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A Closer Look At Eye Protection

It goes without saying that eye protection on a construction site is a top priority. From the concrete worker on the ground to the sheet metal worker on the roof, all construction workers should regularly wear ANSI-approved protective eyewear. March has been designated Workplace Eye Health and Safety Month, making it the perfect time to ensure eyewear equipment is up-to-date and protective of workers.

The Hazards

According to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), approximately 2,000 people sustain job-related eye injuries on the job every day. Construction workers bear the brunt of workplace eye injuries and OSHA statistics show that they have much higher incidents of eye injuries than any other industry.

There are so many potential eye injury hazards on a construction site including:

  • Particles: Small bits of dust, cement, wood, metal or other building materials can scrape the surface or blow into eyes.
  • Projectiles: Large or small objects can strike or get lodged into the eye—or any part of the face—such as wood, metal, nails, staples, other jobsite materials, etc.
  • Trauma: Blunt force trauma could occur if a worker falls, runs into objects or equipment, or something falls on them.
  • Burns: Chemical burns can result from industrial chemicals or cleaning products being splashed into the eye. Thermal burns can occur when using a welder without proper protection.

Let’s take a closer look at eye and face protection

Contractors paid more than $2.6 million in OSHA fines (third highest of all violation categories) for allegations associated with failing to protect their employees’ eyes and faces in 2016. These fines are a fraction of the total costs associated with this failure. According to OSHA, eye injuries cost employers more than $300 million per year in lost production time, medical expenses and worker’s compensation claims. Unfortunately, OSHA statistics also indicate that construction workers have a much higher rate of eye injuries per employee than any other industry.

Concrete crews frequently share jobsites with other subcontractors whose hammering, grinding, welding and sawing causes abrasive particles to become airborne. Common concrete operations like mixing mortars, sawing joints, drilling anchor holes, tearing out concrete and applying coatings can generate airborne face and eye hazards. Workers also need to protect their eyes from UV rays too.

OSHA standards require contractors to give crews appropriate eye and face protection for each task. A wide range of protective equipment is needed for concrete work, so meeting this requirement is no simple task. So, when you begin reviewing your job safety analysis documents, contact your White Cap Account Manager to help ensure your procedures comply with current best practices.

Contractors can keep crews focused on eye and face protection by creating and using a written program featuring site-specific procedures.

Every training experience should be documented. OSHA regulations require documentation, including selection, medical evaluation, fit testing, training and use and care of PPE were done. This includes safety glasses, goggles and face or welding shields. The program must be administered by a trained individual who is qualified and knowledgeable in eye and face protection.

Meeting Safety Standards

OSHA-approved eyewear must be certified by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) and meet the current ANSI Z87.1 (ANSI Z87.1-2015, ANSI Z87.1-2010, ANSI Z87.1-2003, ANSI Z87.1-1989) standards for eye and face PPE. All ANSI Z.1-compliant products are marked with “Z87” on the frame or lens.

There are many features to the lenses of protective eyewear that help improve their safety. Lenses come in different colors and filters that work differently in changing environments. There are filters that work better indoors and some that filter out light and work better outdoors. Standard lens coatings include:

  • Clear – Protects against impact but used indoors, so no light filtration is needed.
  • Gray – For use outdoors as it protects against light and glare.
  • Clear w/Slight Mirror – Good for indoor and outdoor use. Mirror coating reduces glare from artificial light, also lets in more visible light through lens.
  • Gold, Blue or Silver Mirror – Best for outdoor. Mirror coating reflects light.
  • Brown – Good for outdoor use.
  • Vermillion – Good for indoor use. Enhances contract and provides optimum color recognition.
  • Amber – Provides maximum contrast and good in low light situations.

Protecting More Than Eyes  

In addition to eye wear, face shields are being used more and more for an added layer of safety. They protect from flying objects and other types of on-the-job hazards. They cover the whole face and are normally worn over safety glasses or goggles. The combination of face shield and eye protection offers construction workers enhanced protection from:

  • High velocity impacts
  • Flying debris and dust
  • Splash hazards
  • Welding

Face shields offer more coverage than merely wearing safety glasses. Construction jobs that require grinding, hammering, cutting, or sawing may be more inclined to require the use of a full face shield to protect workers.

Worth the Cost

OSHA estimates that eye injuries alone cost employers over $300 million per year in worker’s compensation claims, medical expenses, and lost time. Protecting the health and safety of workers by ensuring they have adequate protective equipment will not only protect workers, but it can help the bottom line as well.

The Electronic Library of Construction Occupational Safety and Health (eLCOSH.org) has more than 50 training resources on eye protection developed by safety professionals. eLCOSH.org was developed to provide accurate, user-friendly information about safety and health for construction workers, employers, and safety professionals.

http://www.elcosh.org  (Search: “Eye Safety”)


The American Optometric Association’s website provides solutions to a wide range of questions about proper eye care in the workplace. In addition to information regarding construction safety, there are resources regarding Computer Vision Syndrome Guidelines and the use of contact lenses in the workplace.


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