December 2, 2007

Oh Say Can You See

By Paul Bieber

In the glass industry the most basic personal safety equipment are gloves and safety glasses. Yet, in a very casual and unscientific survey I saw many glaziers and fabricators not wearing safety glasses. I kept asking ‘why not?’, and the overwhelming answer was “I’m careful–nothing will happen to me”. I called this the ‘Superman’ complex as it was mostly in younger workers who thought they were invincible.

Every person in a plant, a glass shop or on a job site should wear approved safety glasses. Approved glasses are polycarbonate or approved corrective lenses, usually chemically tempered glass. No excuses. No exemptions. If you walk into your shop for just a minute, put on safety glasses. If you take someone on a tour, give them safety glasses. It’s OK to set up a small safety zone by your back door for deliveries, as long as there is no glass in this area.

Owners must wear the glasses. Even if running out for 10 seconds, wear the glasses. By setting the example it is easier to enforce this safety rule throughout your organization. If you wear prescription lenses, simple side shields are available. These slip on the sides of the ear pieces protecting you from bouncing fragments. Looking chic doesn’t exclude safety glasses. There are many supply companies that sell safety glasses that you won’t be embarrassed to wear. Sunglasses are not safety glasses–don’t allow them unless they are certified for safety. For job sites or residential calls don’t allow tinted or reflective glasses. Your customers want to see who they let into their house!

It is impossible to place a value on an accident that didn’t happen, but in comp cases, loosing partial or full sight is a very expensive claim. A scar on a wrist is a small claim; any claim that involves the face is an expensive claim. But don’t do this for the insurance…mandate safety glasses because a horrible injury is totally preventable by wearing glasses.

If someone doesn’t wear glasses, safety glasses are an adjustment. When you start your program, give it a week or two for people to get used to them. Issue each person a pair of glasses, and keep spares for visitors by the door to your shop. Yes, you will get complaints on a hot day, and some joker will say he can’t see as well, using glasses as an excuse for doing something wrong. Stand firm that glasses have to be worn.

Every glass fabricator has a favorite customer. At Floral Glass our favorite customer was a gentleman named Howie Norden, from Northport, NY. He was a customer for 40+ years. He was and still is the most honest man you’ll meet. He always had a joke to tell, always had a smile on his face. One day his son, Howard Jr. came in with a tragic story. His Dad was throwing some glass into the dumpster and a fragment jumped out and went right into Howie’s eye. It was a long surgery, and a long recovery. After the bandages came off, his vision was saved, but he didn’t see as clearly as he had before the surgery. Howie had thrown glass into that dumpster for 40 years and never had an accident. He now wears safety glasses whenever he is near glass. It only takes one freak accident to have a devastating effect.

Simply put–avoid OSHA, avoid claims, avoid trouble–provide and make mandatory the wearing of safety glasses in every corner of your shop.