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Eye Protection

Published: 10th Sep 2010 in OSA Magazine

When you are issued a pair of safety spectacles, goggles or a welding helmet, have you ever noticed a certification label on the packaging and/or on the product itself and wondered what it really means?

Where worker protection is concerned, the eyes are at the top of the list! If there is a potential for an injury to the eye or face from flying particles, harmful liquids, gases or vapours, or harmful radiation, eye and face protectors should be provided to workers. These protectors should carry the label ofan accredited third party certification organisation.

There are lots of gimmicks out there to capture your attention: Safety inspected, stamp of approval, quality checked, tested and true - the list is endless.

But what does it all mean, and how do you really know if the product will do what it is supposed to do? That is, protect you from a potential hazard while you are working. We all want to buy a quality product, particularly where personal safety is concerned.

As an example, in the US, eye and face protection is required by OSHA where there is a reasonable possibility of preventing an injury to the eyes or face from flying particles, molten metal, liquid chemicals, acids or caustic liquids, chemical gases or vapours, potentially injurious light radiation or a combination of these. Every protector shall be distinctly marked to facilitate identification of the manufacturer. Where products are certified by a third party, you will also see the certification mark of that organisation.

Throughout the world, many organisations and government agencies require that all personal protective equipment purchased be certified by an independent, third party. In the U.S., since OSHA requires that protective eye and face devices must comply with ANSI Z87.1, American National Standard Practice for Occupational and Educational Eye and Face Protection, it is important to ensure the products are certified to that ANSI standard.

In addition to compliance with the ANSI Z 87.1 standard, according to OSHA, protectors must meet the following minimum requirements:

  • Provide adequate protection against the particular hazards for which they are designed
  • Be reasonably comfortable when worn under the designated conditions
  • Fit snugly without interfering with the movements or vision of the wearer
  • Be durable
  • Be capable of being disinfected
  • Be easily cleanable
  • Be kept clean and in good repair

Each affected employee should use equipment with filter lenses that have a shade number appropriate for the work being performed for protection from injurious light radiation. OSHA provides a table on its website www.OSHA.gov which lists the appropriate shade numbers for various work operations.

Additionally, persons using corrective spectacles and those who are required by OSHA to wear eye protection must wear face shields, goggles, or spectacles of one of the following types:

  • Spectacles with protective lenses providing optical correction
  • Goggles worn over corrective spectacles without disturbing the adjustment of the spectacles
  • Goggles that incorporate corrective lenses mounted behind the protective lenses

When limitations or precautions for a particular protective device are stated by the manufacturer, they should be provided to the user and strictly observed.

To help in meeting the OSHA requirements, employers need to consider training as well as purchasing quality products. A user of safety eyewear simply needs to look for the SEI certification mark, to obtain the ‘confidence’ needed in the product.

In Canada, in the case of eye and face protectors, the CSA Z 94.3-07 standard specifies that for any device meeting the requirements of that standard, the mark of a nationally recognised agency shall be permanently placed on at least one component of an assembled product or system. A user of safety eyewear simply needs to look for the SEI mark, or mark of another Standards Council of Canada (SCC) accredited certification organisation, to obtain the ‘confidence’ needed in the product.

The comprehensive CSA Z 94.3-07 standard sets minimum performance criteria for tests such as impact resistance, ignition and flammability resistance, lens size, residual and resolving power, prismatic deviation, haze, luminous transmittance.

The standard allows for testing and certification of the following types of eye and face protectors:

  • Class 1 - Spectacles
  • Class 2 - Goggles
  • Class 3, Class 4, Class 5 - Welding Protection
  • Class 6 - Face Shields
  • Class 7 - Respirator Facepieces

Confidence is the key in allowing an employee to safely do their job. An employer must make the ‘right buy’ in safety equipment to ensure that the product will protect as it claims. Product certification helps safety directors and purchasing professionals in the area of safety and protective products. That is why it is important for you as a safety director or purchaser to be familiar with the various manufacturers of eye and face protectors and which the manufacturer has taken the extra steps to have an independent third party organisation verify that their product does conform to the standard.

How does product certification work?

So, what does product certification mean to someone who wears a safety spectacle or welding helmet and who performs such a service? Certification bodies are organisations which verify that a product conforms to a specification or standard through product testing and quality assurance controls. They are unbiased organisations that have formal systems in place to include examining a product sample, initial and annual testing, making
periodic follow-up visits to the manufacturing facility and auditing the facility’s quality system.

