Can you put a dollar value on your eyesight? How important is it that you can see? To be able to see a sunset, or watch your children grow up? We sometimes take for granted what our eyes allow us to do, but CNIB reports that every day, 700 Canadian workers will sustain an eye injury. With numbers like that, eye protection should become more of a priority for companies. This article will help show the types of eye injuries that can occur and the types of eye protection covered under CSA Z94.3-07.
Causes of Eye Injuries
The number of causes of eye injuries varies depending on which website you are reading. For the purpose of this website, we are going with the hazard types listed by CSA Z94.3-07. The hazard types are:
- Flying Objects
- Flying particles
- Heat, sparks, and splash from molten materials
- Acid splash, chemical burns
- Abrasive blasting materials
- Glare, stray light (where only a reduction of visible light is required)
- Injurious optical radiation (where a moderate reduction of optical radiation is required)
- Injurious optical radiation (where a large reduction of optical radiation is required)
I would group types A, B and C as projectiles. Projectiles include any type of material that can hit the eye. This includes dust, metal shards from grinding, stone or metal chips created by striking an object. It is even possible for tools, such as hammers and screwdrivers, to cause injury to the eye
Types D are chemicals. Chemicals such cleaners, glues, acids and others can be splashed into the eye causing damage.
The abrasive blasting materials, Type E, include many different types of materials. This can include commonly used ones, such as silica sand, nickel and copper slag, glass, and steel grit or shot. Less toxic materials can also be used, such as ground walnut shells and high pressure water.
Radiation injuries can be caused by ionizing radiation, such x-rays, and beta rays, ultraviolet radiation, like sunlight, visible radiation (light) which can cause thermal damage, and infrared radiation.
Classes of Eye Protection
When determining the type of safety eyewear that you need to purchase, check to see which of materials or hazards listed above occur in the work you are doing. Different hazards require different personal protective equipment, and choosing the wrong type for the job will put workers at risk.
Class 1 eye protection are spectacles. Safety spectacles are divided into two types,
- spectacles with side impact protection and
- spectacles with side impact and non-ionizing radiation protection with side protection.
All spectacles are required to cover not less than 40mm wide by 30 mm high in front of each eye. Side protection needs to protect 16mm above and below the centreline of the eyeball and extend 20mm behind the eye. At the rear most point, it should protect 10mm above and 7 mm below the centreline.
Class 2 is the class for safety goggles. There are three types of goggles approved for use by CSA:
- direct ventilated goggles for impact protection;
- non-ventilated and indirect ventilated goggles for impact, dust, and splash protection;
- And the previous types described with non-ionizing radiation protection, used by welders and cutters.
Classes 3, 4, and 5 are used for welding protection. Class 3 are welding helmets, Class 4 is welding shields, and Class 5 is non-rigid helmets. Non-rigid helmets (hoods) are broken down into:
- Non-rigid helmets (hoods) with an impact-resistant window
- Non-rigid helmets (hoods) for dust, splash and abrasive materials protection
- Non-rigid helmets (hoods) with non-ionizing radiation protection
- Non-rigid helmets (hoods)for high heat application
When choosing a rigid welding helmet, remember that the suspension shall hold the helmet above the worker’s head. Non-rigid helmets allow for the window on the hood to be positioned directly in front of the wearer’s eyes, and are ideal for confined space work.
Class 6 eye protection is face shields. They are constructed to provide protection to the face, meaning the front part of the head from the forehead down to the neck, and may have a crown protector, which will cover at least the front portion of the head and extend around each side Chin protection is also available on some face shields and will cover the chin and upper part of the throat. Class 6 is divided into the following sub sets:
- For impact and splash protection
- For non-ionizing radiation protection
- with loosed fitting hoods or helmets
- with loose fitting hoods or helmets with non-ionizing radiation protection
Class 7 under CSA Z94.3-07 governs face pieces for respirators. There are four subsets for Class 7:
- for impact and splash protection
- for non-ionizing radiation protection
- with loose fitting hoods or helmets
- with loose fitting hoods or helmets for non-ionizing radiation protection.
While one of these types of protection may provide the protection that you need, it sometimes doesn’t hurt to wear a pair of Class 1 safety spectacles under a face shield or welding helmet to be sure that no debris can hit your eyes.
The first pair of safety eyewear that I wore was on my first job at the local hardware store. I was cutting grass with a gas powered trimmer when a piece of grass hit me on the eye socket. I was talking to my boss and told him what happened and he told me to get a pair of safety goggle off the shelf. That near miss was a wake up call for me. Now, it is rare that I am not wearing eye protection when I am on a job site, even if it is only a service call.
Choosing the right eye protection is important part of any job safety plan or hazard assessment. Strict policies can also help. Seven hundred workers a day with eye injuries is too many. Always remember that there are pitfalls that you need to watch out for.The goal for all Canadian employers should be to ultimately reduce that number to zero.