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January 08, 2007
Tips for Eye Protection Training

It doesn't have to be National Eye Care Month to make eye safety a priority at your facility. However, when you do turn the spotlight on workplace eye safety, be prepared for what you may see or hear. For example, you might see employees working without any eye protection at all or using the wrong kind. Or you might catch them with safety glasses perched on top of their heads instead of over their eyes. You might hear excuses like, "This'll just take a minute," or "I was in a hurry and I guess I forgot my safety glasses in my locker." If this is what you find, it's a pretty good indication that there's a future eye injury out there waiting to happen. To prevent that, you'll want to take three critical steps this month.

  1. Get them to wear eye protection. OSHA regulations tell you when eye protection is required, but they don't tell you one of the most important (and least obvious) parts: How do you get employees to use the eye protection you provide? It isn't easy. It takes a combination of persuasion, positive reinforcement, close supervision, and maybe a little discipline. Here are some other training tips that can help:
    • Explain the need. Identify each eye hazard employees face on the job and explain specifically how a particular type of safety eyewear protects them against this hazard.
    • Point out that OSHA requires it. Make sure your employees understand that the requirement is mandated by law. The company could be cited and fined if employees don't use eye protection required by OSHA regulations.
    • Dramatize the consequences of failing to use required eye protection. Tell some horror stories or miracle stories about how employees' eyes have been injured because they weren't wearing eye protection or their eyesight was saved because they were. Show them a piece of damaged eye protection that saved a worker from an injury, if you can. Or show them a video that dramatizes the importance of wearing eye protection. Gore is good here. It shocks employees and shakes them out of complacency.
    • Help employees recognize that eye protection gives them more control over their own safety. People like to feel that they're in control of their own destiny. The simple act of donning appropriate PPE in the face of particular hazards gives them that extra measure of control.
    • Lead by example. Always use required eye protection yourself in the work area and require visitors to use it, too--even if you're just passing through an "Eye Protection Required" work area. The example you set for your employees is always a powerful motivator.
    Why It Matters...
    • Thousands of eye injuries occur in American workplaces every day, and some of them result in permanent vision loss.
    • The majority of injuries are caused by particles or objects striking the eye; chemical burns are also common.
    • Government safety experts say that proper eye protection can prevent more than 90 percent of workplace eye injuries.
  2. Make sure they use the right kind. For example:
    • Safety glasses to protect against impact
    • Safety glasses with side shields to protect against flying particles
    • Ventilated goggles to protect against chemical vapors and dust
    • Goggles with a face shield to protect against chemical splashes, molten metals, or sparks
    • Welding goggles with special lenses to filter out harmful light radiation

    Wearing the wrong kind of eye protection can be almost as bad as not wearing any eye protection. So make sure your workers are always equipped with the right kind for the hazards they face on the job.

  3. Check for a good fit and good condition. Eye protection needs to fit right or it can't do the job it is intended to do. Loosely fitting goggles, for example, could let in harmful chemical vapors that could burn the eyes. Gaps between the face and the side shields on safety glasses could allow a tiny particle to hit the eye. And eye protection that's damaged or worn out can't do the job either. Scratched or pitted lenses make seeing hard and could lead to an accident. Stretched straps or bent frames mean the eyewear won't fit right and could expose the eyes to hazards.
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