Eye Safety

The home workshop, and particularly the home handyperson typically make up about 40% of the admissions to the Emergency Department at hospitals for eye injuries.

The majority of these are related to welding and grinding activities, but I would hesitate to suggest that is as much because that is the majority of at-risk activities, than woodworking being a safe activity. Well probably not – they are very dangerous activities for your eyes, and reading the stats, it is amazing that so many are still occurring, and it is because so many people choose to not wear eye protection during parts of the activity.

We know material gets flung around the workshop – whether from the tablesaw, router table, drill press etc etc. There is the obvious risk of wood chips, but also the cast-offs of tool failures that I concern myself with. What I mean by that? Chips of tungsten carbide if the edge of a bit fails, or a tooth gets lost off a blade, a drill bit breaks, or a bandsaw blade snaps and whips. Doesn’t happen often I’m sure, but there is no way I want the result anywhere near my eyes.

So be honest with yourself – do you ever place your eyes at risk? Ever gone to make a saw cut, can’t find the safety glasses so made the cut anyway? Every used compressed air to blow dust off a worktop or drilled a hole without donning the specs?

I recently purchased a new pair, (and need to get one or two more fwiw) and what a difference it makes! My older pairs are all scratched etc, and I’d use them but would take them off again when measuring up, or other activities (not that that’s high risk, but then there is every chance I’d spend the next 5 minutes trying to find the damned things again!) This new pair are clear again – I can see through them, and don’t need to remove them after the activity. They also have a neck strap, so perhaps I won’t misplace them around the workshop so often (yeah right!)

So some things to consider: Firstly, normal glasses (reading, etc) are not good for the workshop. They are not designed to take an impact, and if they receive one, you could end up showering your eyes with glass as well as the original missile. Nor do they adequately cover the eye area. There are a number of hospital admissions of people who were wearing safety glasses which were not large enough, and the missile got in the side or from underneath. They may not be the most fashionable, but larger safety glasses are a better call. The new ones I got may not be the largest, but they are contoured so they fit quite close around the edge.

Check the impact rating of the glasses you choose so they match your activities, and in particular that they are rated to meet the requirements of your most risky activity.

I also like having a tinted pair for when I’m working outside.

In the end, the glasses need to fit properly, and comfortably so that you are encouraged to use them.

And finally while on the subject, don’t forget your workshop visitors. Have some safety gear set aside so when you do have a visitor that they are adequately protected. Don’t forget the 4 legged visitors either – they need you to think for them too (for all the risks obviously, not just sight). Oh, and if you have children, remember adult sized safety gear isn’t good enough.

Sure, it is all common sense. So why are there so many home handymen (and over 80% of the admissions are male) getting injured in avoidable accidents?

And lastly, can I have the audacity to encourage the various woodworking retail outlets to have a bit more range of safety gear. I know they are not glamorous tools, or jigs, but it’d be good for woodworkers to be able to head down to their favourite woodworking supply shop and have a range of eye and ear protection to choose from, rather than having to resort to the large hardware retail stores to buy what should be in every woodworking workshop.

4 Responses

  1. Stu

    A very good set of observations. Particularly the last paragraph.

    As someone who needs to wear glasses all the time, can I also add a plea to those selling and designing safety gear to consider the position of the bespecatcled and think how to make your product easier to use for such people? I put my safety glasses over my specs, but it was only when I put a cheap necklace on the safety glasses that I was bel to use the pair together with any convenience – as for the diffculty of getting in and out of a respirator or a welding helmet without losing my seeing glasses……

    Keep up the good work on Safety Week.



  2. Here, here! Stu, Jeremy, you are so right! Better variety and keep us bespectacled ones in mind! Great article, I can ‘see’ how important this is! LOL!

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