We experience the world in many ways, but our sense of sight is one of the most immediate and essential. Despite how heavily we rely on our eyesight to work, play and simply enjoy life, too many workers fail to wear eye protection at work when they should, according to a recent survey.

The survey of industrial workers, commissioned by Kimberly-Clark Professional, revealed that 85 percent of respondents claimed they had observed others forgoing eye protection in situations where it was necessary.

“The results are very disconcerting when you consider that 90 percent of eye injuries can be prevented through the use of proper protective eyewear,” said Valona Renner-Thomas, product manager, eye and face protection, Kimberly-Clark Professional. “Enhancing eyewear practices is critical to creating exceptional workplaces – those that are safe, healthy and productive for all employees.”

Occupational eye injuries can have devastating consequences, such as compromised sight, chemical burns or blindness, and OSHA requires employers to provide eye and face protection to guard against chemical, environmental, radiological or mechanical irritants or hazards. Even so, data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics show that nearly three out of five injured workers were not wearing eye protection at the time of the accident or were wearing the wrong kind of eye protection for the job.  

All Eyes on Safety

Despite the noncompliance difficulties revealed in the survey, respondents generally did express an awareness of this particular PPE’s importance. Key findings from the survey include:

  • 80 percent of survey participants said they would encourage a coworker or employee to wear eye protection if he or she were not in compliance.
  • 22 percent said they would report the employee to a supervisor or find a way to halt dangerous work operations until the worker complied with PPE protocols.
  • Protective eyewear topped the list when respondents were asked to rank the most important PPE category for on-the-job safety.
  • Protective eyewear also was deemed the "most challenging" PPE category in terms of compliance.
  • More than half (51 percent) of respondents reported having been forced to wear uncomfortable eyewear or eyewear they did not like while at work.
  • 88 percent of respondents saying they or someone they worked with had been unable to see or complete a task properly because of fogged lenses.
  • 77 percent of survey participants listed wraparound frame designs as their top style choice.
  • 84 percent of respondents said they would consider using eye protection from work as their everyday sunglasses if it was comfortable, fit well and offered UV protection.
  • Respondents said more comfortable eyewear could most improve compliance.

"This high rate of noncompliance seriously jeopardizes worker health and safety,” said Renner-Thomas.

The online survey polled 138 workers in manufacturing industries across the United States, Canada and Mexico in June 2011.