has a certification logo to demonstrate to you that the eyewear you put on is manufactured to AS/NZS1337 specifications.

So if you are going to buy a pair of glasses to wear, look for an independent certification. Do not rely on the sales person to say that they are popular, or they are well recommended by the manufacturer. Look for the certification mark.

Particle flying energy – Increasingly, many fashion sunglasses are being manufactured from polycarbonate lenses which can withstand impact – but these fashion sunglasses, as well as prescription spectacles, are not tested for impact resistance. Furthermore, these do not provide you with any assurance that there is sufficient lateral coverage to the ocular area.

Safety eyewear can be manufactured to four impact energy levels. The eye protectors are impact tested using a steel ball bearing at the following speeds:

Low 13m/s
Medium 45m/s
High 120m/s
Extra High 190m/s

Low impact safety spectacles only protect from low energy flying particles.

Where you are working with higher velocity particles, a low impact rated spectacle may not provide sufficient protection.

The most common safety eyewear sold in Australia are medium impact certified.

Safety goggles – Safety goggles provide a broader level of protection, as they can offer liquid splash protection, as well as protection from airborne dust particles. Like some safety glasses, most safety goggles can be worn over prescription spectacles.

When working with liquids where there is a risk of spillage, a pair of safety glasses is unlikely to protect you from the liquids dripping from the forehead to your ocular area. That is why splash proof goggles or face shields are recommended. Splash proof eyewear is marked on the product with a ‘C’ or ‘6’ on the lens.

Visors and face shields – There are also high impact protectors and extra high impact eye protectors. These are usually in the form of a visor attached to a brow guard or to a safety helmet. Extra high impact protectors must withstand an impact velocity of 190m/s. A visor will provide a greater facial coverage area and comes in various shapes and sizes.

Visors can also be accredited for splash protection.

 

Common power tools

Brand Type RPM (no load) Disc Diameter (mm) Particle Velocity (m/s)
Bosch Angle Grinder 10,000 125 65
Makita Circular Saw 5400 185 52
Honda Line Trimmer 7000 228 84

This table shows that safety glasses and/or visors are a must have accessory when working with power equipment. It is important to read the manual and get the technical specifications to ensure that you have correct safety eyewear on.

It is not as simple as saying that everyone must wear safety glasses. Not one style of safety glasses fits everyone’s face structure. Consideration should be made before selecting safety eyewear to ensure that it provides sufficient coverage and comfort. Some faces are narrow and others are broad. The level of comfort to the wearer is important to ensure that they are willing to wear the glasses.

Consideration should also be made if you or your workers are exposed to glare. If you are exposed to excessive glare, then it is ideal to wear a tinted pair of safety glasses. Tinted glasses can be polarised, photochromatic or tinted to reduce the light transmittance through the lens.

It is important to know that safety glasses are suitable only for protection from solar radiation. It does not protect you from laser or welding light sources. These are subject to a different Australian Standard.

What if they wear spectacles? That is a whole new standard and will be discussed in a future article.

At Australian Safety Wholesalers, we offer a full variety of safety glasses, goggles and face shields, all with SAI Global certification. Our safety glasses and goggles are all medium impact accredited. Our face shields are certified to extra high impact. Our extensive range includes economically priced models through to specialised fire rated and heat resistant safety goggles. Our range includes polarised and photochromatic (indoor/outdoor) lenses. Our range also includes mesh eyewear.

We will help you to find which designs suit your work environment. Our account managers are all well qualified to provide technical support and answer queries you may have on eyewear protection.

Gary Chang

Manager of Australian Safety Wholesalers

www.australiansafetywholesalers.com

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