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The Eyes Have It
“Eye protection is more than a good pair of sunglasses worn to and from work,” says LIUNA General Secretary Treasurer and LHSFNA Labor Co-Chairman Armand E. Sabitoni. “When your workplace is a construction site, eye protection is a vital necessity all day long.”
Every day, eye injuries caused by flying dust and splinters, chemical splashes, heat or glare land construction workers in emergency rooms. Meanwhile, the sun works steadily, often causing cataracts or age-related macular degeneration through years of exposure to its ultraviolet (UV) radiation.
OSHA standard 1926.102 requires employers to provide personal protective equipment (PPE). This includes eyewear. Goggles, sun glasses and face shields must comply with American National Standards Institute (ANSI) Z87.1-1989. Nevertheless, the construction sector has one of the highest rates of eye injuries in the nation. Approximately 10,600 eye injuries sideline construction workers every year.
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 you. Prescription goggles or safety glasses are also options.
Safety eye wear must be marked ANSI Z87.
Eye injuries are among the most common causes for monocular (single eye) blindness. This often occurs because eye protection is not worn – the case in three out of every five injuries, according to Bureau of Labor Statistics – or the protection is ill-fitting or not appropriate for the task at hand.
Workplace hazards are specific and so is the eyewear that addresses them. This includes size and shape. For example, goggles that protect from flying particles are not effective against chemical splashes, and if the goggles are too tight or loose, they will not safeguard anything. Laborers must get training about the right kind of eyewear, its proper fit and when to use it. With the right equipment and proper training, 90 percent of workplace eye injuries could be prevented, according to an estimate by Prevent Blindness America.
“Good PPE eyewear is lightweight, vented, fits over prescription glasses and has virtually no lens distortion. It also comes with UV protection, which is necessary for outside tasks or when there is glare,” says Sabitoni, noting that today’s work glasses are stylish and often resemble sunglasses.
“Eye injury is a serious problem,” he says. “All contractors and Laborers must be careful and take the proper precautions.”
[Janet Lubman Rathner]