Can One Size Fit All?

Many eye injuries occur because there was not adequate side protection, proper fit, or because particles fell from above, such as when drilling overhead.

This "one size fits all" selling point might be good for clothing, but it's not good for safety equipment, specifically PPE for workers on construction sites. One example where I see this not working well is with safety glasses.

Just a few facts from the CDC:

  • 2,000 eye injuries occur every day at work in the United States.
  • Construction workers have one of the highest rates of eye injuries.
  • Many workers have suffered eye injuries because there was not adequate side protection, proper fit, or because particles fell from above, such as when drilling overhead.

Many safety and project managers simply purchase safety glasses by the case. Certainly this is the least expensive way, and for the most part these fit the majority of people. However, when we look at the diversity of the population, with all different sizes and shapes of faces and noses, sizes and shapes of heads, flat and round faces, big and small faces, we see the great mixture of people we have here in the USA. Working with such a diverse group presents many challenges, and certainly one of them is trying to fit safety glasses properly. I have found that with any PPE, it must be comfortable if we're to get people to wear it and keep them wearing it. This is especially true with safety glasses. Many of the glasses come with adjustable temples to accommodate the distance to the ears, but only a few have any adjustment for people's noses or truly adjust to the shapes of their faces. Safety eyewear manufacturers offer hundreds of different varieties and styles, and they have designed safety glasses specifically to fit the diversity of noses and faces.

We as safety managers and project managers need to make an effort to acquire properly fitting glasses for our employees. This may involve ordering several different sizes and styles of glasses and even specifically fitting certain employees. Not only will the employees feel better about wearing them, but also the safety factor will increase, as the eyewear will fit better and more snuggly to the wearers' faces.

PPE for Specific Hazards
NIOSH has posted an Eye Safety Toolbox Talk for instructors (http://www.cdc.gov/niosh/topics/eye/toolbox-eye.html) that recommends they ask approximately 20 questions when discussing vision protection with workers. Among those questions are these:

  • What are the primary hazards for which you use safety glasses? (Answer: Safety glasses typically are worn to protect against impact and optical radiation.)
  • When are you required to have "side protection" or "side shields" on your safety glasses? (Answer: This is required whenever there are hazards from flying particles or objects.)
  • When should you wear goggles? (Answer: Use goggles for higher impact protection, greater particle protection, chemical splashes, and welding light protection and during tasks such as sawing, chipping, grinding, masonry work, using a nail gun, pouring cement, and working with chemicals. Goggles with direct venting should not be used with liquid or fine dust hazards.)
  • When should you use a faceshield? (Answer: Use faceshields for even higher impact hazards and to protect the wearer's face in addition to the eyes, and for tasks including spraying, chipping, and grinding. Faceshields always should be used over safety glasses or goggles; be aware that particles or chemicals easily go around a faceshield, and the faceshield's curve can direct them into the eye.)

This article originally appeared in the December 2012 issue of Occupational Health & Safety.

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