Article Date: 12/1/2011

Keep an Eye Toward Safety
spectacle strategies

Keep an Eye Toward Safety

Safety eyewear enhances your patients' vision while protecting their eyes.

Frank Giardina, O.D., F.A.A.O. & John Shan, O.D., F.A.A.O.

The National Society for the Prevention of Blindness estimates that 300,000 disabling eye injuries occur annually in the workplace. It is also estimated that more than 90% of all eye injuries are preventable, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Something else to consider: A national insurance company evaluated its workers' compensation costs in 1985 and found the direct cost for an eye lost by an injured employee was $80,000.

Properly fitted safety eyewear cannot only prevent the needless loss of vision, but it can also enhance the performance of workers. Optometrists can help prevent the unnecessary loss of vision and increase their practice revenue by promoting safety eyewear.

Here, we discuss the specific benefits of safety eyewear, to give you an idea as to why you should offer safety eyewear at your practice. Also, we discuss, how, specifically, you can promote safety eyewear.

Safety frames

Not all frames are safety frames. Safety frames must meet or exceed the requirements of the American National Standards Institute (ANSI Z87.1) standard for industrial eye protection. Safety frames must pass two rigorous impact tests. These tests are performed on an Alderson headform, which simulates the physical movement of a human head.

In addition, safety frames must be marked with the manufacturer's trademark and marked “Z87” to indicate compliance with this standard.

There are many manufacturers of safety frames. This provides the patient with a wide selection of styles for both men and women.

Safety lenses

The following is a summary of the requirements for prescription safety lenses:

1. They must pass the industrial safety drop ball test. The lenses must withstand the impact of a 1” diameter steel ball dropped 50 inches onto the front surface of the lens.

2. The lenses must have a minimum thickness of 3mm. Lenses of power greater than +3.00D in the most plus meridian can have a minimum thickness of 2.5mm.

3. The lenses must be permanently marked with the monogram of the optical lab. This provides proof that the lenses are safety lenses. In addition, all special purpose lenses (tints and photochromics) must carry special markings on the lenses.

4. The prescription power accuracy must meet ANSI standards.

The ANSI standards do not prevent the use of glass or CR-39 plastic. However, the most popular material for safety eyewear is polycarbonate, due to its light weight and shatter-resistant properties.

Combinations of safety lenses in non-safety frames or safety frames with non-safety eyewear do not meet the standards for safety eyewear and can create a liability issue.

Promote safety eyewear

It's easy to promote safety eyewear. It starts with educating yourself and your staff on the need. Include questions concerning the patient's occupation and hobbies on your patient history form. It is obvious that the auto mechanic needs safety eyewear. How about the accountant who does woodworking as a hobby? Don't forget to inquire about all your patient's hobbies.

In your office, promote and display safety eyewear, don't hide it. Patients are often unaware of the availability or the need. Don't forget to update your practice brochure to include mention of the need for safety eyewear. Many practices have a telephone system that plays a pre-recorded message, while the patient is on “hold.” Use this telephone system to promote prescription safety eyewear. For instance, include a message on the importance of protective eyewear.


As an O.D. you have an opportunity to provide professional services to industry. You can provide not only visual exams and safety eyewear but also work as a consultant. Contact the safety officer of the company for which you're interested in providing the service. Explain that safety eyewear may actually save the company money due to workers' compensation and increased worker efficiency. Send the company one of your practice brochures and patient newsletters.

All new employees should have a pre-employment vision examination to determine whether the workers' vision will satisfy the visual demands of the job. Vision examinations should be performed on a periodic basis for all workers. Although, rarely performed, all employees leaving the company (including those retiring or being discharged) should have a vision exam. This will reduce the risk of future claims for work-related visual impairments.

A win-win situation

Providing prescription safety eyewear can prevent the needless loss of vision, decrease workers' compensation costs, enhance worker performance and increase the revenue of your optometric practice. OM


Optometric Management, Issue: December 2011