Eye Protection: Going Beyond the Regulations

Eye Protection: Going Beyond the Regulations

Go beyond the rules and focus on how safety is viewed in your workplace.

Imagine not seeing family or enjoying special moments with friends and loved ones. That’s the reality of many employees who lose their eyesight due to workplace injuries. According to OSHA, thousands of employees are blinded each year due to workplace eye injuries.

If employees injure their face or eyes, there’s a chance they can cause serious damage and suffer for the rest of their lives. One crucial step you can take to protect employees is communicating the importance of safety in a meaningful way. Go beyond the rules and focus on how safety is viewed in your workplace.

Your Safety Culture 

What’s the safety culture like in your workplace? Employees may be more inclined to wear their eye protection depending on your safety culture. While it may be easier to be the safety police, employees may respond better to a safety culture that expresses appreciation for hard work and rewards safety. The goal is to get employees to wear their eye protection because they want to, not because they have to.

When it comes to eye protection, employees may choose not to wear it because it doesn’t fit well, or it could be that they forget to. In any case, you need to be proactive about tackling the issue without disciplining employees. For example, have employees sit down and write letters to their closest friends and family. Instruct them to write what they’d say to a family member if they were severely injured on the job.

Of course, employees shouldn’t provide the letter to their loved ones. Instead, have them express how they felt during the exercise. The end result: employees will hopefully feel more inclined to use their eye protection.

Here are a few more tips to help you improve eye protection safety in your workplace: 

Reinforcement works. A supervisor who stops work to immediately correct hazardous conditions or practices (like not wearing eye protection) should help demonstrate the importance of safety to the workers. However, positive reinforcement by recognizing safe practices is equally important. 

Stop bad habits right away. A bad habit will likely become more common if left unaddressed, increasing the odds that an employee gets hurt. If you notice employees not wearing eye protection or skipping other safe work procedures, take immediate corrective action. 

Positive feedback. While corrections may be necessary, you do not want all interactions to be negative. Occasionally stop to compliment workers on how well they are following safe procedures. Delivering positive feedback also has a strong influence on promoting desired behaviors. 

Training 

Refresher training may be helpful for employees who don’t remember how or when to use their eye protection. If employees don’t remember the information delivered in their initial training, they probably need a refresher.

If an OSHA inspector shows up and questions regarding employees’ eye protection, but employees cannot answer those questions, your company can be cited for lack of training—even if you wave a piece of paper showing that employees attended the training. 

To determine if refresher training might be needed, ask employees specific questions about key information they should have retained. You don’t have to ask every worker, and you don’t need a long list of questions. Just spot-check a few workers with a few key questions. If they can’t answer those questions, additional training on eye protection is probably needed. 

Another good way to identify a need for refresher training is to watch for hazards or unsafe practices that violate previous training. Violations are also indications that employees may need refresher training. 

Here are a few examples of questions you might ask to gauge their knowledge:

  • Do you know when PPE is necessary?
  • Do you know what type of PPE is necessary?
  • Do you understand how to properly put your PPE on and take it off?
  • What are the limitations of your PPE?
  • Do you know how to properly care for, use, and dispose of your PPE?
  • When does your PPE need replacing? 

Hopefully, employees know how to answer the questions above. If they don’t, it’s time for a refresher.

Safety Reminders 

Employees sometimes receive their safety information (or misinformation) on eye protection via other employees or the company grapevine. This can make consistent enforcement of safety practices a challenge. 

One way to ensure employees receive correct information is by issuing a daily safety message to everyone on your team. A daily safety message is an easy and effective means of relaying important company safety practices and procedures to employees. 

The information can be delivered in just a few moments before the shift starts, or could be posted on a bulletin board in the department, or on a whiteboard in the break room. 

The message should be simple, yet reinforce company safety rules and practices. For example: 

  • “Eye protection protects you from injuries.” 
  • “Inspect your eye protection before using it.” 
  • “Report unsafe use of eye protection.” 
  • “Never take shortcuts; wear your eye protection!” 
  • “Your eye protection is PPE, not jewelry.” 

These daily reminders will encourage employees to think about the importance of their role in safety throughout the day. 

Also, make sure employees know that they can contact you if they have any questions or concerns related to their eye protection. One reminder might even be, “If not certain, ask for help.” Workers should let you know if safety issues need to be addressed.

Beyond the Rules 

OSHA’s eye protection standard at 1910.133 provides you with a handful of requirements you need to follow to keep your employees safe. However, it’s essential you go beyond the regulations to protect your employees.

Everyone is responsible for safety in the workplace. If you recognize safety and reward employees, they’ll likely be more diligent about wearing their eye protection. In the end, everyone benefits from being safe on the job!

This article originally appeared in the April 2022 issue of Occupational Health & Safety.

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