Safety eyewear – a sign of the times
Jim Lythgow, Director of Strategic Alliances at Specsavers Corporate Eyecare, looks at safety eyewear and considers over-goggles versus prescription safety glasses.
Safety eyewear has evolved. While over-goggles used to be the traditional option for employees who require prescription glasses, there are now much more modern and arguably suitable alternatives. Prescription safety eyewear is now readily available at very reasonable costs and can even be obtained from a visit to a high-street optician. So why are employers still providing over-goggles for their employees?
Not only are over-goggles still being provided, employers are doing so in surprisingly large numbers. In fact, 49% of employers surveyed by Specsavers Corporate Eyecare said that they have staff who require safety eyewear as part of their working role. Of those who wear prescription glasses in their normal working role, the majority, 55%, are provided with over-goggles for their safety needs.
The issue of over-goggles
Over-goggles were the traditional method for dealing with those who required personal protective equipment (PPE) but had less than 20/20 vision (‘normal’ eyesight). Wearing two sets of appliances can, however, prove awkward and uncomfortable, especially if the employee is required to do so regularly or for long periods of time. Wearing two sets of lenses can also cause reflections, which can have an impact on the quality of vision.
Clearly neither situation is ideal.
Both light reflection and the awkwardness of two appliances can affect comfort, which is a major factor in whether or not employees remove their safety eyewear when it is not safe to do so.
With these issues in mind, there are perhaps some occasions when over-goggles are appropriate, but these should be limited to individuals making brief or infrequent visits to an area where safety eyewear is required, such as visitors.
Prescription safety glasses
Prescription safety glasses are a solution to the problem. Frames are available in either metal or plastic, with metal frames most commonly being nickel alloy, and plastic tending to be polyamide, polycarbonate, or cellulose acetate. While the functionality of safety frames still rightly restricts the styling to some extent, the aesthetics have changed hugely over the last few years. Prescription safety glasses now come in a wide variety of male, female and unisex styles, in varying colours and finishes. There are some very modern designs available, with wrap-around style safety glasses being closer in appearance to sports sunglasses.
Many people who wear everyday glasses have specific lens options, like bifocals or varifocals. So that the eyes do not have to keep adjusting to different lenses, prescription safety lenses are also available as bifocal and varifocal. Other lens options include UV tint, anti-reflection treatment, toughened glass and reactions.
In our research, while 55% of employees were shown to be provided with over-goggles, an encouraging 46% benefit from prescription safety glasses. While 28% are provided with eyewear sourced by the company, 18% of employers leave their employees to source their own safety eyewear.
Leaving employees to source their own safety eyewear opens up a whole range of possible issues. There is little or no control over consistency of service or product. Cost can also become a major issue. Different providers can have vastly differing price ranges, and a safety manager may find themselves with an unexpectedly large bill for an item that has already been purchased. The sensible option is to carefully research the opportunities, and then put the purchasing process clearly within the corporate eye care policy.
Indeed, this may be one of the issues that is discouraging employers from providing prescription safety glasses, rather than over-goggles. Specsavers Corporate Eyecare carried out research to find out whether employers are being put off by the perceived cost of prescription safety eyewear.
Asked how much they thought it would cost to provide one pair of prescription safety glasses, over two-thirds, 67%, thought over £40. The majority, 58%, thought the cost would be over £80, and 16% thought over £120. With 10% not sure, the average amount that employers believed to be the cost of prescription safety glasses was £91.50.
In fact, prescription safety eyewear is available from as little as £36.81 for a complete pair of CR39 single-vision glasses.
This means that the average employer would expect to pay over £54 more for prescription safety glasses than they actually cost. With this in mind, it is perhaps far less surprising that so many employers are still providing their staff with over-goggles.
Health and safety
While the safety aspect will be cared for by the safety eyewear, there is also an important consideration for general health. When providing an employee with prescription safety eyewear, it makes sense for the company to first provide them with an eye test to ensure the prescription is up to date. A full eye test can aid with the detection and monitoring of illnesses including, to name just a few: diabetes, heart conditions, risk of stroke, thyroid problems and some cancers.
By providing comfortable, stylish prescription safety glasses, an employee is more likely to actually wear the safety eyewear, and they may even benefit from early detection of potentially serious health conditions. Repeating the question: why are employers still providing over-goggles for their employees? It now seems very hard to find any valid answer.
Research conducted by Opinium from 17 to 26 July 2018 among a sample of 507 HR decision makers across the UK.