Prescription Safety Eyewear
Construction Industry & Labour Hire Companies Face Massive Prescription Safety Eyewear Costs
Image from OPTX Australia
The construction industry and labour hire companies (in particular given the requirements of the new National OSH Legislation coming in on 01 January 2012) must find solutions to the cost of prescription safety glasses for project labour workforce employees following changes to the Australian Standard for prescription eye protection. The revised standard has been reinforced by a policy statement released by the WA Department of Labour Relations in February, leaving non-compliant workplaces and their employees exposed.
Workers aged over 40 and their colleagues can face increased safety risks as an age-related condition known as presbyopia affects their eyesight. Ron Greenwood of OPTX Australasia says the cost of new or replacement prescription safety glasses that must meet the new standard are expected to be borne by employers, who have a duty of care to provide protective equipment for workers.
Mr. Greenwood, a senior Risk and Safety Management Consultant of more than 25 years in practice industry experience, says the WA government’s policy has set a legal precedent across Australia on prescription safety glasses for workers. It stipulates that government agencies fund prescription safety glasses where required once workers provide medical confirmation that prescription glasses are needed.
The cost to employers can be high, says Mr. Greenwood, but new technology may come to the rescue for the many workers who require corrective vision for reading only. Magnifying stick-on lenses applied to standard safety glasses are both inexpensive and effective. “Optometrist-prescribed bifocal safety glasses generally range from $300 to $600 per worker and that’s something rarely budgeted for in a construction project where workers come and go,” he says. “The appropriate strength OPTX 20/20 HydroTac stick-on magnifying lens and a pair of safety glasses can effectively be less than $50.”
Although mandatory for workers dealing with medium impact hazards like grinding metals, the need for corrective safety glasses are often ignored by employers and employees alike, in Greenwood’s experience. “Understandably, workers who experience symptoms of vision degradation might not always admit it,” he says. “Older workers sometimes delay getting their eyes tested, knowing that test results may indicate a need for prescription glasses. Employers rarely take the initiative in offering on-site eye testing for all workers other than for a pre-employment medical exam, regardless of age.”
Mr. Greenwood believes the old Australian Standard may have been part of the problem. Before the new AS/NZS 1337.6:2007: Personal eye protection – Prescription eye protectors against low and medium impact; Prescription safety glasses could only be legally manufactured to low impact standards. Millions of workers who need glasses for reading and whose job exposed them to medium impact hazards, like machining and grinding metals, could then only wear special prescription inserts under their goggles or wear safety ‘over spectacles’ on top of their normal prescription glasses. “To date, I have not been able to confirm and am not convinced that there is any such thing as an ‘over spectacle’ that has been tested in accordance with Australian Standard requirements,” Mr. Greenwood says. “Whatever, both methods resorted to by industry resulted in problems such as fogging, restricted vision and restricted movements, uncomfortable wear and not to mention and unsightly look – all of which resulted in decreased wearing compliance by employees.” And eye injuries continued as a result of the ‘Z’ factor!
The revised Standard now stipulates that prescription safety glasses comply with new medium impact requirements, including:
- No glass lenses – even if hardened – meet the new standard.
- The frames, not just the lenses, must also meet certain requirements. Because of the cost of compliance testing, it is unlikely that many fashion frames will be labeled as meeting safety glass standards.
- Both the lenses and the frame will have indicators on them to enable safety authorities to check that any spectacles worn comply with impact protection standards.
The change to Australian Standard AS/NZS 1337.6 requires manufacturers of prescription safety glasses to be licensed. “This is a great benefit to employees as end users because it will ensure higher quality products for better protection. Employers will also be better off as all products will be traceable to the manufacturer,” Mr Greenwood says. Industrial prescription safety glasses from certified manufacturers will carry a number of specific markings on the lens and frames and a certificate with the manufacturer’s license number for tracking if required.
NOTE: If you have employees wearing prescription safety glasses that don’t meet the requirements of the revised Standard, as an employer you will be at risk of knowingly failing to meet your statutory duty of care obligations.
Mr. Greenwood is keen to address common misconceptions regarding the use of protective eyewear and prescription eyewear in an industrial environment:
- The long-term use of eye protectors, which meet the requirements of AS/NZS 1337 and AS/NZS 1338 and are selected and fitted in accordance with AS 1336, will not harm or weaken the eyes of the wearer.
- Eye protectors with tinted lenses that conform to AS/NZS 1337 will provide protection against sun glare and solar ultraviolet radiation equivalent to that of general-purpose sunglasses that conform to AS 1067.1.
- There is no additional risk to wearers of contact lenses from any radiation arising from any welding process or operation such as exposure to arc flash. AS 1336 provides more information about the use of contact lenses in industrial workplaces.
- Prescription spectacles may not provide adequate low impact protection unless they are produced in accordance with Section 7 of AS 1336.
For more information, visit OPTX Australasia at www.optxaustralasia.com and have look at these 20/20 HydroTac stick-on magnifying lenses. They can save Employers a bunch of money whilst ensuring that Duty of Care obligations have been met.