When your mother said, “hey, be careful, you could put your eye out!” you knew she meant it. Mom could see things before they happened, couldn’t she? Well, when your employer says, “hey, be careful, you could put your eye out!” there’s a reason behind that too. The statistics are alarming.
There were more than 800,000 work-related eye injuries treated in emergency rooms in 2008, the most recent available data. Men were four times more likely than women to suffer an eye injury. In 70 percent of accidents, the eye injury was caused by an object or equipment, and in about 26 percent of accidents, it was caused by exposure to harmful substances like chemicals.
While those statistics are cause for concern in and of themselves, the most alarming statistic is this — 90 percent of all eye injuries can be prevented by wearing protective eyewear. OSHA lists eye injuries as the number one risk category. The National Research Council reports that eye injuries are probably the most under-recognized major health problem. Just like mom’s warning — you really could put your eye out. Yet, many workers disregard their safety and refuse to wear it. It doesn’t make sense.
Many employees complain about their eye protection not fitting correctly as it is “too tight” or “they rub my head” or the earpieces pinch” or “they slide off.” Headaches are often blamed on eye protection as well. There are other concerns for workers than go beyond just annoyances. Impeded peripheral vision is also an issue, as is fogging, scratching, and blurry lenses. And too often, employers think their workers are just whining and should learn how to deal with it. But the fact is, these annoyances are real. It’s a natural and normal reaction for human beings to do whatever they can to put a stop to whatever is annoying them. The fact is, if the eye protection didn’t bother them, they’d have no reason to complain. And thus, no reason not to wear it. So the first step is for employers to legitimize the complaints. The second step is to do something about it.
Many of these issues can be addressed by outfitting employees with the proper gear for their specific job. Not taking a one-size-fits-all approach. One size definitely does not fit all. When a worker has to consistently stop to wipe the fog off his glasses, maybe anti-fog lenses are the way to go. Consistently stopping to readjust slipping glasses – get them safety goggles, or frequently replacing them because they keep getting scratched — try high impact – scratch resistant lenses. It is not only annoying for the worker who has to wear them, but it’s a cause of managers as well because it slows down the speed and overall quality of the work the employees are doing. If they can’t help but keep paying attention to their annoying safety eyewear, they’re most likely not focusing entirely on the task at hand.
There are three things safety managers can use as a guideline for properly outfitting their employees: Correct sizing options, suitability for job conditions, and a fair combination of protection and comfort.
All of these things aside, “not wanting to look like a geek” is much more common than you might expect, as a reason for not wanting to wear protective eyewear. While that might very well be nothing other than vanity, it is still a concern for safety managers. It might help to get inside your employees head. Realize that this is a blue-collar worker, most likely a man, who works hard and takes pride in his work boots and his long hours of physical labor. These are tough guys, and they want to feel like tough guys. So choosing not to wear safety eyewear might be a choice they’re making self-consciously without even thinking about it.
The best way to combat this issue is to make sure that the most respected team member is wearing glasses, and talk about why. This person can make it clear to the rest that the right thing to do is to wear protective eyewear. Giving workers a variety of style options is another way to combat this problem. If the worker feels like he made the choice based on what he’d like to wear, he’s much more likely to wear it. It gives the worker a sense of control, instead of feeling oppressed. Tough guys like control.
Training, encouragement, rewards, and penalties are all efficient ways to ensure compliance as well. You can reach different people in different ways. Training might involve sharing the statistics with them, which will convince some that way. Others can simply be reached much easier through rewards, while some need to have the potential for penalties. Encouragement — peer pressure included — can go a long way too.
Having the right safety eyewear for the job is critical. Having the right programs in place to ensure compliance is also critical. Both will make your employees more likely to wear the eye protection they need.
Check out WorkingPerson.com for a wide range of styles and safety features at affordable prices. Both Edge Eyewear and Pyramex Safety Glasses have been tested in independent studies and have seen great results. Both are built to last and meet ANSI safety regulations and standards for protective eyewear. You can find both Edge Eyewear and Pyramex Safety on WorkingPerson.com. Remember, keeping yourself and your employees are important and not to be taken lightly.