As Summer Sizzles, Does Protection Wane?
Make sure your workers know how to store their PPE, where to store it, and how to determine when an item is no longer functional.
“They squeak when I move them.”
“They stretch out of shape and never
wear right again.”
“They don’t fit my face.”
“The d#@*! things fog up constantly!”
“They scratch up too easily.”
You’re heard all of these before, no doubt. You and I
hear them because if our employees are not wearing
their vision protection during the summer months, we
need to ask why, and fast. For many workers, summertime
means high heat, high glare, high humidity, and
hard work. (Construction, logging, agriculture, heavy
maintenance, lawn care, tree trimming, and brush removal
come to mind.) For them, PPE should assist in
getting the job done—not aggravate and make it
tougher to work.
Carefully scrutinize your injury logs for typical and
less-typical eye injuries during the summer months.
Ask employees for constructive feedback. Usually, they
are more than willing to tell you what works and what
does not. Safety folks typically have thick skins, so stand
your ground: PPE must be worn when it’s needed! But
careful selection and training will make your job easier.
Ask your worker’s comp professional for his/her
thoughts on this subject, too. These folks often have a
different view on injury prevention.
Here are some timely reminders to help with your safety
Monitor your inventory. If you have dusty piles of one
style/brand in place from years gone by, chances are
your employees will not wear it for reasons of comfort,
sizing, or material. Provide an assortment so that all
shapes and sizes are available in styles that are attractive
to your workforce.
Better yet, let them choose. If they like the PPE, you
have a much better chance they will wear it.As you tick
off the hazards, you will find a product suitable for each
one—faceshields, safety glasses, multipurpose
faceshields, combo units with face chip screens/hard
hats/hearing protection, chemical splash goggles, and
more. Disposable items and those for long-term use can
be on site quickly.
Look at past years’ purchases. History does indeed repeat
itself, and it helps with budgeting to know how many
vision protection items are used, damaged, and replaced.
Ask for assistance. Not sure what you need? Friendly
representatives are standing by to assist. With just a
phone call, you can have a sample bag of items to try
out before purchasing. I also recommend attending the
big conferences regularly and reviewing the new items
for vision protection. Many publications/vendors also
have “a free pair” of new items advertised regularly.
Use a budget. Average the past few years’ use and
add to it to cover unique or unusual situations that may
arise. In your reporting to upper management, add in
the average cost of an eye injury from medical treatment,
light duty, transportation, and replacement costs
for temp workers or overtime. Your budget will be
much more satisfactory to the bean counters of your
company. It pays to remind management of the need for
an assortment of vision protection and considerations
other than the budget, by the way.
Have a policy for prescription safety glasses. If employees
wear prescription glasses, begin long before the
hot season to make sure they are covered. Whether the
company pays a portion or the total cost of the PPE,
control what they purchase by deciding on coatings, etc.
Or limit the portion the company pays and do not cover
special coatings or graduated lenses. For new employees,
have the type of safety glasses/goggles that slip over
their prescription eye protection until prescription safety
glasses are in place.
Buy what they really need! Are they doing outdoor,
high-glare work? Working on water or in highly reflective
areas, such as shiny, stainless steel railcar tanks, for
example? Consider safety sunglasses. Styles and coatings
are available to meet the need, including polarized
sunglasses and those with scratch-resistant and fog-resistant
lenses. Vented goggles are more comfortable in
Ensure new employees and visitors are covered
from the first day. Make sure that all new employees
who need vision protection are issued the correct item
and receive the training/awareness information they
need. Doing these things helps to ensure proper use and care of their protection.
Carry extras! As the safety guru, you
need to be able to replace damaged or missing
items on the spot, not make employees
wait until another day or until you can reorder.
Having a few sets of “special,” high-fashion
styles lets you hand out great
“gimme” items for workers as a morale
builder. It really does work! Chances are,
employees will wear these even more faithfully
because the eyewear is different and
works as a status symbol.
Wear what they wear. Your employees
notice your PPE, too. Make sure you are not
on the mountaintop, but down in the work
zone with the employees. It builds credibility.
If you purchase the right style and size,
your program will be easier to maintain, too.
Remind employees about the use and limitations
of all vision protection and when
combination units are needed, such as
wearing safety glasses with grinding
faceshields. Storage in high temperatures or
other hostile environments is a huge consideration,
Many employees store safety glasses
without any covering or case on the dashboard
of work trucks, the front seats, in the
toolboxes, or stretched up on top of work
caps or hard hats. Make sure they know how
to store them, where to store them, and how
to determine when an item of PPE is no
longer functional. Don’t forget to explain
how to exchange out or replace damaged or
missing items. Check your policy—some
companies issue only one free pair and
charge for lost items.
Speaking of your corporate vision policy,
do you allow employees to use company-purchased
vision protection off the job?
Many alert companies do, balancing the cost
against the costs of absenteeism/sick leave
for a home injury.
Do employees know how to clean their
safety glasses and goggles during use and
when they store the PPE? Using the wrong
cleaning solution may damage the coatings
and scratch or mar the vision field, rendering
the PPE unusable.
Training & Awareness
It’s time for a pep talk. Make sure all supervisors
and employees review their activities
and consider the hazards they may be exposed
to. If the task is working with machinery,
they should consider debris, smoking rust from mufflers, and dust from grain, wood products, or
other materials. For chemical exposures including application of
pesticides and herbicides, protection from splashes, blown droplets,
and dusts is essential.
Bump up your training and your workers’ awareness of toxic
smoke, sawdust, sparks, poison ivy, and a long list of hazards. Going
over them helps to keep the information front-and-center for field
staff. Don’t spend hours on them, just deliver some fast reminders.
First aid considerations enter the picture at this point because
portable or fixed eyewash units, first aid kits, and fast access to medical
attention can be critical.
One of the best things you can do for your employees and your
safety efforts is to have a vision protection program that works for
the employees. PPE that works and is worn means a more successful
program for you.
This article originally appeared in the June 2008 issue of Occupational Health & Safety.