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Glass prescription safety glasses outlawed

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Most employers have been blind to changes to the Australian Standard for prescription eye protection, says a WA Safety Show exhibitor. The revised standard has been reinforced by a policy statement released by the WA Department of Labour Relations in February, leaving non-compliant workplaces and their employees exposed.

Workers aged over 40 and their colleagues can face increased safety risks as an age-related condition known as presbyopia affects their eyesight but Ron Greenwood of OPTX Australasia says the warning signs are often ignored.

"Understandably, workers who experience symptoms of vision degradation might not always admit it," Mr Greenwood says. "Older workers sometimes delay getting their eyes tested, knowing that test results may indicate a need for prescription glasses. Employers rarely take the initiative in offering on-site eye testing for all workers other than for a pre-employment medical exam, regardless of age."

Mr Greenwood believes the old Australian Standard may have been part of the problem. Before the new AS/NZS 1337.6:2007: Personal eye protection – Prescription eye protectors against low and medium impact, prescription safety glasses could only be legally manufactured to low impact standards.

Millions of workers who need glasses for reading but whose job exposed them to medium impact hazards, like machining and grinding metals, could then only wear special prescription inserts under their goggles or wear safety ‘over spectacles’ on top of their normal prescription glasses.

The Standard now stipulates that prescription safety glasses comply with new medium impact requirements, including: 

  • No glass lenses – even if hardened –meet the new standard. 
  • The frames, not just the lenses, must also meet certain requirements. Because of the cost of compliance testing, it is unlikely that many fashion frames will be labelled as meeting safety glass standards. 
  • Both the lenses and the frame will have indicators on them to enable safety authorities to check that any spectacles worn comply with impact protection standards.
The change to Australian Standard AS/NZS 1337.6 requires manufacturers of prescription safety glasses to be licensed.

"This is a great benefit to employees as end users because it will ensure higher quality products for better protection. Employers will also be better off as all products will be traceable to the manufacturer," Mr Greenwood says.

Industrial prescription safety glasses from certified manufacturers will carry a number of specific markings on the lens and frames and a certificate with the manufacturer's licence number for tracking if required.

The cost of new or replacement prescription safety glasses that must now meet the new standard are expected to be borne by employers, who have a duty of care to provide protective equipment for workers. Mr Greenwood says the WA government's policy has set a legal precedent on prescription safety glasses for workers. It stipulates that government agencies fund prescription safety glasses where required once workers provide medical confirmation that prescription glasses are needed.

The cost to employers can be high, says Mr Greenwood, but many workers who require corrective vision for reading only can apply magnifying stick-on lenses to standard safety glasses.

OPTX Australasia will have the 20/20 HydroTac stick-on magnifying lens at The WA Safety Show, which will run from August 24 to 26 at the Perth Convention Exhibition Centre. The event is organised by Australian Exhibitions & Conferences .

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