When employees neglect to wear their safety glasses or goggles, they don’t do so because they are asking to get hurt. In most cases, they have a skewed perception of risk and aren’t fully aware of how dangerous it can be to work without eye protection.
When workers overlook safety, they may opt to take shortcuts in order to complete a job on time, or they simply forget their PPE. This results in the creation of unsafe habits that further the long-term risks of eye injury.
To improve workplace eye safety, you must pinpoint where and when eye protection is being neglected and consider what you can do to remedy it. Here are a few issues to think about as you seek to increase the use of PPE to protect your workers’ eyes.
Show that you care
You can improve the use of PPE by having an open conversation with employees regarding their equipment. Find out why they’re willing to risk their eyesight and address those reasons. Perhaps it is too bulky or uncomfortable, perhaps they feel it is out of date and getting in the way of tasks that require them to notice details.
Regardless of their reasons, listen to what they have to say and approach the dialogue in good faith. Doing so will make them much more inclined to listen to you when you present them with a more realistic view of the risk of a workplace eye injury.
One underused technique is to ask workers to look out for each other. People are more likely to care about the safety of others than their own safety, and you can use this to everyone’s advantage. If reminding each other to wear protective eyewear is encouraged and positively enforced, workers will not be afraid to tell a colleague that they forgot to put their glasses on.
You can also put up posters and other visual reminders around the areas where eye protection should be worn. But remember to change them regularly, since old posters and notices blend into the background and their purpose is quickly forgotten.
Avoid relying solely on PPE
The purpose of PPE is to protect workers when they might come into contact with hazardous substances or materials. However, it’s important that companies ensure that workers perform their jobs in a safe environment where all hazards are addressed and physical dangers are mitigated wherever possible. In short, safety glasses or goggles should be an additional precaution and not the only thing protecting their eyes. This might seem obvious to anyone familiar with the hierarchy of controls but it’s worth re-examining the workplace to see whether any changes to the environment can be made to reduce the risk of eye injury.
Improve safety awareness
If workers are more aware of their personal levels of risk, they’re more likely to take appropriate steps to keep themselves safe. And human factors training can also reduce the likelihood of human error that can lead to eye injuries.
Providing training that improves general safety awareness can make employees more cognizant of their surroundings. It can also help them recognize any dangerous states of mind—like rushing or frustration—that could lead to a serious incident. Just take a look at a company like Strad Energy, which conducted human error reduction training and within a year almost completely eradicated eye injuries.
With a little resolution and investment (and with the right safety training material), you can make huge strides in reducing eye-related incidents and improving the use of eye protection. Start by talking to workers to make sure you truly understand why safety eyeware isn’t being worn. From there, you can re-examine the workplace to see about structural or process improvements. You will also likely want to provide training that targets risk perception and human factors that can compromise eye safety. This will give you a balanced approach to better compliance and fewer eye injuries among employees.