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November 18, 2012
U.S. workers risk eye injuries by not wearing required protection

On-the-job eye injuries can have devastating consequences, such as chemical burns or blindness. Despite these potential hazards, 85% of industrial workers in a Kimberly-Clark Professional survey said they had observed others failing to wear eye protection when they should have been.

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"This high rate of noncompliance seriously jeopardizes worker health and safety. In many instances, uncomfortable eyewear or fogged lenses could be responsible," said Valona Renner-Thomas, product manager, Eye and Face Protection, Kimberly-Clark Professional. "The results are very disconcerting when you consider that 90% of eye injuries can be prevented through the use of proper protective eyewear. Enhancing eyewear practices is critical to creating exceptional workplaces—those that are safe, healthy, and productive for all employees."

OSHA requires employers to provide eye and face protection to guard against chemical, environmental, radiological, or mechanical irritants or hazards. Yet, data from the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics show that nearly three out of five injured workers were not wearing eye protection at the time of their accident or were wearing the wrong kind of eye protection for the job.

Most important, ‘challenging’ PPE

The importance of eye protection was evident to survey participants, with 80% saying they would encourage a coworker or employee to wear eye protection if he or she were not in compliance, and 22% saying they would report the employee to a supervisor or find a way to halt dangerous work operations until the worker complied with personal protective equipment (PPE) protocols.

In addition, eyewear came in first when respondents were asked to rank the most important PPE category for on-the-job safety. It was also deemed the "most challenging" PPE category in terms of compliance, which leads to the question: How can compliance be improved?

Greater comfort and fog-free lenses could help, according to the survey results. When asked what would most improve compliance with eye protection protocols, the top choice was more comfortable eyewear—with features like flexible, comfortable nose pieces (56%), followed by fog-free lenses (22%).

Also, 51% of respondents reported having been forced to wear uncomfortable eyewear or eyewear they did not like while at work. Of these, 46% wound up purchasing their own eye protection, while 45% said they "used it anyway."

Fogging was also a problem on the job, with 88% of respondents saying they or someone they worked with had been unable to see or complete a task properly because of fogged lenses. Also, 40% of respondents reported this had happened on "numerous occasions."

Regarding off-the-job safety, only a quarter of respondents said their organizations encouraged employees to take protective eyewear home, even though 84% of respondents said they would consider using eye protection from work as their everyday glasses.

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