Q: When should workers use polarized safety glasses?
A: Let’s be clear about one thing before we begin: polarized safety glasses definitely have a place in occupational safety, and there are specific situations in which workers should use them to stay safe.
First, what is polarization? At its simplest, it’s a technology that only allows horizontal light to pass through the lenses of glasses. That might make the image appear a bit darker, but it helps reduce glare – that bright shaft of light that hits you directly in the eyes – and allows the wearer to see the environment and its details more clearly. It can also significantly reduce eye stress and fatigue that can be caused by glare (for related reading, see eye protections 10 key facts).
You might be surprised at the broad range of employees who can benefit from wearing safety glasses with polarized lenses, including those who work with or around water, metal, glass, or large, flat surfaces like automobile hoods. Some examples include:
- Construction workers
- Truck drivers
Polarized safety glasses (including safety sunglasses) should be worn whenever there is a bright light that causes glare, no matter whether it’s natural or artificial. Some workers may only need them during extremely sunny days or while carrying out certain tasks. For others, though, this might mean wearing the glasses for their entire shift. For this reason (and to encourage daily compliance) it’s important to ensure that the polarized glasses you select for your workers are as sleek and comfortable as possible.
The best way to determine when your workers require polarized safety glasses is to carry out a hazard assessment. Observe, ask questions, and figure out if and when each worker’s vision is being impaired by glares. If glare is an issue in your workplace, polarized glasses should be a part of your workers’ safety equipment.
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