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HomemifashionSafety Eyewear: Armour for the Eye

Safety Eyewear: Armour for the Eye

Safety eyewear isn’t only about protecting workers when they’re on a construction site, down a mine or on the factory floor; it’s about protecting all your customers from hazards that could adversely affect their vision – whether at work or at play.

Eye injuries not only cause significant pain and anxiety but result in high financial cost to individuals, businesses and the national economy.

Some eye injuries can permanently damage a person’s vision, leading to loss of personal income, independence and, in many cases, depression.

According to a report released by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, patients that suffer from an eye injury typically need to take at least two weeks off work, bearing hefty medical and treatment costs.

One of the engineers who examined the glasses determined from the type of damage the lenses sustained that it had been inflicted by flying concrete which would have caused substantial damage to my eyes if they were unprotected

Men, particularly those of working age, are more likely than women to suffer an injury to the eye, and, while eye injuries in general constitute just 0.2 per cent of visits to the GP, they make up a substantial 6 per cent of visits to hospital emergency departments visits and admissions.

According to the report, ‘Eye-related Injuries in Australia’, 46 per cent of GP visits for eye injuries were associated with a foreign body in the eye and 80 per cent of those visits were made by men. About half of those required medication and 20 per cent required some kind of procedural treatment.

“A foreign body in the eye was also the most common reason for treatment in the emergency department and eye-related injury compensation claims, with the median time lost from work being about a week and a half,” said Clare Bradley of the AIHW’s National Injury Surveillance Unit.

Around 23 per cent of emergency department visits were due to a person being struck by, or colliding with an object, while another 12 per cent were due to being struck by, or colliding with another person.

But it’s not just flying particles and objects that can cause damage. People need Occupation, Health and Safety eyewear to protect them from excessive wind, bright sun light and blue light.

Promoting Safety Eyewear

While many eye injuries are reported to have occurred when people have not worn safety glasses, a substantial number of work related eye injuries have also been reported amongst people wearing spectacles with insufficient strength and incorrect impact ratings. This suggests that the design of safety eyewear should be further examined and that companies need to carefully educate their employees on the importance of wearing appropriate OHS safety eyewear.

As an eye care professional, you can play your part in minimising eye injuries by promoting safety glasses to customers in all walks of life.

While safety eyewear has traditionally been viewed as more focussed on function than fashion, nowadays manufacturers of safety eyewear (who are certified and compliant) consider style and colour as integral to the design process.

To ensure your customers purchase the most appropriate pair of safety glasses to meet their needs, it’s important to talk to them about the type of work or day-to-day activities they do and the environment they work or play in. Depending on their activities, they may need a number of pairs, and should probably replace their safety eyewear every 12 months.

While safety spectacles provide adequate protection from most particles that fly up in front of the operator, in more active environments, side shields may be necessary to protect wearers from flying particles and radiation from welding operations.

Where greater protection is necessary, your customers can choose from goggles, wide vision spectacles, wide vision goggles, an eye shield, face shield or a hood. Customers who choose to wear a shield or hood should also wear safety spectacles to provide protection when the shield or hood is pushed away.

Anti-fog goggles are available for those who operate in heated or damp environments. Alternatively, anti-fogging compounds and sweat bands are a wise recommendation to maximise your customers’ field of vision.

Australian Eyewear Standards

There are many safety eyewear standards prepared by the Council of Standards Australia and the Council of Standards New Zealand that provide guidance for the effective design, production and sale of safety eyewear. The most important of these cover features that include impact and penetration resistance, frame resilience, lens thickness and visual quality.

These standards will provide you – as an eye care professional, and in turn, your customers ­- with the assurance that the glasses they purchase will help to minimise the risk of eye injuries.

The main Australian Standards relating to OHS eyewear are:

  • AS/NZS 1337.1:2010 which sets out the required standards for personal eye protection – eye and face protectors for occupational applications, and
  • AS/NZS 1337.6:2007 which details the required standards for personal eye protection for prescription eye protectors against low and medium impact.

