Harmful UV exposure for those working outdoors is a real risk to eye health, even in the UK. But what are the right safety sunglasses to buy for your work environment? In many cases, they will need to be matched with your workplace risk assessment to protect you from any identified hazards.
Sunglass Safety Standards – BS EN 172
When it comes to workplace safety glasses, it is crucial to understand the right safety standards to ensure adequate UV protection. In particular, when purchasing safety sunglasses, they should comply with both EN 166 and EN 172 standards.
BS EN 172 is the standard that covers protection against UV exposure. Sudden or long term exposure to sun glare can cause serious eye damage. The full impact of such damage may not become evident immediately, underscoring the need for eye protection in hazardous conditions.
Prolonged exposure to UV light can harm the corneas, leading to cataracts or macular degeneration. Employers must equip their workers with appropriate safety goggles to mitigate the effects of sun glare. Such eyewear must meet all relevant standards, including optical class specifications and mechanical strength details.
Safety Glasses Requirements
Safety glasses form a key part of the UK’s health and safety regulations. As part of the required Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), these should be provided free of charge to all employees. Sunglasses worn as PPE must comply with EN 166 and offer additional UV light protection (EN 170).
EN 172 is essential for safety glasses to shield staff from sun glare. Compliance with these standards ensures eyes are adequately protected, allowing workers to carry out their duties safely. The lenses in such glasses efficiently filter out both UV light and sun glare.
Standard EN 166 safety glasses alone are insufficient when dealing with UV light and sun glare. If a risk assessment identifies these hazards, employers must procure glasses bearing the correct kite marks.
BS EN 166
In the UK, any safety glasses used in a work environment must comply with BS EN 166 at a minimum. Without this certification, they fail to meet UK safety laws.
The HSE is responsible for enforcing these rules and conducts inspections on PPE usage. Non compliance with HSE requirements could lead to either a caution or a fine.
A follow up inspection will be conducted to confirm that the necessary adjustments have been implemented.
The responsibility of employers extends to the provision of PPE in the workplace. If a risk assessment indicates the need for PPE, employers must supply this to the staff, including EN 166 certified safety glasses. This standard ensures EU wide adherence to the same level of protection, reducing the incidence of workplace eye injuries.
How to Choose the Right Work Safety Sunglasses
Understanding the importance of purchasing safety sunglasses compliant with the right standards is paramount. Here are some practical tips to ensure you choose the right pair:
- Familiarise yourself with UK PPE safety laws, paying special attention to eyewear standards. Stay abreast of changes and developments.
- Conduct thorough risk assessments of the work environment, considering different roles and work areas.
- Identify risks and take steps to mitigate them, including selecting appropriate PPE such as safety sunglasses.
- Ensure your safety sunglasses bear the correct compliance markings (EN 166, EN 170, EN172).
- Understand the specifics, like optical classes and varying mechanical strengths.
- Consider the duration of use to ensure comfort and durability.
Safety Sunglasses & Risk Assessments
Workers exposed to UV light should have a pair of high quality safety sunglasses. Ensuring they meet the right standards and are comfortable for all day use is key. To determine the correct glasses, carry out a detailed risk assessment.
Conduct an outdoor risk assessment for any outdoor environment. Each workspace will have specific hazards requiring particular safety measures.
There can be many risks associated with working with UV, including:-
- Heat exhaustion
- Eye damage such as cataracts
Don’t assume workers in the UK do not need UV protection. The sun in the UK can negatively impact workers constantly exposed to it. There are many types of jobs where workers are in the sun for large parts of the day.
Some examples are:
- Postal men and women.
- Refuse collectors
- Delivery drivers
- Forest school workers.
You don’t need to be in the direct sun for the UV and sun glare to be an issue. You could be a bus or train driver who needs to have a clear vision at all times.
Sunglasses providing wraparound coverage offer maximum protection and comfort.
Care & Maintenance of Work Sunglasses
Once you have found the right pair of safety sunglasses for your work environment, it’s important to properly maintain them. This will increase lifespan, and maintain the effectiveness of the protection they provide.
Safety sunglasses can get dirty when working outdoors. Clean them gently using a soft cloth or run them under water to remove dust particles. Be careful not to scratch the lenses during cleaning.
Air Drying Is Preferred
After cleaning, allow the glasses to air dry to prevent scratching and smearing. Place them upside down to dry rather than placing them nose bridge down.
Store safety sunglasses in a suitable place when not in use. Placing them carelessly in a van or backpack can lead to breakage and scratching. Use a case or a safe storage solution. Remember, a scratched lens compromises safety.
Regularly check your glasses for damage. If you find any signs of damage, your employer needs to replace them. Continued use of damaged glasses exposes you to UV and sun glare, which can be dangerous.
Finally, here are some don’ts when caring for your sunglasses: Don’t –
- Handle the lenses as they are vulnerable to scratching.
- Use paper towels or other rough materials for cleaning purposes.
- Use chemical cleaning products as this will affect the UV filters.
- Wear damaged or scratched safety glasses.