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Workplace Solutions

Eye protection

Should a safety director be concerned about employees taking safety glasses home?

March 24, 2014

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Responding is Mike Myrick, product trainer and analyst, MCR Safety, Collierville, TN.

No. Safety directors should be concerned if their employees are not taking home their safety glasses. The American Academy of Ophthalmology states in “Eye Health Statistics at a Glance” that 44.1 percent of eye injuries happen at home. According to the United States Eye Injury Registry summary report, every year, more than 2.5 million eye injuries occur and 50,000 people permanently lose all or part of their vision. Additionally, 90 percent of all eye injuries can be prevented by using protective eyewear, OSHA states.

Hazards to the eyes are everywhere in the home. Many of us never think of wearing safety glasses while cutting the grass, trimming hedges or edging the yard. Painting, furniture refinishing or cleaning with harsh chemicals also are hazards that require proper eye protection. Many safety glasses manufacturers are now offering smaller eyewear for women and children, and it is important for each family to discuss proper use of safety glasses, goggles or faceshields.

Getting back to the original question, safety directors should encourage their workers to take one pair of safety glasses home to use during hazardous work. Companies are usually concerned about the cost, thus instituting a strict policy regarding the removal of “company property.” We believe employers should issue two pairs of safety glasses to their employees – one pair for use on the job and one for home use. It is also important for the safety director to discuss proper personal protective equipment usage away from work.

The math supports taking home safety glasses. If a safety director issues a clear pair of safety glasses and a tinted-lens option for use at home, what would that cost? If the average purchase price for safety glasses is $12 and the safety director issues two pair per year, then he or she buys an additional two pair for home use. The cost to the employer is an additional $24 per year per employee. Most eye injury cases cause a worker to miss more than three days, on average, for an injury that does not cause the worker to lose eyesight. The total production loss will vary by company; based on a recent survey, the average was $2,400 per day. So, if an employee missed three days due to an eye injury, it could potentially cost a company $7,200. It would seem that a $24 investment with a $7,176 return is profitable.

My son once asked me why I sell safety supplies. I replied, “So that workers can return home to hold their children with their hands, look into their eyes and hold them close because of protective clothes.”

Editor's note: This article represents the independent views of the author and should not be construed as a National Safety Council endorsement.

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