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HomemibusinessEye Protectors The First Line of Defence

Eye Protectors The First Line of Defence

Around 2.25 million people in Australia are employed in the mining, construction and manufacturing industries1 and need protective eyewear due to the high risk of accidental eye injury. Around 30 per cent of those workers also need vision correction. Surprisingly, of the eye injuries that require hospitalisation, more than 20 per cent of these occur in the home. That’s a whole lot of numbers, a whole lot of facts, and a whole lot of reasons why you should be stocking and promoting quality protective eyewear for your patients.

Right now, in Australia, the market for eye protectors is estimated to be worth half a billion dollars annually… and it’s growing fast as people increasingly recognise the importance of protecting their sight both in the workplace and at home.

There are many aspects involved in the design, development and sale of quality eye protectors in Australia, including a complex process of assessment and independent verification to ensure the highest quality standards are met.

This is essential because the standards that Australian businesses adhere to are some of the toughest in the world. It’s a fact that most organisations in this country will not allow a product onto a work site unless it has been independently certified to the appropriate standards.

Right now, in Australia, the market for eye protectors is estimated to be worth half a billion dollars annuall

And while functionality and strength remain the primary consideration of eye protector manufacturers, these days styling, comfort and fit are also important. As a result, there are now many eye protectors on the market that are just as stylish as they are functional. And they are available in a range of frame shapes and sizes, with adjustable components to enhance flexibility and vision acuity. Additionally they incorporate high quality lenses with AR coatings and tints for greater vision comfort and protection.

Many of the more sophisticated eye protection designs allow workers to move from work to leisure without the need to change their glasses.

Enhanced Vision

In the same way that sports people need precise vision for optimum performance, workers in industrial situations require accurate vision to enable them to make quick decisions while on the job. Eye protectors with a wrap-around frame design provide the best solution by affording a wider field of view for enhanced vision.

Specialised lens designs can also significantly help to heighten a worker’s visual perception. Progressive lens designs, for example, that incorporate wider zones of optimum vision can make it easier for workers to operate effectively within a manufacturing environment where it is beneficial to combine sharp viewing in the far distance with absolute clarity for hazards on the ground. Similarly, on a mine site, an operator needs the capacity to operate a hand held instrument while also surveying potential hazards in the immediate area and at distance.

Fortunately for today’s workers, much of the knowledge stemming from research and development into eyewear for sport and lifestyle is being applied to the higher volume safety market. High base curve frame designs with gaskets now enable a large range of prescriptions as well as progressive lenses to be successfully fitted into eye protectors. The use of compensated lens designs that take into account parameters other than simply refraction, such as pantoscopic tilt and frame and lens curvature, help ensure the prescribed power is the same as from the wearer’s perspective. (refer figure 1)

Fogging

Fogging can lead to serious occupational health and safety issues in many industrial environments, especially in situations where critical judgments are made with heavy industrial equipment. To counter these risks, quality eye protectors are now designed with effective ventilation and coated lenses. Additionally, anti-fog coatings and sprays have been developed to further enhance fog resistance. Although these coatings and sprays have limited life and need to be reapplied, they do help to maintain optimum visual acuity, when used appropriately. (refer figure 2)

Applications for Outdoors

It is important to provide protection from ultraviolet light and glare for workers

that spend long hours in extreme UV environments. Polarised lenses have limited application in industrial settings because of the effect they have on display panels, making many of them difficult to read. Standard dyed in the mass tint technology can be difficult to control, making it difficult to guarantee compliance.

Developments in the use of confined technology with NXT lenses made of Trivex material help provide a better range of options for outdoor workers. Lenses with consistent colour and density help to provide optimum colour contrast.

Table 1: Markings as required by AS1337.1

Assessment and Certification

When it comes to designing and manufacturing eyewear for safety, both the physical and optical qualities of the product are of vital importance. As you’d expect, the process of assessment and certification begins right at the beginning of the design phase when prototypes are assessed to ensure coverage is adequate for the required level of protection – for example, medium impact eye protectors require adequate lateral coverage (refer figure 3).

Once the design has been reviewed and accepted, the first injection samples are manufactured and assessed for their compliance to standards. Physical and optical assessments are also performed at this stage to ensure they meet the rigorous requirements for use by end users.

Independent testing is conducted at an independent laboratory to prove compliance of the model before it is certified and can carry the standards mark and a license number for traceability. The lens is also marked with letters to indicate the appropriateness for different uses – for example, eye protectors with the appropriate level of lateral protection and impact resistence can be sold as medium impact and are marked with an ‘I’ or an ‘F’ to indicate this to the end user. (refer table 1)

Initial assessments for compliance are followed with ongoing batch testing of the eye protector’s optical and physical properties to ensure it continues to meet the requirements of the standard. This continued assessment helps guarantee there is no variation in the quality or performance of the model throughout the manufacturing process.

When assessing prescription spectacles, in addition to testing for physical requirements, a range of powers representing the extremes are fully tested to determine their compliance to AS1337.6.2 Testing also includes determination of the specified optical power to ensure it is within tolerance of the requirements of AS/NZS 21987.3 As with non-prescription eye protectors, on-going batch testing is conducted on the lens and frame combinations to ensure quality and performance is consistently met. All prescription eye protectors are date stamped and etched to indicate the level of protection they offer. (refer figure 4)

End User Groups

Eye protector designers regularly work with end user groups to test products in an effort to develop an understanding of their unique and exact eye protection needs. ‘Safety Audits’ are important in assisting elimination of as many hazards as possible – after all, eye protectors provide the last line of defence for the eyes.

More than Industrial Protection

With around one in five eye injuries that require hospitalisation occurring in the home,4 eye protection is clearly much more than an industrial issue. Interestingly, the rate of injury also increases on weekends and with remoteness. That means as an optometrist, there is an enormous opportunity to promote eye protection to customers, whether they work in an industrial environment or not.

By asking your customers about their needs for eye protection at home and work, and talking to them about the benefits of eye protectors, you have the opportunity to differentiate your practice and build a lucrative new revenue stream… And most importantly, your words and actions could even save your customers’ sight!

Annette Clayfield-Hoskin is the Optometry Development Manager at Eyres Optics. An optometrist with more than 20 years’ experience in the field of eye protection, product development, compliance and quality control, her work experience includes roles at the University of New South Wales in development and assessment of sunglasses and eye protectors; for Unisearch in the technology transfer area; and in private practice working for various health care providers. Annette is a member of the Australian Standards Committee (SF006) and (MS024) and also works as a consulting optometrist. She has conducted worksite audits for safety and has presented to optometrists and end user groups across Australia on issues relating to eye protection.

References:

1. Australian Bureau of Statistics www.abs.gov.au accessed on (18 July 2012)

2. AS/NZS 1337.1 Personal Eye Protection, Part 1: Eye and Face Protection for Occupational Applications and AS/NZS 1337.6: 2007 Personal Eye Protectors Part 6: Prescription eye protectors against low and medium impact.

3. AS/NZS 21987 Ophthalmic optics – mounted spectacles lenses (thiscan be downloaded at www.saiglobal.com.au)

4. Australian Institute of Health and Welfare 2009.
Eye-related injuries in Australia. Cat. No. INJCAT 123.