For such a small organ, the human eye, which averages around 2.5 centimetres works in an intricate and wondrous fashion, helping us to navigate through life. Like miniature cameras, they process the light that travels through the front of the eye (the cornea), through the pupil and then the lens to the retina at the back of the eye where it forms an image. This image is then converted into electrical impulses that are sent via the optic nerve to the brain and interpreted as the sight and vision that allows us to see.
“Most of us who have healthy eyesight are extremely attached to our vision, often without being conscious that we are. We depend heavily on our eyes, and yet we rarely give them a second thought.”
-- Rosemary Mahoney --
Workplace safety is more than just hard hats and steel capped boots. Work-related eye injuries do not typically cause fatalities and are not something we hear about reported in the news, however, they are common and can be quite catastrophic. Depending on the nature of the injury, eye damage can be problematic to treat. Permanent vision loss, partial blindness, or complete loss of sight are severe consequences that can affect you for the rest of your life...imagine life without the power of sight and the significant impact to your quality of life, not to mention the effect on loved ones, family and friends.
The eye is highly sensitive, so much so that even minor workplace incidents affecting the eye can result in serious injury, vision loss or blindness. According to Safe Work Australia, 760 workers lodged a serious eye injury workers compensation claim during 2016 – 2017. This is of concern for both employers and their workers, due to recovery and time lost, the median time lost for a serious injury claim was 5.6 working weeks, and the median compensation payment for a serious claim was $11,500.
Every day, worldwide, workers suffer from eye injuries simply because they do not wear protective eyewear, or do not wear the appropriate type:
Even very small particles, even those smaller than a pinhead can still cause devastating damage, the most common causes of eye injuries at work include:
Potential eye hazards can be found in nearly every industry. Any job that involves airborne particles or hazardous substances carries a risk of eye injury, however, there are industries that bear a high eye injury rate, a large majority of injuries have been found to occur amongst the following occupations:
Eye injuries can happen when you least expect them, if prepared most eye injuries are preventable:
Protective eyewear has changed dramatically since it was first invented in 1880 where two layers of semi-opaque cloth were used. Today the advances in safety eyewear from style, fit, functionality and protection provide workers with a multitude of choices. All types of protective eye equipment must comply with Australian Standard AS/NZS 1337 – Eye Protectors for Industrial Applications, however, with so many options, how do you select the right safety glasses for your job? You cannot make your choice on looks alone, wearing the correct protective eyewear for the task and for the unique needs of the worker is of great importance to safeguard your eyes and maintain healthy vision.
When selecting the correct protective eyewear you need to take the following factors into consideration:
|Lens Marking||Lens Rating||Suggested Applications|
|Unmarked||Low impact||Hammering, handling wire, brick chipping by hand|
|I||Medium impact||Grinding, machining metals, woodworking|
|V||High impact||Concrete cutting, high speed disc grinding, metal cutting|
|M||Molten metal & hot solid resistant||Casting, melting and pouring metal into a mould such as in Foundry Work.|
|O||Outdoor use, untinted||These protectors are intended for indoor and outdoor use where no optical radiation hazards exist other than solar radiation.|
|A||Extra high impact||Abrasive shot blasting, ballistic, military, electrical maintenance|
|Lens Colour/ Type||Lens Properties/Use||Suggested Applications/Environments|
|Clear||Maximum amount of light reaches the eye for good vision and acuity||General everyday eye protection|
|Grey, Bronze||Reduces brightness and glare from the sun||Mainly for outdoor daytime use as in typical sunglass use.|
|Mirror & Coloured Mirror||Reduces brightness and glare from the sun||Mainly for outdoor daytime use as in typical sunglass use.|
|Indoor/Outdoor||Reduces brightness and glare when working both indoors and outdoors||For tasks requiring frequent movement indoor to/from outdoor, e.g. loading docks, forklift drivers, construction or similar jobs.|
|Photochromic||Reduces brightness and glare from the sun and indoor lighting||Lens darkens when outside and lightens when inside. Do not use for frequent indoor to/ from outdoor movement|
|Polarised||Reduces brightness and glare from the sun||Exceptional for reducing reflective glare, mainly for outdoor use.|
|Yellow/Amber||Increases contrast, reduces haze from blue lighting, excellent UV protection||Good for inspection tasks and hazy, overcast or foggy days. Never use for night driving.|
|Filter Shades, Green & Grey||Reduces ultraviolet, visible and infrared radiation||Predominately used for gas welding, cutting, brazing and soldering, metal making, furnace work and open flames.|
|View||Wearer should be able to see in all directions of eye rotation without major obstruction to the field of view. The eyewear frame should not interfere with visibility to do work tasks.|
|Security||The eyewear stays in place on the head and the frame should not fall off when wearer bends over.|
|Coverage||The wearer should have coverage from the brow to cheekbone as well as lateral coverage to help protect the soft tissues of the eye.|
|Gaps||There should be minimal gap between eyewear and the wearer’s face. There should be no clear path for a flying projectile to get through the eyewear gap to the wearer’s eyes. For goggles there should be no visible gap.|
Warning: In the event of an eye injury it is critical to seek immediate medical attention, particularly if you have blurred vision partial loss of vision, double vision or acute pains in your eye. Even if the injury may not look or feel serious, it could cause severe damage to your eyes. The eye is easily damaged and any injury or subsequent infection can cause vision impairment or blindness.
Protecting workers from eye injuries can be a challenge, because preventing injuries requires every employee to consistently wear the appropriate eyewear protection, at all times. At 3M, when it comes to eyewear, we understand that when it comes to acceptance and use; comfort, style, protection, compatibility and fit are all equally important considerations for every worker. With the use of proper eyewear, it is estimated that 90% of recorded eye injuries could be prevented.
There is a common misconception that ‘If eyewear looks identical, it is identical,’ this is not necessarily the case and there are more to our products than meets the eye. 3M offers more than just safety eyewear, we are dedicated to advancing protection in sight, helping ensure that you return home from work with your vision intact and your sight uncompromised.
Need help choosing the right eye protection? Have concerns about the right fit? Reach out to a 3M Safety Specialist for more information or explore the range below.