Canadian Occupational Safety

October/November 2019

Canadian Occupational Safety (COS) magazine is the premier workplace health and safety publication in Canada. We cover a wide range of topics ranging from office to heavy industry, and from general safety management to specific workplace hazards.

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Page 27 of 35

28 Canadian Occupational Safety TIRED EYES are tired, well, you have a risk of a fall, right? Tired eyes can cause issues." Experiencing symptoms of eye strain can cause workers to remove their safety eyewear, opening them up to a host of potential eye injuries, such as a scratched cornea, direct impact or chemical splash, says Scott Florek, eye- wear program manager at HexArmor in Grand Rapids, Mich. They could also be at risk for long-term effects, such as macular degeneration. Additionally, if someone rolls an ankle or pinches a finger, that could have been correlated to eye fatigue, says Florek. "That's going to make them more likely to make a mistake," he notes. There are various ways that safety eyewear can cause eye fatigue. The first is wrong fit. Many employers attempt to have a one-size-fits-all approach, which simply doesn't work, says Florek. "That would be the same as just ordering a size-large glove for every- one and just keeping your fingers crossed that it works. It's not that simple," he says. A person's face shape, nose and cheekbones can all inform the type of eyewear they require. If eyewear does not fit properly, it might sit lower on a worker's nose or leave gaps on the side, for example. "So, any dust or debris can get in, causing someone to rub their eyes, leading to eye strain or leave them exposed to sunlight or U V light that's getting in and can cause some damage to the eye over the long term," Florek says. Susan Stokes, an optometric assis- tant at Doctors EyeCare, would like to see safety eyewear manufacturers offer- ing glasses in a wider range of sizes. "We have some big heads here, so there's nothing that fits them. You put them on and they are barely holding on because they are squishing on the sides and pushing forward. Usually the workers are more muscular, so they are a little bit larger," she says. "And then on the other hand, if a woman's work- ing and if they're really small, they don't have anything to fit her either because [the glasses] are way too big." In these situations, it's important to try to find the best fit possible for the workers while explaining the limita- tions they will face. "Usually, they know because they have already tried it for years and it's not working, so they know they will have to go with, 'This is the best they can get,'" says Stokes. "They're kind of settling." Various eyewear manufactures, including 3M and Honeywell, have fit systems available to their clients. The system checks hundreds of points on the face when conducting the fit test, says Amanda MacDuffee, president of All Safety Consulting in Kingston, Ont. The validation system will check for gaps, coverage and secure fit, as well as ensuring the wearer can see in different directions and that there are no blind spots. In general, it's a good idea to have workers attempt to mimic their work activities to see if the glasses fit properly. "Make sure they move the head around… to make sure they stay on and stay in place," MacDuffee says. "Look up, look down because I want to know if they are going to fit them properly. If you just stand and put some on someone's face and they say they feel good, they might be when they're standing there, but then they start working and they're gone." Workers who require prescrip- tion safety lenses can experience eye fatigue if they do not have the proper frame for their prescription. For example, some workers may not be able to wear larger safety glasses with wraparound frames as it may distort their vision. The prescription, the material and the shape all have to work well together, Allred says. "Sometimes, the employer requires a certain frame size but [the worker's] prescription doesn't match it, so you would have to find something else," he says. "You have to match it to the prescription." Not all employers will pay for the total cost of prescription eye protec- tion for their workers. To offset the employee's cost, employers can offer coverage in their benefits plans or offer a health-care spending account, which can be used for eyewear. As a side note, some workers might not realize when it is time to transi- tion to prescription safety eyewear, so reminders from employers about regular eye exams can go a long way. "A lot of workers don't realize they are getting older and their eyesight is getting poorer," says MacDuffee. "They are outside and they are working away and it kind of creeps up slowly — they don't realize they need prescription safety glasses — so they will continue to use the same glasses they have always used for the last 20 years." Wrong tint can also lead to eye fatigue. Some safety eyewear manu- facturers offer more than 25 different colours and shades of lenses, and it's crucial to choose the right one. If work- ers are working inside and have a darker tinted lens, their eyes will have to work harder to see, says MacDuffee. Or, if they are in the sun with a tint that's not dark enough, they are not protected from the glare and the UV rays. "If it is the wrong tint and it's not giving them the protection that they require, then that's going to cause some problems. It will cause some strain, dry eyes, headaches, all those things," she says. Any time a worker is exposed to changes in lighting conditions — whether it be indoors or outdoors — the pupils have to dilate and con- tract rapidly. Wearing glasses with lenses that are the wrong tint can cause the eyes to overwork if they are forced to make multiple adjustments throughout the day. Wrong tint is the most common cause of eye strain that Florek sees. "I think of examples with construc- tion customers where they might be building a commercial building and they are moving from shaded to lighted areas and their pupils have to dilate every time they do that and their eyes get strained fairly quickly," ore than 700 Canadian work- ers per day sustain eye injuries on the job. Flying or falling particles or sparks striking the eye account for 70 per cent of eye inju- ries. Nearly three-fifths of the objects are smaller than a pin head. Contact with chemicals causes one-fifth of the injuries, according to data compiled by Ontario's Workplace Safety and Prevention Services. Of particular interest to safety pro- fessionals is that nearly three in five workers injured were not wearing eye protection and an estimated 90 per cent of eye injuries are preventable with the proper eyewear. There are many reasons why work- ers don't want to wear their safety glasses. Some common complaints include: they're uncomfortable, they fog up, they're too hot, I can't see properly and they give me headaches. Many comments are related to eye strain, or eye fatigue, occurring when the eyes become tired and are hurting from intense use. The signs of eye fatigue include: dry or watery eyes, eye soreness, red eyes, difficulty focusing, blurred vision, light sensi- tivity and headaches. If workers are experiencing these symptoms, their safety could be compromised. "The eyes are a muscle. If they're tired, you're at risk," says Trent Allred, optometrist and owner of Doctors EyeCare in Red Deer, Alta. "If you're going to climb a ladder and your legs The wrong safety eyewear can lead to eye strain and poor compliance By Amanda Silliker

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