In Australia, certification for the Australian Standards is issued to very few manufacturers following quality assessment conducted by SAI Global. Once a company has achieved verification through a quality plan, each new product has to be independently tested (three pairs for plano and 18 pairs for Rx) by a NATA Laboratory: UNSW ORLAB and then scheduled with SAI Global.

Test results and samples need to be archived for a period of 10 years in the case of future liabilities.

In Australia, frames that comply with the Australian Standards are easily identified with the manufacturer’s or supplier’s mark. The lens is also clearly marked in the upper temporal area with the manufacturer’s identifier. Other lens markings include an ‘R’ to identify the lenses as refractive, an ‘I’ to indicate medium impact (there is no marking for low impact) and an ‘O’ if the lens is clear and manufactured for outdoor use. The manufacturer may also add the date of production, an inclusion which can be useful when monitoring a lens’ longevity under different conditions as well as for warranty purposes.

With all this in mind, it’s probably wise to review the safety eyewear you are selling to ensure it is compliant with Australian Standards. It’s also a great idea to talk to your staff about the advice they give customers when it comes to selecting the most appropriate eyewear to meet their needs.

1. http://www.aihw.gov.au/mediacentre/2009/mr20090204.cfm
2. About Safe Work Australia; by Dr. Tim Driscoll, Dr. Louise Flood, Dr. James Harrison. 2008; www.safeworkaustralia.gov.au/AboutSafeWorkAustralia/WhatWeDo/Publications/Documents/201/WorkRelatedEyeInjuriesAustralia_2008_PDF.pdf
Copyright Commonwealth of Australia reproduced by permission.

Safety Eyewear Standard Questions Answered

Safety eyewear today has a much wider occupational application to protect the face and eyes from home to work.

PSG Eyewear, Eyres Safety Eyewear and Cummings Optical are the major players in the safety eyewear market. John Moore (PSG MD), Michel Audry (Eyres MD) and Graham Cummings (Cummings Optical MD) shed light on the current standard requirements.

Where do you manufacture the frames and grind and fit the lenses?

PSG: We’ve been manufacturing safety eyewear since 2004 with all of our frames made by manufacturers outside Australia. All PSG lenses are manufactured by Essilor in either Australia or Asia. 100 per cent of PSG products are assembled at the purpose built facility in Chipping Norton NSW.

Eyres: Eyres frames are manufactured by a network of SAI Global audited sub-contractors who hold sub-licenses through Eyres. We have a fit-for-purpose product that hit the ground running. It takes 18 months from design to compliance – you can build a house in less time! Each model is independently tested at UNSW’s Orlab facility to ensure Australian Standards compliance and the report sent to SAI Global for registration and addition to their Standards mark schedule.

We have our own edging and assembly facility in Perth and are currently developing sub-licensee relationships in China, Korea and Japan to grind the lenses.

Cummings: We’ve been manufacturing safety eyewear for eight years. Our frames are imported and the lenses are fitted in certified laboratories in Australian and overseas.

What makes a great pair of safety glasses?

PSG: They need to be lightweight, durable, fit for purpose and fashionable. Too many manufacturers are leaning too much towards fashion rather than keeping with the real purpose, which is protection. As a trained optical dispenser, I know how much of a pain it is to replace a metal frame if it corrodes. To eliminate this, all PSG metal frames are either stainless steel or titanium.

Eyres: Wide peripheral protection – eliminates dead angles; impact protection; ergonomics of the frame i.e. wearer comfort like good-fitting nose piece or catering for different face shapes or head sizes; shorter or adaptable temple lengths to accommodate the wearing of hard hats and protective masks or shields; to meet optical quality standards: Integral features like accuracy to prescription, and light filtration standards of each lens; light transmittance for tinted lenses; impact resistance and style.

Cummings: Certified or comply with AS1337.6. Meet optical requirements, as well as comfort, strength and price.

What has changed the most about safety glasses over the past 10 years?

