Eye Injury Prevention
Nathan Shipley, PPE Group Certification Manager at BSI explores Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and how to prevent eye injuries in the workplace.

Ensuring that employees are safe at work must be a high priority for all organisations, regardless of industry. According to the HSE1, £14.9 billion is the estimated cost of injuries and ill health from working conditions and 31.2 million working days are lost each year. Whilst this can have a considerable impact on businesses, ultimately organisations have a responsibility to look after their people.

Most incidents in the workplace can be prevented if the correct level of protection is provided. Protective eyewear is just one of the most common types of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and an important part of self-protection in the workplace. There is an ever-rising need for organisations to comply with health and safety regulations, therefore professionals need to explore the use of PPE. However, with so many different types of protective eyewear on the market – each with its own use and application, how do organisations invest in the right protection?

What is PPE?

PPE encompasses hundreds of products that stretch from head to toe, from protective clothing, helmets, hearing and respiratory protection to body armor and boots.

From a legal and regulatory perspective, PPE is defined more specifically as:

1. Equipment designed and manufactured to be worn or held by a person for protection against one or more risks to that person’s health or safety
2. Interchangeable components (for equipment referred to in point 1) that are essential for its protective function
3. Connection systems (for equipment referred to in point 1) that are not held or worn by a person, that are designed to connect that equipment to an external device or to a reliable anchorage point, that are not designed to be permanently fixed, and that do not require fastening works before use.

“according to the HSE 31.2 million working days are lost each year through injuries and ill health”

To keep employees safe in the workplace and reduce health risks, eye protection has to comply with all the requirements of the PPE Regulation and carry the CE marking to be sold legally in the EU. Exceptions to this rule are eye protectors specifically designed and manufactured for the armed forces and police officers, as well as helmets and visors for users of two- or three-wheeled motor vehicles, although even here there will be specific requirements covering those products.

What is the PPE Regulation?

The PPE Regulation (EU) 2016/425 recently superseded the PPE Directive, which was revised in order to reflect current technologies and processes for developing and bringing PPE to the market. The regulation replaced the PPE Directive on 12 February 2016 and was published in a document called the Official Journal. The new regulation applies from 21 April 2018, with a one year transition period until 21 April 2019. All PPE manufactured after 21 April 2019 will need to comply with the new Regulation.

To ensure eye protectors are fully compliant, products have to be certified to the requirements of the Regulation. This can be done through testing the product to a published harmonised standard or to a manufacturer’s own technical specification. Harmonised Standards are listed in the Official Journal, which is held on the European Commission website and is a ‘live document’ therefore updated on a regular basis.

Some of the main changes to the regulation include:

•Moving hearing protection from Category II to Category III PPE
•The need for a product risk assessment in the technical file
•Issuing a Declaration of Conformity with each PPE or at least a link to where it can be obtained
•A compulsory maximum five-year certificate validity
•Responsibilities outlined for importers and distributors
•The need for manufacturers to place their name and address on the product

What eye protection should you invest in?

There are many different types of protective eyewear on the market – each with its own use and specific application – including swimming or squash goggles, sunglasses, safety spectacles, welding shields and special mesh face screens designed for forestry.

The PPE Regulation groups all products into three main categories (Simple, Intermediate and Complex) – depending on the level of risk in the workplace and the protection eyewear needs to provide in these circumstances.