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Published: Fall, 2003; Vol 5, Num 3

 

A Mission for Vision:

Education, Awareness and Enforcement = Compliance

By John Anatone

Responding to alarming reports that eye injuries are the number one preventable reported injury (15 percent of total injuries in 2002) on the Central Artery/Tunnel Project (CA/T) in Boston, the New England Laborers’ Health and Safety Fund (NELHSF) initiated an eye safety program this year for LIUNA members working on the project.

According to LIUNA General Secretary and New England Regional Manager Armand E. Sabitoni, “Industry studies indicate that as many as 90 percent of eye injuries are preventable. With so many eye injuries on this project, it was evident that the Fund should intervene to reduce their frequency.”

An integral component of the ongoing program, Education, Awareness and Enforcement Compliance, is an eye injury study that the NELHSF conducted earlier this year through a partnership with UVEX, the protective eyewear division of Bacou-Dalloz, USA. Together, the two organizations formed a survey team to determine the causes for the significant increase of reported eye injuries.

NELHSF staff and UVEX safety representatives first met with CA/T project site safety managers to gain insight on the contractors’ view of the injury problem. Subsequently, the survey team conducted observational research and interviews with over 200 workers during a five-week period. The site locations and contractors were chosen to reflect a valid representation of the various tasks performed on the project.

Observations revealed that while some of the workers wore eye protection, many were not wearing the appropriate eyewear or lens tint for the work application. Workers were observed performing grinding operations wearing spectacles rather than goggles, working in confined spaces without amber tint lenses and using “sunglass” tinted safety eyewear when exposed to short-term electric arc and the intense burst of radiation.

Additionally, the survey team observed workers who wore no eyewear, “street-wear” sunglasses or prescription eyeglasses that did not meet the ANSI Z87.1-1989 standard for protective eyewear.

Workers repeatedly complained of lens fogging and scratching as well as comfort and style issues as reasons for not wearing protective eyewear

The survey team concluded that while the number of CA/T eye injuries may have increased in 2002, the injury rate could be reduced in the future through training and proper product selection. Substantiating this was the fact that the majority of workers understood the value of using protective eyewear, but simply did not wear it if it was uncomfortable or interfered with job performance.

The study recommended that controls be put in place to insure that safety eyewear products used on the CA/T project are evaluated and approved by the appropriate safety professionals who are more inclined to choose function over price when it comes to worker safety. With minimal cost to contractors, eye injuries can be reduced through the use of anti-fog lenses, proper cleaning facilities and products, training and educational measures, proper fit and comfortable, updated styling.

The NELHSF also produced an eye injury video for distribution to all LIUNA locals in the New England region.

Workers and contractors alike are anxious for the next phase of the Fund’s eye injury intervention. The cooperation and enthusiasm of these two groups ensures that the Fund’s initiative will reduce eye injuries at the CA/T project.

[John Anatone in the New England Region Tri-Fund Field Coordinator.]