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Eye Protection - Practical advice to keep in sight

Published: 10th Mar 2010 in OSA Magazine

eye-protection1.jpg, Eye Protection, David Moore, Occupational Safety Asia, March 2010

All eye injuries are preventable, however, each work day during 2008 about 110 U.S. workers had a job-related eye injury that results in Days Away From Work Cases. According to the US National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH)[i], overall, there are approximately 2000 work-related eye injuries in the US every day. These injuries occur in all categories of industry but the highest frequencies occur in manufacturing, transportation and construction.

The majority of these injuries result from small particles or objects striking or abrading the eye. Examples include metal slivers, wood chips, dust, and cement chips that are ejected by tools, windblown, or fall from above a worker. Some of these objects, such as nails, staples, or slivers of wood or metal penetrate the eyeball and result in a permanent loss of vision. Large objects may also strike the eye/face, or a worker may run into an object causing blunt force trauma to the eyeball or eye socket. Chemical burns to one or both eyes from splashes of industrial chemicals or cleaning products are common. Thermal burns to the eye occur as well. Among welders, their assistants, and nearby workers, UV radiation burns routinely damage workers’ eyes and surrounding tissue.

"standards specify that eyewear must be appropriate for the hazard, properly fitted and training in use given"

Administration (OSHA) govern US work places and require that employers provide workers with suitable eye protection. OSHA 1910.132 and 1910.133 are the standards for eye protection within general industry and specify that the eyewear must be of the appropriate type for the hazard encountered, the worker must be trained in the use of the eye wear, PPE must be properly fitted and that all safety eyewear must meet or exceed the ANSI Z87.1 industry standard. OSHA provides other eye protection standards for construction (1926.102) and maritime (1915.153) activities. Within the European Union EN 166, 167 and 168 establish the minimum requirement under European legislation for eye protection and are supported by other standards to cover specific hazards. These include EN 175: Eye, Face And Neck Protection Against Ionizing Radiation Arising During Welding, EN 169: Eye Protection: Filters For Welding And Related Techniques. In the UK BS 7028: Guide for Selection, Use And Maintenance Of Eye Protection For Industrial And Other Uses provides a clear guide to the initial selection and use of eye protection. Collectively, these US, EU and UK regulations and standards are comprehensive and are recognized throughout the world as industry best-practices. 

"having standards for eye protection and providing workers with equipment is not sufficient to prevent eye injuries"

However, incidents continue to occur despite the fact that eye protection in American, European and British workplaces is carefully regulated. The message is clear: having standards for eye protection and providing workers with this equipment is not sufficient to prevent eye injuries. What is missing? Why do so many people still suffer eye injuries in their place of work? What can an HSE Manager do to protect workers from eye injuries? 

Training

Training of workers who use eye protection devices is a regulatory requirement usually met by providing a standard training module to new workers upon their initial employment or upon their assignment to a job that requires the use of eye protection. It is common for employers to utilize a single class session that addresses many forms of PPE. This 'inoculation of the masses' approach is an efficient use of resources and commonly addresses general use of gloves, hard hats, safety shoes, eye & face protection. A typical class might be two hours in duration, include samples of the available PPE, and should address the following topics:

·   When PPE is necessary; What PPE is necessary; How to obtain PPE

·   How to properly don, doff, adjust, and wear PPE

·   Limitations of the PPE

·   Proper care, inspection, maintenance, useful life, and disposal of the PPE

·   Physical demonstration of understanding by the worker

This approach is not adequate for all situations that can arise in a work place. Individuals who perform welding, who work with hazardous substances or who have exposures beyond the general exposure levels require more specific training. This is true whether the topic is eye protection, respiratory protection, gloves, etc. The situations and types of workers which require more than induction level training need to be clearly specified in the HSE Training Program.

