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Don't Give Up Your Eyesight

Dean Ross
MSU Extension Educator

ne of the most common injuries in the workplace is an eye injury. It is estimated that over 2,000 people in the US injure their eyes at work each day. The majority of these injuries result from small particles or slivers impacting or abrading the eye (See http://www.cdc.gov/niosh/topics/eye/). Of these injuries, 90% could have been reduced in severity or avoided altogether through the use of proper eye protection (Also see, http://www.preventblindness.org/safety/worksafe.html).

While we often take our eyesight for granted, in reality it is one of our most precious assets. (Try this experiment today: cover one eye with a gauze and a tape and attempt to work as you would normally for 30 or 40 minutes. It is a guaranteed ‘eye opener’). Yet many farm managers do not encourage or mandate the use of eye protection as a part of daily employment practices.

There are several reasons for this no doubt, some reasonable some selfish. Perhaps the time has come to think about adding eye protection as part of your own work wear and then encourage others on the farm to follow. It is a relatively simple and inexpensive precaution compared with the potential for loss. But the question remains, what types of eye protection are appropriate for agricultural work? Eye protection devices come in different forms such as goggles, face shields, and safety glasses. Each is unique and meets different requirements.  
Safety Glasses

The most common cause of eye injury results from flying debris. In agricultural use, eye protection would be useful in almost any situation, from mixing feed to working around harvesting equipment or working in the shop. The simplest first precaution for this is a pair of safety glasses. Safety glasses come in a variety of sizes, shapes, colors and prices. The objective of safety glasses in particular is to stop or deflect those particles before they can impact the eye. Safety eyewear should be marked by the manufacturer with “ANSI Z87.” This indicates that the eyewear meets the requirements set by the National Standards Institute for impact resistance. 

Prescription eyeglass wearers should be sure to either use safety glasses which incorporate prescription lenses or safety eyewear that fit over their own glasses, (See http://ohioline.osu.edu/atts/PDF-English/Eye-Protection.pdf). Though most modern prescription eyewear do have impact resistant lenses they are not constructed appropriately to meet the ANSI standards for impact as a unit and can fail if struck by debris. 

Safety glasses provide forward impact protection, however they may not provide lateral protection. If lateral protection is required, side shields may be required. These can come as part of the safety glasses or they can be added. When adding or selecting glasses with side shields, be sure they do not interfere with peripheral vision. Safety glasses that are
designed to be worn over prescription glasses may be obtained with or without side shields. 

Goggles are designed to fit snugly around the eyes. They provide protection from all angles and can be a relatively cost-effective way to add protection to your eyes. Keep in mind that some goggles are ANSI Z87 rated and some are not. Be sure to determine if the pair you are considering meet this standard. Many goggles are designed to be worn over prescription eyewear. Many too are coated with an anti-fog solution.

Goggles are available in vented and unvented or splash variations. The unvented or splash variations are designed to be used to protect against liquids or chemical vapors (For more details, visit http://www.farmsafety.ca/factsheets/tailgate-e/eye-prot-tg.pdf). Be sure that the goggles you choose meet the needs of that particular work situation. Some pesticide or chemical use situations call for a full face respirator for complete protection. 

Face Shields
Face shields are intended to supplement safety glasses or goggles. These protective devices protect against heat, glare, splashing, dust and flying debris. They are considered secondary protection and are not usually ANSI Z87 certified against impact (Also see, http://www.abe.psu.edu/extension/factsheets/e/E39.pdf). A face shield should always be used when grinding or striking metal with a hammer. 

Special Considerations
Eye protection is also important when arc welding.  Because the eye can be permanently damaged by the brilliance of the welding arc, the eye should always be protected when welding. In most cases a welding helmet is best to use because it combines face protection, eye protection and head protection in one package. 

It is recommended that the welding mask be fitted with a number “10” lens when welding at 200 amperes or less. Check your welder’s manual for more information on the lens requirements for the type of welding you are doing. (Also see, http://www.farmsafety.ca/factsheets/tailgate-e/eye-prot-tg.pdf).

Finally, ultraviolet radiation has not only been shown as a causative factor in skin cancer it also has been shown to cause damage to the eye. To help prevent such damage sunglasses or appropriately tinted safety glasses should be worn when working outdoors. The current US standard for sun glasses is ANSI Z80.3-2001, which includes three transmittance categories. According to the ANSI Z80.3-2001 standard, the lens should have a UVB (280 to 315 nm) transmittance of no more than 1% and a UVA (315 to 380 nm) transmittance of no more than 0.3 times the visual light transmittance (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sunglasses). When purchasing sun glasses or tinted safety glasses be sure they are marked as meeting the ANZI standard Z80. 

Workplace Safety and Health topics, Centers for Disease Control website, http://www.cdc.gov/niosh/topics/eye/.

Workplace Eye safety, Prevent Blindness America Website, http://www.preventblindness.org/safety/worksafe.html.

The Ohio State University Extension, Agricultural Tailgate Safety Training, Personal Eye Protection, http://ohioline.osu.edu/atts/PDF-English/Eye-Protection.pdf  

Eye Protection, Farm Safety Association Inc. Fact Sheet, March 2000, http://www.farmsafety.ca/factsheets/tailgate-e/eye-prot-tg.pdf.

Murphy, D. J., Walker, C., Head, Eye and Foot Protection for farm Workers, Penn State University Extension, Bulletin E39, 1994, http://www.abe.psu.edu/extension/factsheets/e/E39.pdf.

Sunglasses, Wikipedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sunglasses.

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