Companies across the world set high standards for personnel safety in an effort to reduce the number of accidents in the workplace. Thousands of workers put on their hardhats and safety goggles ever day. Many individuals dislike the extra safety gear and claim that it interferes with their daily routine without adding the supposed extra hedge of protection. Safety goggles are designed to protect the eyes from debris, volatile chemicals, and other harmful substances that can obscure vision or damage eye tissue; unfortunately, these goggles are often times uncomfortable for workers and many have questioned the goggle’s effectiveness. Some have suggested that wearing safety goggles can pose as much of a risk as not wearing goggles.
Eye: See the Problem
Researchers have collected data that reveals over 25,000 Americans suffer from work-related eye injuries every month. Since 150 million Americans are employed, this would mean that about 0.25 percent of workers suffer an eye-damaging accident in the workplace every year. These statistics do not include accidents unrelated to the workplace. As can be expected, the cost of these eye injuries is overwhelming. After injury treatment, loss of productivity, and worker’s compensation, estimates predict the costs of eye injuries exceed 250 million dollars every year.
Causes and Risk Factors
Eyes are clearly vulnerable to work-related injuries. The Bureau of Labor Statistics investigated this issue and discovered that tiny particles or motes, like free-floating metal or glass fibers, cause the majority of eye injuries in the workplace. The eye is also exposed to chemicals (which account for 20 percent of injuries), swinging objects (chains, tools, etc.), and sparks. Mechanics, construction workers, carpenters, welders, and plumbers are trades that have high incidents of such injuries; in fact, craftsmen account for nearly 50 percent of all workplace eye accidents. For this reason, taking extra precautions to protect the eye is imperative. Most industrial companies require their workers to wear protective eyewear to reduce liability and to ensure employee safety.
Safety goggles come in various designs and are made by many companies including Sectorlite, Pyramex, and DeWalt. Some are cheap and generic while others can be custom designed with prescription lenses for individuals with impaired vision. These goggles are usually made of a strong polycarbonate and, depending on the design purpose, the goggles may be flexible or solid. Usually goggles have a fastener that extends around the entire head, offering more support and a stronger attachment than safety glasses that set on the ears. Safety goggles also have an advantage over glasses because they wrap around the eye and nose while pressing firmly against the skin, so no particles or chemicals can go under the lens and reach the eye. To compensate for their tight fit, high quality safety goggles have a sophisticated ventilation system that inhibits moisture and fog from accumulating from within.
Effectiveness of Work Goggles
Due to his mother’s urging, a young construction worker started wearing his safety goggles every day on the jobsite. Just a short time later, while putting up siding on a house using a staple gun, his goggles proved worthwhile. A staple bounced off of a hard, metal plate lodged behind the house siding. It bounced with such force that it came back and hit him in the face. The staple had struck the safety goggles so hard that it became wedged in. The young worker had minor bruises, but if it had not been for those glasses, clinical experts claim he would have permanently lost his vision and may have sustained fatal wounds.
Stories like this demonstrate, at least to some degree, the effectiveness of safety goggles in the workplace. You may have questioned the ability of safety goggles to protect your eyes, but so have the experts. The Labor Department found that about 60 percent of eye injuries in the workplace involve workers who used no protective eyewear. In the remaining pool of 40 percent, they hypothesized that incorrect or inadequate eyewear was a major contributing factor of the accident; the Labor Department discovered that chemicals and debris seeping into the sides of eyewear accounted for 94 percent of incidents involving workers who wore eyewear. These workers may have used glasses that did not completely protect and cover the eye, or glasses that had cracks and other unsafe characteristics.
Goggles provide great protection in the workplace that is unparalleled to other options. Of all the accidents involving eye injuries in the Labor Department’s investigation, only 6 percent were reported to have worn safety goggles. When worn correctly and fitted perfectly on the face, goggles offer strong protection against the most common threats to the eye. Goggles are firm and can withstand sudden blunts. In the investigation, only 13 cases reported broken eyewear.
Though goggles do provide a solid defense for the eyes, they may not be enough. Complete facial masks and shields improve the effectiveness of safety goggles. Moreover, training for eye safety is a pivotal component for maintaining the safest working environment.
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