“ I really have problems with anything near my face, so I wasn’t too happy when my boss told me I had to wear the proper safety eye googles for the job I was about to do. Not only that I was compelled to take the training program on the proper wearing of eye and face gear. How hard can it be to slip a pair of safety goggles on?” Anyhow I wanted to keep my job so of course I did as I had to do. I wasn’t on the job more than an hour before a piece of debris flew up and actually scratched the lens of the safety glasses I was wearing. Needless to say I couldn’t be more thankful to my boss and the safety rules that are in place to keep us workers safe!”
Every employer has the responsibility of providing a safe environment for each and every employee. This includes eye and face protection which must meet the OSHA standards. The protection has to be as such that it can protect against environmental and radiological hazards as well as mechanical or chemical irritants.
It all begins with an assessment.The workplace and project must be assessed for the potential hazards that may occur. Once this has been determined, then the appropriate eye and face protection must be made available for all workers. During this hazard assessment, consideration for any potential emergencies must be considered. All hazard levels must be determined, and the proper steps for protection need to be put in place for each and every one of them.
Common Workplace Hazards
- Impact to the eyes and/or face: This can occur from flying items, such as sand and dirt or large chips of materials and fragments, molten metal, liquid chemicals, chemical gases or vapors, acids or caustic liquids
- Heat: Any work project that is capable of creating extreme heat
- Dust: Dust generated from the environment or created as the result of the work
- Optical Radiation: This can come from glare, intense lighting or radiant energy
OSHA Criteria for Eye Protection
All the eye and face protection must be in compliance with the American National Standards Institute.
If purchased after July 5, 1994….ANSI Z87.1-1989
If purchased before July 5, 1994…..ANSI Z87.1-1968
All protective equipment used for eye and face (PPE) must be clearly marked so the identification of the manufacturer can be seen. The minimum requirements of PPE include:
- The PPE must provide appropriate protection for what they have been designed to protect against
- They must be a safe design and constructed properly for the work that is going to be carried out
- They have to be as comfortable as possible while remaining within the safety standards
- They must fit snug but not impede the movements of the wearer
- They must be durable
- They must be easy to clean and are able to withstand disinfecting
- Only the manufacturer’s identification should be marked on the equipment
- The proper training must be implemented
The employer’s responsibility has to go beyond just providing the equipment. OSHA standards make it mandatory that training is provided for workers who are required to wear the appropriate PPE. Employees must be taught what work situations require the wearing of protective eye and face wear as well as what type. They must be fully instructed in how to properly put it on, take it off and adjust it, and the specific rules as to when it must be worn.They also must be made aware of what the limitations of the PPE are, so they don’t put themselves in a precarious situation assuming they are protected. In addition to all of this they must be instructed in the proper care, maintenance and the life span of the equipment, and how it is to be disposed of when no longer useful.
Employers must designate a training provider that is well versed in all aspects of the PPE. The training must be easy to follow and understand. Employees being subjected to the training should be able to demonstrate their comprehension of the training and their ability to use the personal protection equipment as instructed. There are situations where OSHA does not deem the wearing of the PPE as necessary, but some workers choose to do so anyway, the employer must still offer limited provisions of a PPE program. In other cases where wearing the equipment is voluntary there is a requirement for the employer to provide additional written requirements outlining an eye and face protection program. This program must include the proper maintenance procedures that have to be implemented when utilizing the PPE.
There will be times when employees must be retrained regarding PPE. Some reasons why this may happen is because the work environment has changed, so the previous training is no longer applicable. Changes in the PPE may occur, which means the original training has to be updated. The employee may not have been able to grasp the original training and needs to be retrained.
Certifications in Writing
The employer must certify that every employee who is required to wear the PPE has been trained. This is done with the issuance of a certificate with the employee’s name, the date of training and the subject of the certification.
It is highly important that the eye and face protection fit properly, yet be comfortable for wearing. The googles and safety glasses should be done by someone that is qualified. For those that require prescriptive safety glasses these should be provided by optical personnel that are qualified in this field. Adjustments to this protective gear should be done according to the requirements of the wearer. When the potential hazard is dust or chemical splashes, the eye protection should be able to create a protective seal. When welding helmets and face shields are required, they must be fitted properly so there is no risk that they will slip during the work projects.
Proper Care, Cleaning and Maintenance
It is highly important that the eye and face protective gear be kept clean and sanitary. It is against OSHA regulations to utilize equipment that has any optical or structural defects to them. The lens must be free from dirt, pitting or scratches as this can hinder normal vision. There is a risk that lenses with deep pitting or scratching could break. The headbands must be in good condition, as if they are stretched, wet or twisted they will not hold the eye protection in proper position. It is not unusual for the lenses to fog in some environments, therefore should be cleaned as necessary. Prior to another employee using the same PPE it should be properly disinfected.
Proper storage is important to maintain the integrity of the eyewear and the googles should be stored in protective cases after cleaning and disinfecting.
OSHA has rules in place regarding the protective eye equipment required for employees with prescriptive needs. The equipment worn must be such that it can be worn over the prescriptive lenses. For the employees that wear contacts, it is recommended that these employees have an extra set with them or a set of glasses in the event the contacts become damaged or lost.
It is imperative that fast action be taken if an eye injury takes place. By doing so, it could prevent permanent damage. In all of the hazard work areas there should be easy access to emergency eye wash stations. Instructions should be clearly posted, and all employees should know where the nearest eyewash station is located and be able to navigate there if their vision is restricted. OSHA is very strict when it comes to eye and face protection and has set rules and recommendations in place to enhance the safety of all workers.