Refresher training is stipulated by regulations as being required when the employer has reason to believe that any affected worker who has already been trained does not have the understanding and skill required. Circumstances where retraining is required include, but are not limited to, situations where:

·   Changes in the workplace render previous training obsolete

·   Changes in the types of PPE to be used render previous training obsolete

·   Inadequacies in an affected employee's knowledge or use of assigned PPE indicate that the employee has not retained the requisite understanding or skill

"in remote construction sites the supply of good quality eye protection ppe is a significant challenge"

Unfortunately, this requirement usually results in refresher training being performed only when an incident occurs. For example: a maintenance worker is injured when a component he was repairing came apart and hit his eye. The investigation reveals a lax attitude of PPE use across the plant. A campaign of refresher training is initiated. The plant manager decides that all workers re-attend the same induction level training course. This approach of using a recycled training program to fix a long term problem will not likely change anyone's behaviors. A more proactive approach is required to avoid incidents. This involves establishing formal retraining cycles based on monitoring risk assessments, updating training programs to include discussions of recent incidents, investigations of near-misses, observations of behaviors in the work site, and formal surveys to determine worker attitudes.

Job Site Assessment of Risk

Selection of eye protection equipment must begin with a thorough understanding of the task to be performed. This is typically referred to as a Job Safety Analysis (JSA) although it is sometimes referred to a Task Risk Assessment (TRA). A JSA occurs prior to initiation of work. A standardized form should be used that requires the job to be broken down into components. This analysis must be led by the supervisor with input from the crew that will perform the actual work.   The importance of of involving the crew in developing the JSA cannot be overemphasized.

protective-eyewear2.jpg, Eye Protection to Prevent Injuries, David Moore, Occupational Safety Asia, March 2010

Their practical knowledge of worksite conditions, the tools available, the pace of the work and the standards to which the work will be performed all play a part in defining how the work must be conducted to assure the safety of all personnel. The JSA allows an on-the-job forum to share this knowledge and experience and integrate it with the anticipated work.

It is important to monitor the work in progress to assure that conditions have not changed such that the selected means of eye protection are still effectively mitigating risks. Working in bright sunlight might require the use of heavily tinted wrap-around safety glasses. However, if the worker is entering and exiting a confined space illuminated with artificial light she might be required to change to clear glasses upon entering the confined space. The individual designated as a hole watcher should be aware of this requirement and confirm that workers adapt to the changing situation. Likewise, if work is being performed outdoors in a sunny situation the JSA would require revision if work continued after sunset. Artificial lighting and clear glasses would likely be required for this night work.

Availability

The scope of work conducted at a facility, changing work situations, environmental conditions, and the size of the workforce are factors that influence the type and amount of eye protection devices that should be available at any given facility. The various forms of eye protection have been discussed in prior Bay Publishing articles (reference: [i], [ii] & [iii]). The single-point accountability for having the proper devices on hand is determined by the organization. This can vary considerably. Usually, the single-point of accountability is designated as the Operations Manager or the Manufacturing Manager with the HSE Manager playing a support role in defining the types of devices required in accordance with the work anticipated by the operations or manufacturing manager. The Materials Manager also plays a support role in terms of ordering and receiving the specified materials in a timely manner.

This dispersion of duties can result in supply shortages, poor quality of supplies, procurement of off-spec materials, expedited delivery charges, unsafe work, and work delays. The challenge for HSE Managers and safety professionals is keeping adequate supplies of quality PPE on hand at the work location such that protection is provided without undue delay to the work. At work sites that are close to major population centers procurement can be as easy as a phone call and direct pickup. In remote construction sites and in many countries of the world the supply of good quality and a broad selection of eye protection PPE is a significant challenge. Keeping adequate supplies on hand requires a thorough understanding of upcoming work and the ongoing usage/consumption patterns. The longer the lead time required to obtain protective eyewear the more difficult this task becomes.

Construction sites require a robust inventory control system in addition to a thorough knowledge of upcoming work scope and the associated PPE. This is due to the evolutionary nature of construction. A construction project may start with a heavy demand for dust protection from demolition, progress to welding where very specialized eye protection is needed, and end with spray painting in confined areas. Each phase requires different eye protection devices. Monthly reviews of the six month look-ahead work plan by the HSE Manager are required to keep PPE stocks in line with the anticipated changes in work scope of the site.

