Eye protection

1.  Introduction

Risk assessments, which are a requirement of University Policy Statements S1/02, S6/14 and S5/08 should identify amongst other things if eye (and face) protection is required for the work being undertaken. If there is a risk remaining after all other control measures have been properly implemented, then personal protective equipment can also be used to prevent an individual from sustaining serious personal injury. The Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) at Work Regulations 1992 cover the requirements to provide proper eye (and face) protection.

Accident statistics continue to suggest that certain activities are associated with an increased risk of eye injury, even when all other preventative measures have been implemented. The reasons may be complex, but commonly include:

  • inadequacy of risk assessments, which overlook the potential for splash injuries, or injury associated with flying debris
  • complacency in the case of familiar or common activities
  • failure to comply with the requirements of the risk assessment where the use of eye protection is identified
  • failure to enforce the use of eye protection where this is required.

For this reason certain areas and activities must be considered high risk, and the use of eye protection made compulsory. In each case suitable eye protection must be supplied by the department, and be worn by the worker as standard. This applies to employees, students and visiting workers, or others in the vicinity of the work that may be affected by it. Where the use of eye protection is required then the blue mandatory safety signs must be displayed.

2.  Examples of high risk areas and activities requiring eye protection

The following are presented as examples of high risk activities, although the list  is not exhaustive:

(a)  in workshops during work with powered tools, processes involving hot metal or compressed gases, or during glass blowing;

(b)  in laboratories during work with hazardous substances that could cause eye injury, during assembly of experimental equipment and when connecting gas under pressure, or when modifying or working with glass apparatus;

(c)  in all biological containment laboratories, or other ‘wet’ biological laboratories, where infectious material or hazardous substances are present, where dissections may be undertaken, where animals may be inoculated with micro-organisms, including genetically modified micro-organisms. (Further information relating to containment laboratories is given in section 3);

(d)  in biological support rooms, e.g. autoclave facilities or media preparation rooms where operators may sustain eye injury during the handling of both clean and contaminated loads;

(e)  in laser controlled areas when there is potential for exposure to a laser beam that could result in harm;

(f)  during gardening and grounds work when a chainsaw or a strimmer is being used, or any other equipment capable of generating flying debris, or when pruning dense foliage;

(g)  in kitchens or during domestic work when cleaning products which could cause eye injury are decanted or used;

(h)  in other high risk areas where the blue mandatory safety signs are posted.

The mandatory signs can be area specific; e.g. when a sign appears on the door of a workroom or laboratory then all who enter are required to wear the specified protection. Signs can also be work or tool specific, e.g. when posted adjacent to a particular item, such as a pillar drill, then those using the drill or in the near vicinity of drilling work must wear eye or face protection.

3.  Containment laboratories

It is accepted that there may be a limited number of specific tasks undertaken within Containment Level (CL) 1 or 2 laboratories, e.g. microscopy, which may preclude the use of eye protection. In such cases the activity must be separated from ‘wet’ work, or any other work that may cause injury to the eye, and the relevant risk assessment must provide robust justification on why eye protection is un-necessary or impracticable.

Where write-up areas are embedded within in CL1 or CL2 laboratories, they may be in close proximity to other laboratory workers or processes on ‘wet’ laboratory benches. Therefore eye protection must be worn at all times. Any relaxation of this rule must be on the basis of the write-up area being clearly demarcated from ‘wet’ work, with no risk of exposure to the activities of adjacent workers. A risk assessment must provide thorough justification on why it is permissible to remove eye protection in the specified area.

Eye protection, and other personal protective equipment, must be worn at all times in CL3 laboratories.

Further information relating to eye protection and other personal protective equipment in containment laboratories may be seen in the University Policy Statement S5/09.

4.  Technical specifications

The British Standard for eye protection is BS EN166. Appendices 1 and 2 to this policy should be used to identify the correct protection needed for particular applications.

Eye protection may take the form of safety spectacles where the design provides sufficient protection to the eye from inadvertent splashing or exposure to low impact debris.  More robust eye (or face) protection, such as goggles, face shields, or visors may be required for specific applications that must be identified in the relevant risk assessment.  However, it is often possible to provide protection suitable for a range of work activities.

University Policy Statement S3/02 provides further detailed information about the selection, specification and relative merits or limitations of the different types of eye (and face) protection. However, briefly:

(a)  Correct technical specification is essential.

(b)  Eye and face protection should give minimal discomfort to the wearer, and be compatible with other forms of PPE, where this is also required.

(c)  Eye and face protection should be CE (or BS) marked.

(d)  Eye and face protection should be kept clean and be maintained in good condition.

Staff and students should be provided with their own personal pair of safety spectacles in areas where there is deemed to be a higher risk of eye injury, and all departments are obliged to provide employees with prescription eye protection where this is required. Visitors, are also often at risk and spare eye and face protection should be available for loan purposes. Suitable provision should also be made for cleaning and checking the condition of any eye protection that is made available for loan.

There are additional, specific requirements for laser eye protection, which must be selected against all the particular wavelengths in use. BS EN 207 is the relevant standard for general use and BS EN 208 for alignment procedures. Further information relating to laser eyewear is given in University Policy Statement S2/09.

5.  Summary of departmental action

(a)  Supervisors must review the work under their control, to ensure that their risk assessments adequately address the risk of eye injury. Where eye protection is required they must ensure that the eye (or face) protection is appropriate for the work being carried out.

(b)  The eye protection provided must be suitable for the wearer, and be compatible with any other personal protective equipment that is required.

(c)  The eye protection must be maintained in good condition. Suitable checks should be made and recorded and provision made to store it in a clean and protected location.

(d)  Supervisors must ensure, as part of their ongoing supervision and routine monitoring of work activities, that where the use of eye protection has been stipulated in the risk assessment, it is used.

(e)  Where individuals are observed not to use the required eye protection then appropriate corrective action must be taken.

It must be noted that the Department of Chemistry has successfully implemented a mandatory policy for the use of eye protection, and that levels of compliance are extremely high. Where standards are not met then appropriate action is taken. The use of eye protection is also a standard requirement in commercial laboratories. It is the expectation of the Health and Safety Management Committee, and Council, that the same high standards will be applied in all laboratories of the University to ensure that the risks of eye injury are reduced to as low a level as is reasonable practicable.


March 2010