PSG: The biggest advancement would be the availability of polycarbonate as a viable lens material. It is the premium impact resistant product with well over 95 per cent of the eye protection market using polycarbonate exclusively.

Eyres: The development of freeform technology has allowed prescription eye protectors to possess the same elements as plano eyewear in terms of peripheral coverage. Ten years ago safety eyewear was regarded as functional only – ugly and cheap. Usually it was simply the addition of side shields to standard optical frames that made a pair of spectacles be regarded as safety eyewear.

Cummings: Introduction of Australian standard has removed the grey area of manufacture to enable manufacturers, optometrists and customers to feel confident they are meeting their customer’s eye safety requirements.

Some eye injuries are the result of debris entering the glasses from the side or from below the base of the frames. How can manufacturers counter this?

PSG: Frame design is extremely important in reducing eye injuries. New models closely follow the shape of the face in order to reduce gaps. Further gap reduction is achieved by using a foam gasket on the back of the frame.

Eyres: The angle is critically important. The distance between the frames and the face should allow a clearance of not less than 10mm without touching the face. We design wide vision frames that conform to the contours of the ocular bones structure which minimises the chance of foreign objects penetrating the eye. We are developing frames with foam inserts which offer comfort while fully protecting the area from flying particles or debris.

Cummings: Optometrists and dispensers should ensure when selecting frames that a close fit is achieved. Knowledge of your customers eye safety needs should be discussed at point of purchase. Face shields and goggles are preferred options in some industrial situations. Recommended practices for occupational eye protection should be referenced or seek advice from suppliers.

What should an optometrist / dispenser ask a customer when discussing safety eyewear?

PSG: The most important question to ask the patient is “exactly what do you do?” Optometrists and dispensers need to understand exactly what the customers job function is. The practitioner needs to decide on an Rx, a lens type, a lens design and then a frame. Too many times we see orders being placed where fashion is the primary criteria.

Ask, listen and make sure you understand and then prescribe the appliance best suited to enable the person to perform their duties safely and accurately.

Eyres: It is important for an optician to understand that the 1337 Standards are standards for protection in all environments, not only on an industrial site. The impact criterion has to be in line with their occupation; in the mines they need medium impact (hard hat = medium impact requirement), however, for a lifesaver or an airport or council worker, a lower impact is sufficient.

Safety on the Frontline

Greg, a former soldier, experienced the extraordinary value of safety glasses first hand, when a homemade bomb exploded no more that 50 metres from him while in Afghanistan.

On a private military contract in Afghanistan in July 2010, his Eyres Razors saved his eyes from the impact of an improvised explosive device. He was providing top cover, travelling in convoy in an open topped Land Rover and armed with just a machine gun when the device went off. It sprayed him with shrapnel including steel ball bearings and concrete. The force was so intense that the lead vehicle was vaporised.

Greg recounts “My Eyres sunglasses absorbed the impact with ease, saving my eyesight. The lenses were really scratched and pitted but my eyesight was normal.”

Greg was knocked unconscious by the blast. Fortunately, he survived but came away with burst eardrums and a broken nose. He also suffered a punctured lung after his body armour was pierced. This has left him with chest scarring.

“When I regained consciousness I couldn’t hear. I felt an intense burning sensation from the flash and realised I was still wearing my sunglasses. I took them off, had a look and realised I could see. I was so relieved to find that I was not blind – let alone dead.

“The glasses absorbed the impact just like Eyres said they would! If the shrapnel had penetrated the glasses then not only would I be blind but quite possibly not here! Thank you Eyres, I owe you my sight, if not my life.”

“One of the engineers who examined the glasses determined from the type of damage the lenses sustained that it had been inflicted by flying concrete which would have caused substantial damage to my eyes if they were unprotected.”

Greg chose Eyres to take with him to Afghanistan simply because he didn’t like the army issue. “The Australian military issue glasses were not very stylish. They fogged up and slipped off so I decided to source my own glasses which I found on Kit Bag’s website.”

Note: We are unable to provide Greg’s full name due to his confidential private military contract.