Workplace safety eyecare is changing. This is partly due to new policy, partly due to innovation, and partly due to the shifting profile of the workforce.
There is an increasing trend towards 100% safety eyewear policies in ‘at risk’ settings. This is where, if there is a requirement for safety eyewear in one area of the working environment, for one employee or more, all personnel are expected to comply, whether or not they themselves carry out an ‘at-risk’ task. Safety managers will therefore be looking for cost-effective eyecare, and employees will require higher levels of comfort from the eyewear they are provided.
Our research over many years has consistently shown that employees are more likely to remove safety eyewear if it is not comfortable. There are several ways to ensure greater comfort from safety eyewear. Perhaps the most vital consideration is allowing employees to actually try on the eyewear prior to purchase. No one would dream of buying their everyday glasses without trying them on, so why would you buy something as vital as safety eyewear without trying it first? Equally, when purchasing everyday eyewear, it is generally fitted by an expert when dispensed. The same should of course happen with prescription safety eyewear, to ensure it fits properly around the temples and across the bridge of the nose.
To be sure of comfort and fit, it is also important to look for a provider with a wide range of styles. One style may be more comfortable for an individual than another. We now even have prescription safety eyewear available in larger sizes, to fit wider heads.
While style is important for comfort, the positives of the aesthetics themselves should not be forgotten. Research conducted on behalf of Specsavers Corporate Eyecare has also shown that employees are more likely to wear safety eyewear if they like the way it looks. New and exciting brands partnering with eyecare providers is a good way to offer fresh and sought-after designs. Prescription safety eyewear can now be obtained in a whole range of colours and styles, with male, female and unisex designs.
The workforce itself is another influencer on workplace eyecare. Our ageing workforce is well documented. The Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development states that over 30% of people in employment in the UK are over the age of 50.
This has an impact for safety eyewear. The age of 40 is a critical point at which changes in vision commonly begin to occur and the vast majority of people will begin to suffer from presbyopia to one degree or another. Presbyopia is difficulty with near-vision focus, often manifesting itself in the need for glasses to see close up.
For those who have difficulty with near-vision, over-goggles were once the main solution. It is generally agreed nowadays that this is not an acceptable solution. This becomes even more obvious when in conjunction with the longer wearing-times associated with a policy of 100% safety eyewear. The two sets of lenses create a light refraction that makes this option impractical and possibly dangerous, quite aside from the discomfort of wearing two sets of eyewear. The clear answer here is to provide prescription safety eyewear.
In a person’s 50s, presbyopia becomes more progressive. While eye examinations are often advised to be every two years, it is at this time that an optician is more likely to advise annual checks. Safety managers may also need to consider offering a wider range of lens solutions, including bifocal and varifocal lenses for prescription safety eyewear. Both are now possible and it is always best to provide safety eyewear of the same lens prescription as the individual wears in everyday life.
While the eyesight of those in their later-60s did not use to be an issue for safety managers, this age group is now expanding in the workplace. At this stage, employees may find difficulty seeing in low-light. This is worth taking into account in the work environment, particularly in ‘at risk’ areas.
While safety eyewear requirements are changing in the workplace, provision of prescription safety eyewear is changing too. Eyecare can, for example, now be purchased, managed, and distributed online; styles are evolving; comfort is paramount; ranges are increasing. The safety manager and employee have more choice and appropriate options than ever.
Jim Lythgow is director of strategic alliances, Specsavers Corporate Eyecare
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