Eye and face protection

Trends in ... eye and face protection

‘Finding the balance between protection and employee comfort is critical’

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Chemical splashes, steam burns, foreign objects in the eye, cornea scratches – these are all common eye injuries that occur in the workplace.

And they’re all preventable.

“There are countless statistics showing that a high percentage (some suggest it is as high as 90%) of eye injuries occur because people are not wearing eye protection,” says Matt Block, director of health and safety services at Magid. “Finding the balance between protection and employee comfort is critical” to ensuring workers wear eye protection.

Along with Block, Safety+Health talked with Jason Lee, manager of health and safety services at Magid, and Zach Richmond, group product manager at Milwaukee Tool, about what’s new in the eye and face protection industry, what they’re hearing from customers, and what they wish employers and workers better understood about using eye and face protection.

What do you wish employers and workers better understood about using eye and face protection in the workplace?

Lee: It’s not enough to just have the correct safety equipment. If the PPE is ill-fitting or inappropriately donned, it may not protect workers properly – or at all. Something to keep in mind is that everyone has a different shaped face and nose. Multiple options may be needed to ensure everyone is protected correctly.

Richmond: Historically, there has been a tipping point between anti-scratch and anti-fog – normally glasses will excel in one or the other, but not both. When choosing safety glasses, it’s imperative that users assess their most frequent applications and jobsite conditions to decide which is most important and choose appropriately. 

What concerns or questions are customers coming to you with about eye and face protection, and what advice do you provide?

Richmond: Safety glasses have been a staple on the jobsite for years, but recently, with mask mandate requirements, workers must use them simultaneously with respirators, face coverings, and/or faceshields. For many, these new requirements have led to a constant imbalance between glasses and face coverings. Unfortunately, there isn’t a comfortable trade-off and this imbalance often leads to constant lens fogging, headaches or irritation from ill-fitting equipment. 

Lee: With facilities only recently starting to pull back on their face covering policies, this is still a big concern. My response is to address the fit of PPE as a whole. We know that anti-fog lenses work well under normal circumstances and that wearing face coverings is a common practice for industrial reasons also. Making sure that face coverings are fitted properly and not venting up toward the eyes has been the best solution.

Block: Most of the concerns I come across today revolve around reducing lens fogging. Employees are removing safety glasses to address this issue, increasing the potential for injury significantly. This has led to an advancement in lens coating technology with premium anti-fog lenses.  

What are some recent innovations in eye and face protection?

Lee: On the service side, we’ve seen a trend in companies looking for self-serve options when it comes to fitting and selection of safety eyewear. Throw COVID-19 into the mix and that trend has continued to move forward at a rapid pace with onsite and online options.

Block: Most of the innovation in prescription safety eyewear has been in lens technology, such as blue light-filtering lenses or lenses that are fully clear indoors, darken outdoors in seconds and return to clear very quickly.

Compiled with the assistance of the International Safety Equipment Association

Coming next month:

  • Head protection

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