The specification for eyewear is a straightforward process from a procurement standpoint since government regulations clearly state the requirements. However, unscrupulous vendors can undermine this process by selling equipment that is either mislabeled as being in conformance with requirements or simply shipping non-standard and unlabeled materials. Due diligence must be followed when ordering and receiving all PPE to assure that it in fact meets specifications. All PPE on site must have the manufacturer's mark clearly identified. Regular field inspections by a safety professional is warranted to confirm eye wear meets the requisite industry standard. In the case of US standards, if the Z87 mark is not provided on the eyewear it must be assumed to be a non-conformance. When such non-conformances are observed it should be classified as a near miss incident. It is not only necessary to remove the non-compliant eyewear but to determine the source, seek out and remove all similar eyewear in the facility, determine how such equipment was allowed in the work site, and make corrective adjustments to the process that allowed this incident to occur.

"fit and comfort are critical.  A worker won't wear something that is uncomfortable, irritating, keeps slipping off his/her face or fogs up"

It's worth noting that wearing safety glasses bearing the Z87 mark of approval does not mean the worker is safe to proceed with his or her work. The manufacturer's mark merely means the equipment complies with a specific standard - it does not mean the worker is using the proper equipment for the work being performed. The type of work and the risks posed by the work must still be taken into account. A worksite review of the JSA is warranted.

eye-protection3.jpg, Eye Protection to Prevent Injuries, David Moore, Occupational Safety Asia, March 2010

It is expected that eye protection devices in service will deteriorate over time due to normal wear and tear and must be replaced. These devices serve in adverse conditions with frequent abuse by the elements as well as by the workers. The lenses become scratched in the process of protecting the worker's eyes and regular cleaning is seldom performed under ideal conditions or with manufacturer recommended lens cleaning materials. Dirty or scratched lens, broken straps, missing side shields, bent ear pieces, broken hinges are signs that it is time for replacement. While in developed countries the cost of safety glasses is small (US $5 to US $10) this equipment can represent a significant expenditure of time, effort and money in undeveloped countries and remote sites. It's important that a reasonable policy and criteria be applied to the replacement of used eye protection devices. It is also equally important that this criteria be implemented uniformly across the facility to assure equal protection of all workers and to avoid the appearance of favoritism. It's also common that employers require the used device to be returned in exchange for the replacement. This practice allows a specialist to inspected the damaged goods. Such inspection can reveal weaknesses in the product, selecting eye wear that is better fit for the work conditions, ideas for improving the maintenance practices, and making changes to the behaviors of workers. However, another reason for returning used eye wear is to prevent workers from selling the devices outside the facility.

Influencing Worker Behaviors

Of primary importance in eye protection is getting the worker to wear his/her eye protection equipment while performing all tasks - and in all areas - that pose risks. Fit and comfort are critical in this regard because a worker won't wear something that is uncomfortable, is irritating, keeps slipping off his/her face, fogs up, or distorts normal vision. If the eye device they wear have these issues the user will remove them at every chance there is. The immediate cause of many eye incidents is the worker removed the eyewear while hazards were still present. Style cannot be discounted either - some people feel they look ridiculous in oversized protective eyewear and they will remove it as soon as they feel the hazard is no longer present. Unfortunately, the hazard may well remain in terms of residue on the skin, hair or hard helmet that can easily fall into the eye. Also, regardless of what advertisements say, one size does not fit all. An Asian face is different from a Western face - and there is no such thing as a typical face of any ethnic group or nationality when it comes to proper fit for eye wear. The bottom line is that protective eye wear must be procured in various sizes and style to fit the various sizes and style preferences of workers.

Workers should be coached to follow these simple behavioural precautions:

 Brush, shake or vacuum dust and debris from hard hats, hair, the forehead or the top of the eye protection before removing the protector

 Avoid rubbing eyes with dirty hands or clothing

 Clean their eyewear regularly

 Visually inspect eyewear to assure it is in good condition. Replace as necessary.

