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Toolbox Talk: Protective Eyewear Use & Selection

Safety glasses are an essential piece of safety equipment in the workplace. They protect your eyes from debris and other hazards that could cause injury. When selecting and purchasing safety glasses, make sure the pair you choose meets or exceeds the safety standards set by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) Z87.1-2020.

  • Every day, 2000 US workers sustain a job-related eye injury that requires medical treatment.
  • One-third of these injuries are treated in hospital emergency rooms.
  • More than 100 of these injuries result in one or more days away from work.

The Most Common Causes of Eye Injuries

  • Eye injuries can be caused by many hazards in the workplace and when carrying out dangerous jobs such as welding. Some of the most common hazards are:
  • Flying dust and debris – this can be caused by yourself or a co-worker sanding or working with equipment that omits dust and debris.
  • Exposure to dangerous chemicals – this is caused by chemicals and other dangerous substances becoming airborne and coming into contact with your eyes.
  • UV exposure – this can be caused by being exposed to welding or working outside in the sun.
  • Blunt trauma to the eyes – this can be caused by hazards such as falling objects or parts of machinery that stick out.
  • Heat exposure to the eyes – this can be caused by getting too close to a co-worker welding or machinery that emits hot air.

How to Avoid Eye Injuries

Identify Hazards

Before starting a task, make sure that you identify all of the potential hazards that could cause eye injuries. For every hazard you identify, put safeguards in place to remove the risk. This can be as simple as doing the job outdoors instead of indoors, or it might be something complicated like having to evacuate all other employees from the worksite while you do the job. If you cannot eliminate major risks or are unsure, stop the job immediately and consult a supervisor.

Wear Correct PPE

Always make sure to wear the approved personal protection equipment (PPE) when carrying out a job with a potential for eye injuries.

According to research, 3 out of 5 eye injuries are caused by people not wearing the correct PPE. Eye safety PPE includes safety glasses, face shields, and goggles. The exact type depends on the job you are doing. For example, when welding, you need to wear a welding face shield, and when working with dangerous chemicals, you should wear goggles that fully protect your eyes.

Note: The standard marking for products in compliance with ANSI Z87.1-2020 is Z87. However, there are other markings addressed in the standard, including:

  • Z87-2: Rx
  • H: Coverage
  • +, Z87+, Z87-2+: Impact Mark
  • O2: Relaxed Optical Level
  • W shade: Welding Filter Lens
  • U Scale number: UV Filter lens
  • R Scale number: IR Filter lens
  • L Scale number: Visible light filter lens
  • V: Variable tilt lens
  • S: Special-purpose lenses
  • X: Anti-fog
  • D3: Splash/droplet use
  • D4: Dust use
  • D5: Fine dust use

Follow Emergency Procedures

If something does get into your eyes, don’t rub or scratch your eye. Rubbing or scratching your eye can make the damage much worse. The correct procedure is to go to your nearest eyewash station or use a saline bottle to rinse your eye out and, if necessary, seek medical treatment. If you wear contact lenses, remove them before rinsing your eyes out.

Note: If bandaging, cover both eyes to prevent additional strain and potentially cause more damage.

Key Takeaways

  • You only have one pair of eyes, so protect them!
  • Eye injuries can be very difficult to heal and can have a lasting impact on your ability to work.
  • Before starting a job, identify any hazards that could pose a risk to your eye safety and then eliminate those risks.
  • Always wear the appropriate PPE for the job you are doing.
  • Remember that it’s not just your safety that is at stake—make sure you evaluate and eliminate any risks to your co-workers.
  • If an accident happens, make sure that you follow the correct emergency procedures.
  • If you’re not sure about anything to do with eye safety, ask a supervisor
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