The question has been raised about the health and safety implications of wearing safety glasses for long periods of time. The main concern appears to be about the health of the eyes when required to look through “plastic” lenses for long periods of time.
The key standards related to this topic include:
- AS/NZS 1336: Recommended Practices for Occupational Eye Protection.
- AS/NZS 1337: Eye protectors for industrial applications.
- AS/NZS 1338: Filters for eye protectors
Note: Section 4.7(a) of AS/NZS 1336 states;
“The long term use of eye protectors which meet the requirements of AS/NZS 1337 and AS/NZS 1338, parts 1,2 or 3, and which are selected and fitted in accordance with this standard, will not harm or weaken the eyes of the wearer”.
We Wear Sunglasses All Day
Many people wear sunglasses for long periods of time, and outdoor workers probably wear them all day long.
Sunglasses are typically non-prescription plastic lenses similar to good quality industrial safety glasses, and therefore people are likely to exhibit similar symptoms with sun glasses and safety glasses, if real problems exist.
We have not identified any authoritative reports of eye injury or discomfort from wearing sun glasses for long periods of time.
Note: Safety glasses for outdoor workers will usually require consideration of any physical hazards as well as glare and exposure to sunlight. A full program including training for all affected workers will be required to ensure any PPE policy is effective.
Selection of Safety Glasses
Look for safety glasses that comply with the relevant standards and offer full coverage of the entire orbital eye area. If the workplace requires that safety glasses must be worn all day, select lightweight safety glasses that will not contribute to worker fatigue, and if possible offer choices.
Many safety glasses now offer comfort features such as adjustable nose bridges and side arms, which provide added comfort.
Eyewear compliance is greatly improved when the right combination of style, comfort and fitting is provided.
The wearing of safety glasses for long periods of time is not an eye health risk as long as quality glasses complying with the Standards are selected and fitted correctly.
Any remaining issues can be resolved by;
- Considering hierarchy of controls and whether wearing safety glasses all day is really required for safety, and if so;
- Ensuring the physical comfort of a compliant design and fitting of the safety glasses to suit individual needs;
- Refer any workers who report continued difficulty to an optometrist or medical specialist.
Note: If anyone is unable to wear safety glasses for any reason, they should not be allowed to enter designated eye protection areas or perform the tasks which require safety glasses. Therefore, medical certificates or objections about wearing safety glasses do not provide an exemption from the eye protection requirements.