We have a number of employees who are required to wear eye protection for certain work activities. A recent inspection (including observation of workers) identified that some are not wearing the eye protection provided. How can we improve the use of eye protection?
As with all personal protective equipment (PPE), legislation makes eye protection “second-level protection” that is a control measure that does not eliminate the risk. Therefore, if employees are not using the eye protection provided the risk is not being controlled.
Having confidence in the PPE to protect employees is important. If there is a lack of confidence, individuals may start to consider the cost (ie risks) if they did not wear the eye protection.
Therefore, the first stage of ensuring usage is to include those who are required to wear the eye protection in the selection process. This will assist in highlighting the purpose of the eye protection and also ensure the most appropriate design is selected.
Under legislation such as the Personal Protective Equipment at Work Regulations 1992 (the PPE Regulations) and the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations 2002 (COSHH), employees must use any eye protection provided in accordance with training and instruction provided and must report any loss or defect to the equipment.
As already stated, the use of PPE such as eye protection is a secondary form of protection. The Approved Code of Practice to COSHH (L5) notes that the use of PPE requires “careful, routine and trained behaviour of people, including wearers and supervisors”.
Therefore, careful consideration must be given to the training and instruction of employees to ensure the necessary behavioural change is made in relation to the use of eye protection.
The key factors are that those individuals:
are aware of the hazard/s and feeling personally at risk from the hazard
believe they can control the risk/s from the hazard by their actions and the equipment made available
are encouraged to behave safely through culture and social norms.
As well as training for wearers, guidance to the PPE Regulations suggests that supervision is vital to ensure PPE is properly used and that “those with a supervisory role are also provided with adequate training and instructions so that they have the necessary skills to carry out the job”. This may need to reinforced by refresher training at appropriate periods.
The employer in addition to the provision of instruction and training may need to establish appropriate monitoring — and possibly even disciplinary — procedures so as to ensure eye protection is being worn including the undertaking of spot checks on wearers.
Last reviewed 29 November 2021