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Eye Protection Is More Than Having Safety Glasses

SoaresPosted by Tony Soares, CSP, CHMM, CSHE

The National Safety Council has designated March as Workplace Eye Wellness Month and Save Your Vision Month.  Your eyes are one of the most important parts of your body and are often taken for granted.  According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2011 there were over 40,000 occupational injuries or illnesses involving the eyes that resulted in days away from work.

If you are reading this blog, congratulations, you still have your eyesight.  Protecting the eyes is not difficult to do, but it is also easy to forget to take the proper steps to safeguard your vision. 

Wearing ANSI approved safety glasses (marked with “Z87”) will help protect them when grinding, chipping, sawing, and using other power tools; these activities can send particles into your eyes at high velocity.  Wearing tight-fitting goggles will protect eyes when exposed to chemical hazards such as splashes or sprays.   

Don't forget that there are specific lenses for your welding helmet designed for various welding methods.  Welding, brazing, and torch cutting present serious eye hazards. Welder’s flash occurs when your eyes are overexposed to the ultraviolet radiation created by welding.  It often occurs when you strike the arc a split second before dropping your face shield or hood. 

Eye protection is not just about safety glasses, however.  When grinding, make sure the grinder’s tool rest, tongue guard, and shields are properly adjusted as well as always wearing eye protection.  In addition, you should wear a safety shield since many injuries occur from particles that are deflected underneath the safety glasses. The face shield will protect your eyes and face against flying particles, especially in case of a wheel failure.  Completing a pre-use inspection of the grinding wheel to include a ring test will also help minimize the chances of this occurring.  The General Industry OSHA standards provide guidance for when and how a ring test should be completed. Lastly, face shields are not designed to be worn on their own, but in combination with safety glasses.

Remember, eye protection will only protect your eyes if it is the correct type for the hazard you are exposed to, it is in good condition, fits properly, and if it is worn when needed.  It only takes a split second to damage your eyes and change your life forever.   

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