Keep an Eye on Safety

By Rusty Swindoll

According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) website, thousands of people are blinded each year from work-related eye injuries that could have been prevented with the proper selection and use of eye and face protection. Eye injuries alone cost more than $300 million per year in lost production time, medical expenses, and workers’ compensation.

OSHA requires employers to ensure the safety of all employees in the work environment. Eye and face protection must be provided whenever necessary to protect against chemical, environmental, radiological, or mechanical irritants and hazards.

In the wood flooring industry, two of the most common scenarios requiring protection are during processes that create dust, such as using a saw or sanding the floor, and the finishing process. Dust and chemicals present additional hazards to contact wearers. OSHA also recommends that workers have an extra pair of contacts or eyeglasses in case of failure or loss.

Sanding and sawing
Dust is present in the workplace during operations such as woodworking and sanding. Working in a dusty environment can cause eye injuries and presents additional hazards to contact lens wearers.

Either eyecup or cover-type safety goggles should be worn when dust is present. Safety goggles are the only effective type of eye protection from nuisance dust because they create a protective seal around the eyes.

Safety goggles are intended to protect the eyes against dust hazards. Goggles form a protective seal around the eyes, preventing nuisance dust from entering under or around the goggles. Ventilation should be adequate, but well-protected from dust entry. Safety goggle lenses are designed and tested to resist moderate impact. Safety goggles also may incorporate prescription lenses mounted behind protective lenses for individuals requiring vision correction. Take time to consider specific lens, frame, and ventilation options when selecting safety goggles.

Safety goggle frames must be properly fitted to the worker’s face to form a protective seal around the eyes. Poorly fitted goggles will not offer the necessary protection.

A large percentage of eye injuries are caused by direct contact with chemicals. These injuries often result from an inappropriate choice of personal protective equipment that allows a chemical substance to enter from around or under protective eye equipment. Serious and irreversible damage can occur when chemical substances contact the eyes in the form of splashes, mists, vapors, or fumes.

When fitted and worn correctly, goggles protect your eyes from hazardous substances. A face shield may be required in areas where workers are exposed to severe chemical hazards. Safety goggles protect the eyes, eye sockets, and the facial area immediately surrounding the eyes from a variety of chemical hazards. Goggles form a protective seal around the eyes, preventing objects or liquids from entering under or around the goggles. This is especially important when working with or around liquids that may splash, spray, or mist.

Before starting any installation or sand and finish job, certain basic standards of safety must be applied. It is important that all crew members are briefed and updated on all requirements and regulations. This is important for the safety of you, the crew, the customer, and the job site. Besides being a vital health issue, following safety regulations is also required by law. Failure to comply can cost you thousands of dollars in fines.

OSHA has rules and regulations that serve to protect the safety of workers on the job site. These rules may vary according to whether the job is residential or commercial, and requirements are also different for homeowners and professionals.

Check OSHA requirements in your area at

Rusty Swindoll is Technical Advisor, at the National Wood Flooring Association in St. Louis. He can be reached at

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