“Dust, grit and glare are endemic to construction,” says LIUNA General Secretary-Treasurer and LHSFNA Labor Co-Chairman Armand E. Sabitoni, “but, unfortunately, so are injuries to the eyes that cause lost work time and, sometimes, permanent loss of vision.”
Wear goggles or safety glasses with side shields (contact lens wearers should use unvented goggles):
- For dust
- For overhead work
Also, wear a clear, plastic face shield:
- For chemicals or metals that can splash
- For grinding, chipping or using a wire brush on welds
- For flying particles
- For sandblasting (respirator includes helmet and shield
Employers must provide eye or face protection. Many safety glasses cost less than $10. Get fog-resistant lenses made of polycarbonate. Goggles or safety glasses must fit over prescription glasses and must fit the user. Prescription goggles or safety glasses are also options.
Safety eyewear must be marked ANSI Z87.
Every year, more than 10,600 eye injuries dispatch construction workers to the sidelines. Eye injuries are a leading cause of monocular (single eye) blindness.
Most of these abrasions, lacerations, penetrations, splashes and burns can be avoided. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) data show that three out of every five workplace eye injuries occur when protective eyewear should be worn but is not. According to the American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO), protective eyewear can prevent 90 percent of all eye injuries.
Although employers are required to provide PPE for the eyes – that is goggles, sunglasses and face shields, at no cost to employees – many times employees do not wear it. Sometimes, this is because the PPE is ill-fitting, uncomfortable or ineffective because it is too loose or too tight. Other times, it is because the PPE is not appropriate for the job. For example, safety glasses that protect from flying particles are not effective against chemical vapors. Either way, a task may be undertaken without appropriate protection, and every day, 120 construction workers suffer the consequences.
“Today’s PPE eyewear is lightweight, vented, can be worn over prescription glasses, has no distortion and comes with UV protection,” says Sabitoni. “Many products are stylish and cannot be distinguished from sunglasses. No task is important enough to tackle if necessary eye protection is not provided. Laborers must receive eyewear training so that they understand when to use appropriate eye protection, how to properly fit their PPE eyewear and the importance of speaking up if there are problems.”
The Roadway Safety Program has a useful demo video that shows the speed at which particles flying off a circular saw reach the eyes.
Eye Injuries in Construction, a health alert from the LHSFNA, provides additional information about PPE eyewear. It can be ordered through the Fund’s Publications Catalogue.
[Janet Lubman Rathner]