To work safely requires seeing clearly, if vision is compromised by distortion, fog, mists, blurring and loss of vision employees may not be able to see or identify hazards in front of them. This could result in slips, trips, and falls, workers will take off their safety glasses if their vision is clouded by mists or fog, leaving the eyes vulnerable to flying objects.
In nearly all accidents involving the eyes, better vision protection programs (VPP) could have prevented the injury16. Most workplace eye injuries result from small particles or objects entering and irritating the eye, this can cause permanent loss of vision. Projectiles, chemicals, and radiation are major hazards that require protection in the workplace and therefore a VPP is required if an employee is exposed to eye hazards. A VPP should include the employee in the development of the programme which will lead to a higher rate of compliance to the VPP once implemented.
Most eye safety programs are built around the idea that good vision requires only image clarity and sound eye health, and therefore focus is on safety eyewear (PPE) only. Whilst PPE for eyes is essential it is the last resort when protecting eyes and vision in the workplace. Health effects (clinical signs and symptoms) of certain chemicals and, biological and physical agents are only evident when the occupational exposure limit (OEL) is reached.
Workplace eye injuries and diseases include cataracts caused by workplace exposure, changes to depth, contrast, and colour of vision. Occupational exposure to ionizing and non-ionizing radiation, chemical and biological agents, mechanical and some physical agents such as temperature, and humidity, are controlled by setting limits (maximum permissible exposure limits) to prevent adverse effects. Therefore, it becomes critical that occupational health and safety programs include visual task assessments and illumination measurements to assess the visual functioning required for specific tasks and the associated eye impacts they may have. All hazardous areas where the risk of eye or face injury exists must be highlighted for easy recognition, with the appropriate and correct pictograms and demarcation of the hazardous area. Employees should be trained to recognise the meanings of the different pictograms and demarcated areas and where to find all emergency equipment, as well as which procedures to follow under different emergency conditions.
In terms of a vision protection programme, all the legislation covered in Chapter 4 (MHSA, OSHA, MSA and regulations) require that:
No person shall be required / permitted to be exposed to risks and hazards (including eyes) Exposure to eye hazards and risks should be prevented or adequately controlled A programme to monitor visual risks and measure the light levels (illumination levels ) should be in place Potential exposure to risks and hazards should be monitored two-yearly Zones need to be demarcated where hazards exist to the eyes and face Personal protective equipment, capable of limiting exposure and injury to the eyes and face must be provided by the employer
A vision conservation programme can be defined as a programme aimed at the prevention of visual impairment and injury, involving the implementation of the following measures:
Assessment and prediction of visual risks in all workplaces which may be accessed by any person The reduction in the health effects as a result of exposure to chemicals, radiation, and other hazards as a result of exposure above the OELs by implementing the hierarchy of controls The prohibition of persons entering such a workplace unless such person is adequately protected and trained The introduction of a medical surveillance programme for all workers working in such workplaces The introduction of a follow-up assessment programme. The introduction of a vision welfare programme.
A health risk assessment (which include visual and eye risks) must be conducted within 6 months of the commencement of operations and then reviewed at intervals not exceeding two years or as soon as there has been a significant change in12,13:
Work methods Type of work carried out Type of equipment used to control exposure Type of machinery, plant and equipment used