If you’re a healthcare professional, you know your personal protective equipment is important. You’ve probably donned your PPE more often this past year, but have your eyes been protected?
While PPE is mandated by OSHA, there’s a bit of wiggle room in terms of protection for eyes. This leaves a giant gap through which airborne pathogens, bloodborne illness, and respiratory droplets can travel… directly into your ocular membrane.
All those in favor of not having liquids, acids, and oozes directly into your peepers, this one’s for you. Let’s talk about the importance of medical safety glasses in the health field and make sure you’re wearing the proper protection for your job.
What Are Medical Safety Glasses?
Medical safety glasses, like Stoggles, cover your eyes in all directions to protect them from hazards you are exposed to on your job. Debris, blood, urine, vomit — we digress, but you get the picture.
The care you give your patients often involves exposure to their illness or their bodily fluids, which puts your eyes (and your health) at risk. Medical safety glasses are a shield between you and your patients’ excretions so that you can give your charges the care they need without worrying about getting sick yourself.
Medical safety glasses differ from regular specs.
Medical safety glasses are impact resistant, which means they can withstand forceful impact by a weighted object without shattering or breaking. Both the frames and lenses of medical safety glasses undergo impact resistance testing, which involves high speed and weighted object impacts to ensure the glasses are safe.
Safety glasses undergo spill and splatter resistance testing to ensure that if you do encounter a spill or splatter when you’re wearing them, your eyes will stay dry (unless you become emotional).
Medical safety glasses are made with top and side shields to protect your eyes, areas that most standard glasses leave exposed.
“I Don’t Work in the ER, So I Don’t Need Them”
Yeah, we get that a lot. Medical professionals who regularly sit for hours at a desk, or see only a few patients a day, general practitioners who typically see scheduled patients for checkups, and techs who clean up empty rooms can all be duped into thinking they get a hall pass on protective eyewear.
Turns out, acute care settings are where most of the reported eye injuries occur. When measuring blood and body fluid exposures (BBFE), just over 83% of the reported exposures were to the face. Of those exposures, over 66% were directly in the eyes. Most of these cases involved people who weren’t wearing protective eyewear because they didn’t think they needed it.
No matter what your role in a healthcare setting, medical safety glasses should be a staple. Wearing them every time you enter a patient’s room can keep both you and your patients under better care.
The Eye Injury Snowball Effect
You might not think a small spill or splatter will cause that much damage. After all, unless you’re treating a patient with a deadly disease, what’s the big deal about a little mishap that might not happen in the first place?
Let’s assume that your patient doesn’t infect you with a disease that compromises your health or that you don’t end up with something lodged in your eye that robs you of your vision. The risk of loss is still incredibly great.
These are just some of the ramifications of eye injuries:
- Eye injuries frequently cause employees to miss work.
- Patient care is compromised due to a shortage of staff members.
- Medical exams are required before you can return to work which places a burden on you and your employer.
- The financial cost of your injury adds up, costing you and your employer money.
- Attrition can be affected if injuries continue.
It’s never a small thing to incur an eye injury at work, no matter what profession you’re in. In the healthcare field, any transfer of fluid or debris to the eyes causes a major expenditure of time and money and compromises patient care.
Earlier, we said there’s a little wiggle room in terms of requirements for medical safety glasses. While OSHA PPE Requirements are strict in requiring PPE to prevent injury, they don’t focus much on pathogen exposure.
OSHA’s subsection on bloodborne pathogens says if there’s a risk of ocular exposure, the employer must provide protective eyewear.
However, the employer is tasked with determining:
- Whether there is a risk of exposure
- What kind of medical safety glasses should be required
- Providing medical safety glasses to their staff at no charge
Most employers take this rule very seriously (thank you, almighty worker’s compensation claims). However, if you feel your employer doesn’t, you should take it upon yourself to make sure you’re protecting your eyes (and probably contact your union rep if you have one).
The CDC says if there’s any risk of exposure to your eyes by a blood or airborne pathogen, you should be wearing protective eyewear. Different cases require different PPE. If you are exposed to airborne pathogens, non-vented goggles are your best bet for full protection.
Why Aren’t Healthcare Workers Wearing Medical Safety Glasses?
Of the BBFE statistics that we covered earlier, only about 8% of the workers who reported exposures were wearing medical safety glasses.
Here’s why many in the medical profession give safety glasses the side-eye:
- Discomfort. Safety glasses can be made from uncomfortable materials that don't fit well on the face, are oversized, and slip. Most of the medical safety glasses on the market are one size fits all, which is never true.
- They fog. Glasses that fog are of little use to a medical professional and can present a greater risk if they have to continually be taken on and off. They can also take you off task, causing greater disruption to your day.
- They need corrective lenses. Some healthcare professionals would wear protective safety glasses, but they have to wear them over their corrective lenses, which can be cumbersome. Not to mention, the fit will never be perfect so it’s always a balancing act. Workers may even risk eye protection by switching back and forth between their corrective glasses and protective glasses.
- They aren’t attractive. Let’s face it; no one wants to feel like they don’t look good. In fact, there are reports that feeling good about the way we look can make us feel more confident and generous.
Healthcare workers, rejoice. You’ve got options. Protective, stylish options that will keep you safe because you’ll actually want to wear them.
Stoggles are the safety glasses that feel like eyeglasses, protect like safety eyewear, and look like seriously stylish frames. Our glasses are available in prescription strength, made from super lightweight polycarbonate, and are all ANSI Z87.1 certified.
Because we know you want more from your protective eyewear than just splash and splatter protection, we also made the lenses fog-proof, so you never have to be blinded by humidity ever again. Our glasses are also blue-light protective and UV blocking.
The Stoggles difference is being able to comfortably wear medical safety glasses and actually wanting to wear them. You’ll probably reach for your Stoggles even after your shift ends, and we wholeheartedly support that move.
You risk your health for the benefit of others on a daily basis, but you deserve protection that really works, feels good and looks good too. Stoggles delivers to keep you cool, calm, and covered in every healthcare setting.