Eyewear: Too many options can cause confusion

Is it possible for a company to consolidate its protective eyewear styles to one product offering?

Answered by Mike Myrick, product trainer and analyst, MCR Safety, Memphis, TN.

Each year, eye injuries – which occur 2,000 times a day – cost U.S. companies more than $900 million, according to data compiled by the Chicago-based nonprofit organization Prevent Blindness America. Three out of every 5 workers injured were not wearing eye protection at the time. Why were they not wearing eye protection? Were there not enough options to choose from? In most cases, five to 10 various options, on average, were in the tool crib or safety closet or were a retail option. OSHA estimates that more than 90 percent of the 2,000 daily injuries would be prevented with the use of protective eyewear. With so many options available, why are workers not protecting themselves? Can a facility reduce the number of style options and get their workers to wear protective eyewear? They absolutely can.

Many safety professionals get caught up in the market's "latest" options and keep adding options. Perhaps we should turn our ear to workers' needs. Do workers need anti-fog coatings? What about dust? Do they need a foam-lined protective eyewear option? Let us look at ways to consolidate style options while maintaining proper protection.

We all have different facial structures, so comfort and adjustability are important. New technology such as thermoplastic urethane adds flexibility to frames. Ratchet action temples allow adjustability in an up-and-down motion. Extendable temples allow workers to adjust the length of the temple for a custom fit. Adjustable- or universal-fit nose bridges allow multiple wearer comfort. Adding more options to protective eyewear allows more workers to use a particular style.

In addition to facial differences, multiple applications often are present at a facility. One employee might need chemical splash protection, while a site visitor would require only basic protection levels. A facility also may have employees who work in multiple areas and require protection against several hazards they encounter. If there is a need for anti-fog coating in 20 percent of the facility, then go ahead and provide anti-fog protection for everyone. This reduces the number of styles sitting on the shelf.

Offering two or three style options is enough for a majority of facilities, but make sure they are well-thought-through options. Manufacturers have developed lines of eyewear offering basic impact protection styles, reader magnification, filter shade options and prescription inserts to accommodate broader audiences.

In most cases, a facility will not be able to narrow its protective eyewear options down to one style. However, a facility can greatly reduce the number of styles it offers by listening to workers and doing research. With the average lost-time injury costing $3,600, the time and research are worth the investment.

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