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Don’t Forget the Eyes
By Vicky Adams
Published: 05/15/2017

Eyes open Depending on the type of job a correctional facility worker has, there may be times when wearing protective eye gear is occasionally needed and for other staffers, required wearing at all times. Correctional personnel must remember that one of the most common ways germs, viruses, and pathogens are spread is through the nose, mouth, and eyes. If we touch a surface that is contaminated with bacteria, for instance, and then touch our eyes, the likelihood for cross contamination is considerable.

Plus, there are situations in correctional facilities when chemicals or bodily fluids may become airborne. Once again, if droplets of these fluids enter the eye, as an example, and the chemical is acidic or the inmate has a disease, the possibility of injury or infection is probable. And then there are unexpected situations in which debris or grit becomes airborne and finds its way into the eye. There are an estimated 20,000 on-the-job eye injuries each year in the U.S., with many of these cases occurring just like this, when small particulates find their way into the eye.

We could go on with examples and situations, but the bottom line is the same: protective eye gear is a must in some correctional facility situations and should always be available in other situations. However, this does not mean correctional administrators, guards, or other staff members should go online or to an appropriate store and select any protective eye gear; instead, they must choose the appropriate eye gear. Of those 20,000 workplace injuries every year, 90 percent could have been prevented if workers were wearing the appropriate protective eye gear.

Because selecting the correct eye gear is so important, let’s discuss some of the items administrators should look for when beginning their search. For instance:
  • In order to increase usage, the wearer must like the way he or she looks in the eye gear. Studies have shown that if someone does not like the way he or she looks wearing protective eye gear, usage decreases. And, so we are on the same page here, this applies to men as well as women.
  • Look for eye gear that meets American National Standards Institute (ANSI) standards. These rules include such things as: being able to withstand an impact from a .25-inch steel ball traveling at just over 100 miles per hour; having minimum lens thickness; and be made of frames or housing that helps ensure the eye gear stays on the face.
  • Comfort is crucial. Comfortable protective eye gear is typically designed with rubber temple inserts to prevent it from slipping; the weight of the eyewear should be evenly distributed between the ears and nose, and it should feature adjustable frames so the wearer can customize for comfort.
We can refer to the items mentioned above as the “basics.” Guards and other personnel are simply not going to wear protective eye gear over time if they do not look good or are uncomfortable wearing the equipment. And, if the eyewear does not meet ANSI guidelines, it may prove ineffective as well.

With the basics met, we must determine exactly what type of protective eye gear is necessary. This often requires us to conduct a “hazard assessment.”

For instance, our assessment may indicate there is a risk that chemicals or bodily fluids may enter the eye. In such a case, administrators should select eye gear that has “indirect” ventilation. The purpose of indirect venting is to limit or prevent the passage of liquid into the eyes. “Non-vented” eye gear takes this even further. This equipment is designed to provide a broad, unobstructed view while completely covering the eyes.

What if dust or grit is an issue or even airborne objects? Then “direct” ventilation eyewear is likely needed. This type of eye gear will allow for the direct flow of air into the eye gear, but the vented portion is designed to prevent objects that are 0.06 inches (1.5 millimeters) in diameter or greater from entering the eye area.

If guards are routinely outside the correctional facility for a considerable portion of the day, the protective eyewear should offer protection from UVA and UVB rays. Another condition, whether inside or outside, to consider is if the guard is in a situation where the eye gear may fog up. In such cases, administrators should look for eye gear lenses specifically designed to prevent fogging.

This may sound a bit complicated; but, to make life easier, some protective eye gear manufacturers are now making eye gear that addresses most of these issues. This does not mean that one-size-fits-all or should be used in all situations. Due diligence is still required. But, it just makes the job of selecting the correct and safest eye gear for your staff possibly easier than you think.

Vicky Adams is Category Manager for Safety, Gloves, and Foodservice products for Impact Products, the dominant manufacturer of the Supplies and Accessories Category of the Cleaning and Maintenance Industry. She can be reached at vadams@impact-products.com.


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