Those certification organisations who are accredited to ISO Guide 65, must comply with at least ten ISO guides that cover all areas of certification from laboratory management and inspection requirements to how a certification organisation protects its certification mark. Within these documents are a variety of requirements that third party certification bodies must meet in order to operate as a fully accredited service provider. Among these requirements are:

  • Be impartial
  • Have a defined management structure (committee, group or person) for a variety of responsibilities
  • Ensure that each decision on certification is taken by a person(s) different from those who carried out the evaluation
  • Have adequate arrangements to cover liabilities arising from its operations
  • Employ a sufficient number of personnel with necessary education, training, technical knowledge and experience
  • Have a quality system in place giving confidence in its ability to operate
  • Be free from any commercialfinancial or other pressures that might influence the results of the process
  • Ensure confidentiality and objectivity
  • Have policies and procedures to resolve complaints, appeals and disputes

Certification bodies must also undergo internal audits and management reviews to ensure quality requirements are being adhered to.

Such accreditation means another set of eyes, apart from an internal staff person verifies a certification organisation is operating in compliance with ISO Guide 65, as well as its own procedures. Accreditation of a certification organisation provides a high level of confidence to manufacturers and the end users of the products.

Marks of conformity

When a product achieves certification by an accredited certification organisation, the manufacturer may affix a Mark of Conformity to the product. This tells end users that this product is manufactured to a particular standard and is reliable for its intended use.

The mark, such as the SEI mark, must be a registered trademark which can be legally protected by the certification organisation.

Accredited certification organisations are required to provide published listings of their certified products. In SEI’s case, all certified products are listed on its web site and are also provided to the Responder Knowledge Base for publication on their website.

When a product bears a Mark of Conformity by an accredited certification organisation, it means that is has met all the requirements of a certification organisation that has met all of the requirements set forth by an accreditation body. If an OSHA inspector or similar inspector looks at a product, the Mark of Conformity should stand on its own. When a mark is present, it signifies that a certification organisation has properly certified this product.

In the US, the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) accredits third party certification organisations. As a service to the public, ANSI publishes a list of those accredited organisations and their approved scope on the ANSI web site at www.ANSI.org

An example of an accredited certification organisation is the Safety Equipment Institute (SEI), a non-profit organisation which has been certifying safety and protective equipment sold throughout the world for almost 30 years. When the SEI mark appears on a safety spectacle, goggles, welding helmet or face shield, you will know that it not only conforms to the ANSI Z87.1 standard, but that the manufacturer operates in such a manner as to consistently produce quality products.

The comprehensive ANSI Z87.1 standard sets minimum performance criteria for markings and tests such as impact resistance, penetration resistance, ignition and flammability resistance, lens thickness, prismatic deviation, haze, luminous transmittance, corrosion.
An updated national consensus standard for safety eyewear now includes expanded criteria and test requirements for hazard-specific protectors and detailed language for minimum coverage and side protection.

The American National Standard for Occupational Eye and Face Protective Devices (ANSI/ISEA Z87.1-2010 ) prescribes the design, performance specifications, and marking of safety eye and face products, including millions of safety goggles, spectacles, faceshields, and welding helmets, worn by workers in thousands of university laboratories, manufacturing and research facilities, and other occupational and business settings.

It was developed by the Z87 Committee on Safety Eye and Face Protection, which is administered by the International Safety Equipment Association (ISEA), and following an ANSI standards development process, it is then approved as an American National Standard.
The standard was completely reorganised from previous editions, with focus on the hazard exposure rather than protector configuration. The philosophy of the Z87 committee was that regardless of protector type, the risk to the wearer remains the same. Therefore, keeping the end-user as the ultimate beneficiary, the committee agreed early on that the standard should represent a more hazard-based approach.

Such a hazard-based approach directs users and employers to evaluate the specific hazards in their work environment, and to make the appropriate decision on what type of eye and face protection is needed based on a risk/hazard assessment.

The revised standard includes evaluation criteria against splash, dust and mist hazards and provides product markings to allow the user to easily identify these performance attributes for a given eye and/or face protective device. This is an approach being used throughout the world. The Z87.1 standard attempts to harmonise with already-existing global documents and safety practices.

American National Standard for Occupational and Educational Personal Eye and Face Protective Devices (ANSI/ISEA Z87.1-2010) includes a ‘Selection Chart’ that can be posted to provide guidance on the selection of eye and face protection based on hazards in the working environment.

When a product is certified by SEI to the ANSI Z 87.1 standard, a two-pronged approach is used. SEI’s third party certification programme allows the manufacturer to use the SEI mark only when:

  • (1) The product models have successfully passed performance tests at SEI’s test laboratory, and meet the stated requirements of ANSI Z87.1-2010
  • (2) The quality assurance auditor completes an extensive audit of the manufacturer’s operations and determines that the manufacturer complies with SEI’s quality assurance requirements

The quality assurance audit, conducted on location at the manufacturer’s facility, is a unique and important facet of the SEI certification process. Certification is not based on a one-time test - it is comprehensive and ongoing. SEI wants to ensure that products coming off the assembly line are made to the same exacting specifications as the product models tested at the independent laboratory. After the initial audit, the SEI auditor will conduct audits at least annually, and will randomly select products for annual compliance testing. If products not meeting the standard are found, SEI can require a recall. This protects the buyer of SEI certified eye and face protectors.

