It takes more than compliance mandates to have a successful eye protection program. Employees must also be motivated to wear the proper protection all of the time. Certain motivational "carrots" can be implemented to help achieve compliance.

Despite generally comprehensive safety programs, many thousands of eye injuries still occur in U.S. workplaces each year. Unfortunately the largest number of eye injuries happen because the employee was simply not wearing his or her safety glasses. In some flagrant cases, the employee might assume that an incident is highly unlikely and therefore neglects to wear safety glasses, goggles and face shields because they're considered unattractive and uncomfortable.

Program reassessment

To cut down on eye incidents, reassess your eye safety programs periodically and reinforce mandates in formal employee safety review sessions. Moreover, safety directors need to address objections to wearing eye protection, remove the causes of those objections and incorporate motivational elements and incentives for employees to comply with regulations. A thorough reassessment should include the following:

1) Analyze possible causes of eye injuries. Perform a detailed audit of all potential eye hazards in the workplace each time new equipment, processes or procedures are introduced, as well as generally throughout the entire work environment on an annual basis. Keep in mind that most eye injuries are caused by the impact of flying fragments or airborne particles, and many are caused by splashes of hazardous chemical or biological liquids.

2) Review the appropriateness of current eye protection equipment. Let applicable OSHA regulations and the requirements of any applicable standards, such as ANSI Z87.1-1998 and OSHA regulation 29 CFR 1910.133, be your guide. Employees should have the proper eye protection available for the processes conducted in each work area. Some preventive measures that can help reduce the number of flying-fragment and splash injuries include the use of side shields and the use of safety glasses or goggles beneath face shields. Upon completing this review it may be necessary to introduce some new eye safety equipment where needed.

3) Conduct update meetings on eye safety. Annual all-employee meetings to update and reinforce eye and other safety policies are often as important as initial employee training sessions. The safety director can use these meetings to explain OSHA mandates as they apply to that particular workplace. In large companies, this may take the form of "train the trainer sessions" to review material that workplace supervisors should discuss in small group meetings as well as with each new employee. Supervisors and managers can be reminded of what procedures to follow to ensure compliance.

4) Review written policies. Check and update any old regulations that may be included in an employee handbook or posted on bulletin boards or signs throughout the company.

5) Incorporate motivational "carrots." Compliance mandates may be enough to ensure that some employees always take proper precautions. For most workers, though, physical and motivational factors such as comfort, image perceptions and frustration with eyewear may be the most compelling considerations. An eye safety program is likely to gain much greater compliance if motivational "carrots" are utilized. These "carrots" can include:

  • Participatory management. Have employees participate in the design of a safety program. This provides valuable information, including their past experiences with safety glasses. Allow employees to choose from a pre-selected range of safety glasses that meet job specifications and address issues of comfort and image.

  • Appearance. Safety glasses or goggles that are stylish and enhance one's appearance are much more likely to be worn at all times than clunky styles. Today's contemporary and sporty models come in a variety of shapes and colors.

  • Fit/Comfort. Let employees try on a selection of styles and size options to ensure a proper fit. Having the right fit and comfort is conducive to safety compliance and worker productivity. Options such as adjustable, straight or curved temples with flexible or soft-touch ends are available today, as are various styles designed to flatter faces of different shapes and sizes.

  • Functionality. Yesterday's one-choice-fits-all approach to safety glasses created not only problems with fit, comfort and appearance, but also functionality. Safety glasses thrown together in a box for community use at each set of workstations often became scratched and dusty. Conversely, safety glasses that an individual chooses and owns are more likely to be properly cared for and provide much better vision. Anti-fog, anti-scratch, anti-static and anti-UV coated lenses provide improved functionality.

  • Recognition. Incorporating employee recognition into a safety program provides additional motivation for workers to comply. One way is to introduce an incentive program. An employee safety committee can help plan the program or work out a point system for earning rewards. Employees who wear their eye protection 100 percent of the time over predefined short periods of time can earn small rewards, and larger prizes or other recognition can be granted to those with no safety violations over longer periods. Fully compliant employees can be recognized in a company newsletter or by providing the use of a coveted parking space for a month.

    'Carrots,' not 'sticks'

    While enforcement measures and zero-tolerance policies can provide a relatively high baseline for compliance with eye safety mandates, many occasions of non-compliance continue to be cited among the causes for about 1,000 occupation-related eye injuries a day. Employers who review, update and reinforce eye safety mandates in formal employee safety training sessions and include motivational "carrots" in their programs can further reduce the many thousands of eye injuries that continue to occur nationwide each year.

    Using "carrots" instead of only the "sticks" of zero-tolerance policies can engender employee goodwill and team spirit as well as greater compliance with eye safety regulations.