Article has seen in the Fall 2017 Issue
Today’s workforce is very different from that of our parents’ generation. In fact, more than 1 in 3 workers are now millennials, surpassing baby boomers and Gen Xers as the largest generation ever to comprise the U.S. labor force. Millennials are diverse in both ethnicity and gender — and that’s changing the way we protect them on the job. Comfort, fit and performance are key attributes workers demand from their personal protective equipment (PPE) – yet can be challenging to deliver to an increasingly diverse workforce.
Safety eyewear is among the most commonly worn types of PPE, for good reason. Often referred to as our windows to the world, our eyes allow us to take in the majority of information about our surroundings, and most would agree that their sense of sight is invaluable. The eyes are extremely complex, fragile and susceptible to injury, too. Once an eye is damaged, it is difficult and often impossible to fully recover one’s vision. For these reasons, the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) calls for employers to provide the proper type of eye protection wherever risks to the eyes exist.
Yet outfitting today’s diverse workforce with eyewear that delivers every individual a safe, comfortable fit can prove challenging. Finding styles of spectacles, sealed eyewear and goggles that workers will put on and leave on all shift long is a tall order. This article looks at new advances in safety eyewear that can help you successfully outfit your modern workforce with ease.
A quick word on basic eye protection
First and foremost, industrial eye protection is intended to protect workers’ eyes from impact. Choose only styles that are marked with ANSI Z87, denoting they meet the institute’s requirements for impact protection. Safety spectacles are good for general purpose protection. However, in windy environments or wherever airborne debris is present, look for sealed eyewear or goggles to keep particles safely away from the eyes. And in the case of chemical splash hazards, always select eyewear designed to stand up to the specific caustics or acids present. Finally, if high impact risks exist, look to military-grade ballistic protection to ensure eyewear stands up against high-velocity projectiles in extreme environments.
Proper fit and comfort are vital
Experts agree, the majority of the nation’s 2,000 daily occupational eye injuries could be avoided by wearing the proper type of eye protection for the hazard. In many instances, workers are not wearing any eye protection at the time of injury. If safety eyewear is not comfortable, workers are likely to take it off and leave it off – even in the presence of hazards.
Selecting eyewear that delivers a snug, safe and comfortable fit is vital to supporting compliance and avoiding eye injuries. Finding styles that deliver gap-free comfort across a diverse workforce, however, hasn’t always been easy. Individuals’ features vary widely, with measurements differing significantly among nose bridges, temple length, cheekbone and brow height, and more. When eyewear fits too snugly headaches, pressure points and overall distraction are likely to lead to eyewear removal. If it fits too loosely eyewear will slip, distract and fail in the event of impact.
Fortunately, finding comfortable eyewear designed to fit across a wide range of workers is easier than ever. For instance, new materials and unique combinations of materials engineered into spectacle temples are grippier to ensure a no-slip fit. Advanced combinations of rubber and foam are especially pliable and able to comfortably conform to the unique contours of individuals’ face, cheek and brow profiles in new sealed eyewear and safety goggle styles. Similarly, advances in multi-material, fingered nose bridges help deliver a snug yet soft, stay-put fit.
To avoid painful pressure points, look for glasses with adjustability features such as hinged or ratcheting temples that ensure a secure and customizable fit. Another ideal option for fitting a variety of faces is the sport-inspired wraparound lens which flexes to fit narrow to wide faces, and also delivers outstanding peripheral vision.
In hot or humid conditions, workers are likely to remove eyewear to wipe sweat away before it enters their eyes. However, doing so takes their hands off the job decreasing work productivity – and leaves their eyes vulnerable to injury. Built-in vented brow guards are a good idea for keeping sweat, salt and dirt out of the eyes. Advances in brow guard material allow some styles to absorb many times the moisture to ensure a long-lasting, sweat-free view while strategically-placed vents allow increased air flow to reduce moisture build-up.
Foggy lenses put workers at risk
In order for safety eyewear to protect, it needs to provide a snug, gap-free fit. But a snug fit can also restrict airflow around the lens and lead to fogging. In fact, fogging is nearly impossible to avoid in most applications due to worker exertion, environmental heat and humidity, and rapid changes in temperature. When lenses fog, workers face increased risk not only of eye injury but also bodily harm from nearby hazards.
To ensure a safe, fog-free view, look for proven anti-fog lens coatings that deliver long-lasting results. While many anti-fog products look good right out of the box, their properties may wash off after only a few uses or washings. Anti-fog coatings that feature dual-action hydrophilic (water absorbing) and hydrophobic (water repelling) properties deliver the most effective results. Likewise, those that are permanently bonded to the lens in a controlled application method with vigorous product monitoring ensure the greatest performance for the longest possible time, and even withstand dozens of washings. A consistently fog-free safety lens is one your workers will wear shift after shift with the clear, safe view that’s vital to performing their tasks.
The face of American workers is changing, and so is the safety eyewear we outfit them with. By choosing styles with unique combinations of materials that are specifically designed to deliver a customizable fit and all-day comfort, workers avoid the distractions, downtime and risks associated with poorly fitting PPE. With advanced anti-fog lens coatings workers maintain the clear view they require to conduct tasks safely and efficiently. When you opt for the latest advances in safety eyewear, employers and workers alike will see the invaluable benefits that improved comfort, performance and eye protection afford.
Author: Wanda Sanchez-Miller, Senior Product Marketing Manager for Honeywell Safety and Productivity Solutions’ Uvex Safety Eyewear Business