•  Ensure eye protection fits properly and stays in place

 Implement measures to prevent fogging. This may include: lens material, venting provisions, use of anti-fog solution, anti-static/anti-fog cleaning wipes, etc.

Programs that have proven to be influential on workers for encouraging positive behaviors include:

Include designer-style eyewear as prizes in safety recognition programs

Allow a worker who previously had an eye injury to discuss his incident at a weekly tool box meeting or special event. He should discuss in his own words the causes, his feelings about what happened and the outcome of the treatment.

Conduct weekly inspections focused solely on eye safety with line workers alongside manager in the team

Regular inspections by management and discussions with workers in the working environment regarding eye protection is a positive component of a safety program. This can be achieved by regular management participation in audits, reviews, weekly safety inspections, informal and unannounced safety walks, etc. However, it must be recognized that one of the most effective means of demotivating a worker is for leaders - management, visitors, engineers, staff personnel, etc. - to show up on site with inadequate eye protection. The use of reading glasses, bifocals or normal eye glasses is not a substitute for safety glasses. Workers who identify this non-conformance should be rewarded.

First aid measures

Any eye injury requires immediate attention. It is much better to go to a clinic and have a professional determine that no action is required than it is to allow a worker to hope that nothing is wrong. Many times an injured worker will rub and blink his eye for hours before realizing there might be something wrong. Some eye incidents are not reported until the next day when the eye is seriously inflamed or the worker is still seeing remnants of  welding arc flashes. It deserves to be repeatedly emphasized to workers that any delay in treatment might mean a less than full recovery of his or her eyesight. 

Workers that are likely to be present when an eye injury occurs should be trained in how to react while medical attention is on its way to chemical exposures, lacerations, cuts and abrasions, foreign objects and arc eye.

Responsibilities of Leaders

Providing PPE of any type is recognized as the last line of defense for worker protection. It's an admission by management that the hazard could not be designed out of the facility and that administrative controls are not completely effective in avoiding the hazard. The only two things standing between an eye hazard and a worker's eye is safety glasses and the behaviors of the worker. No amount of eye protection equipment can prevent an injury if it is not worn. It is the challenge of management to assure that workers are actually using the eye protection that is provided. The management team must put in place an effective eye protection program based on compliance with regulations. However, regulations are not sufficiently prescriptive to achieve a zero incident rate. Site supervisors and shop foremen have direct responsibility for their crews to wear eye protection but their efforts can be greatly enhanced if they are visibly supported by management. Management's adoption of best practices - see side bar - to influence worker behaviors must fill this gap.

References

· http://www.cdc.gov/niosh/topics/eye/

· [i] Above the Neck - Protection of the Head, Face, Vision and Hearing [HSI, Bay Publishing: Nov 2009]

· [ii] Preventing Optical Damage Through Welding [HSI, Bay Publishing: January 2009]

· [iii] Protecting Eyes Against High Speed Particle Impact [HSI, Bay Publishing: January 2008]

 

Author Details

David W Moore, is a health, safety and environmental advisor living on Bainbridge Island, Washington, USA. Mr. Moore holds a B.S. and an M.S. in Chemical Engineering, both from Georgia Tech. He has 38 years of experience in the US domestic and international oil and gas industry.

Mr. Moore recently retired his PE and CSP certifications but continues to actively support the industry as an advisor. In the past several years he has provided significant onsite HSE leadership to the China West to East Pipeline Project (Gansu Province), the BTC Pipeline Project (Erzincan, Turkey) and the Tangguh LNG Plant Project (West Papua, Indonesia).

He can be contacted at: dmoore.che71@gtalumni.org

For more details of Eye Protection please go to  http://www.osedirectory.com/product.php?type=health&product_id=9

Published: 10th Mar 2010 in OSA Magazine

Author


David Moore



David Moore

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dmoore.che71@gtalumni.org

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