Eyewear Safety

What Makes You a Better Risk


We received a letter from a Chicago area dealer, thanking me for recommending that they put an eyewash station in their prep area.  It seems that a porter had sprayed a strong acid wire wheel cleaner into his eyes and the eyewash station saved him from blindness. “I don’t know what I would have done if he had lost his sight in my store,” the dealer wrote.  He also noted that the incident never would have happened if they had instituted our other recommendation that porters wear goggles when working with chemicals. His safety team was still debating the policy when the incident occurred.

The safety team in a different dealership was debating how strict to make their eye safety policy when a technician “the service manager’s son” was almost blinded by debris stirred up by an air hose.

A parts department employee in a Minnesota dealership lost 20% of the vision in his right eye when he was struck by an object while walking through the service department.  He was wearing the wrong kind of safety glasses.

A service tech was tightening a bolt with an impact tool when the standard universal socket he was using broke, sending a piece of metal into his eye, splitting it.  His safety glasses were sitting on his tool bench.

These incidents and thousands like them illustrate why OSHA requires that employers assess their workplaces for eye hazards and have policies to protect against them.  The assessment and the policies should be in writing and communicated to employees.  If protective eyewear is required, it is to be supplied at the employer’s expense.

Eye hazards include liquids that can splash or spray, chemical mists and fumes, particles or metal bits that become projectiles during grinding, scraping, sanding, blowing or pounding. Also on the list of eye hazards is bright light as is generated in welding.

Typical eye safety equipment includes safety glasses, goggles and shields.  The American National Standards Institute (ANSI) has standards that apply to all eye safety gear.  You need to make certain that the safety gear matches the hazard. For example, the parts department employee should have been wearing glasses with side shields, because eye hazards in dealerships do not just come from the direction one is facing.

The other issue is setting up a policy.  If your assessment determines that employees are to wear eye safety equipment, which employees should wear the equipment and when and where? Should all employees wear protection when in certain areas?  What about customers and guests? Make the decisions and write them down.

Once the policy is in place, it must be enforced.  It is no longer a defense to say that we require safety gear and we supply it. OSHA (and common sense) requires that the employer sees to it that the equipment is worn.  That can be a trick. Here’s a tip that we have found helpful:  Let the employees pick out their own safety glasses from a catalog of attractively styled safety gear.  Everyone wants to look their best. It’s no longer necessary to make people look like Buddy Holly to be safe.  New safety glasses have some style and that encourages compliance and reduces injuries.

These are the pro-active steps a dealership needs to take.  There are also two reactive steps and they are just as important. First, to mitigate a chemical or particulate exposure, a proper eyewash station is required to be located within ten seconds of potential eye hazards.  If you already have an eyewash station in place, time the walking distance from the station to the hazardous areas of your service, prep and parts departments. You may need more than one unit.

“Our managers are committed to great customer service and bottom line profitability, however, they remain far too busy to effectively plan and execute a compliance and loss program.”

Chicagoland Area Ford Dealer