It is easy to see value in relying on third party certification. Manufacturer’s operations usually include proprietary information normally protected closely from outsiders. ‘Opening the doors’ requires serious consideration by the manufacturer, and is a necessary check and balance. Voluntary participation in a third party certification programme demonstrates a manufacturer’s integrity and responsibility by showing a willingness to provide auditors the access to their operations. The SEI programme provides independent confirmation of a manufacturer’s in-house testing and quality assurance programmes.

Also, all products displaying the SEI mark are required to be re-certified annually. This means that all products must be re-tested annually, and the manufacturer must continue to meet all SEI quality assurance requirements during the annual follow-up audits.

To assure objectivity in developing policies and procedures, SEI requires a balanced perspective through a seven-member Board of Directors comprised of representatives from organised labour, the fire service, the insurance industry, safety equipment user organisations, and a manufacturer of safety equipment. These representatives use or recommend the products which you are purchasing to protect your employees. The work they do in helping protect workers and for SEI serves an important purpose.

Over the years, many types and styles of eye and face protective equipment have been developed to meet the demands for protection against a variety of hazards. A listing of SEI certified eye and face protection manufacturers and models may be found at the SEI web site in the certified product list at www.SEInet.org

Protecting your employees is not a simple task. However, with the resources available through manufacturers, professional associations and organisations such as ANSI, OSHA and SEI, a reduction in the possibility of eye injuries can be achieved.

Author Details

Patricia Gleason

Patricia Gleason currently serves as President of the Safety Equipment Institute (SEI). She brings more than 20 years of management experience serving non-profit, safety-related organisations, and her area of expertise is in conformity assessment in the field of personal protective equipment and safety products.

In this position, Ms Gleason serves as a member of the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) Board of Directors, the ANSI Conformity Assessment Policy Committee, the ANSI Accreditation Committee, and is also an ANSI Appeals Board member. She is also serving on the ISO Working Group 29 which is charged with the revision of ISO Guide 65, the standard governing the accreditation of third party certification organisations.

She is a member of the American Society for Safety Engineers. In addition, Ms Gleason serves as an officer on the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM), Homeland Security Committee Executive Committee, the National Fire Protection Association Technical Committee on Hazardous Materials, Protective Clothing and Equipment, and is a member of the National Safety Council Exhibitor Advisory Board, serving as chair from 1997 to 1999.

Ms Gleason serves as a member of the NIJ Special Technical Committee on CBRN Protective Clothing and Equipment for Law Enforcement and the NIJ Special Technical Committee on Bomb Suits.

Prior to her appointment at SEI in 1994, Ms Gleason was director of communications with the International Safety Equipment Association and Safety Equipment Institute, where she worked with corporate personnel of safety and protective equipment manufacturers. From 1984 to 1985 she worked with Keller & Heckman as director of government affairs, and from 1982 to 1984 as a liaison/paralegal with the Federal Communications Commission. Ms Gleason received her MBA from Marymount University and her BS from Frostburg State University.

Published: 10th Sep 2010 in OSA Magazine

Author


Patricia Gleason


Patricia Gleason currently serves as President of the Safety Equipment Institute (SEI). She brings more than 20 years of management experience serving non-profit, safety-related organisations, and her area of expertise is in conformity assessment in the field of personal protective equipment and safety products.

In this position, Ms Gleason serves as a member of the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) Board of Directors, the ANSI Conformity Assessment Policy Committee, the ANSI Accreditation Committee, and is also an ANSI Appeals Board member. She is also serving on the ISO Working Group 29 which is charged with the revision of ISO Guide 65, the standard governing the accreditation of third party certification organisations.

She is a member of the American Society for Safety Engineers. In addition, Ms Gleason serves as an officer on the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM), Homeland Security Committee Executive Committee, the National Fire Protection Association Technical Committee on Hazardous Materials, Protective Clothing and Equipment, and is a member of the National Safety Council Exhibitor Advisory Board, serving as chair from 1997 to 1999.

Ms Gleason serves as a member of the NIJ Special Technical Committee on CBRN Protective Clothing and Equipment for Law Enforcement and the NIJ Special Technical Committee on Bomb Suits.

Prior to her appointment at SEI in 1994, Ms Gleason was director of communications with the International Safety Equipment Association and Safety Equipment Institute, where she worked with corporate personnel of safety and protective equipment manufacturers. From 1984 to 1985 she worked with Keller & Heckman as director of government affairs, and from 1982 to 1984 as a liaison/paralegal with the Federal Communications Commission. Ms Gleason received her MBA from Marymount University and her BS from Frostburg State University.


http://www.seinet.org/


Patricia Gleason

Website:
http://www.seinet.org/


http://www.seinet.org/

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