Is it safe for workers to wear contacts when handling hazardous chemicals? A
new guideline from the American College of Occupational and Environmental
Medicine addresses that and other important questions on contact lens use.
The guideline supports the position that the use of contact lenses does not
pose additional hazards to workers and reiterates regulations that require
people who wear contact lenses at work to combine them with appropriate
industrial eye protection.
It is recommended that workers be permitted to wear contacts when handling most
industrial chemicals and in other eye-hazardous environments provided that
safety guidelines are followed and that the use of contact lenses is not banned
by regulation or contraindicated by medical or industrial hygiene
recommendations. Workers needing corrective lenses may wear full-face
respirators since the lenses do not interfere with the face piece seal. In
fact, contact lenses provide the best visual ergonomics for users of full-face
Other recommendations include establishing a written policy documenting general
safety requirements for the wearing of contact lenses -- taking into account
the visual requirements of individual workers wearing contacts, as recommended
by a qualified ophthalmologist or optometrist -- and conducting an eye injury
hazard evaluation in the workplace. In addition, employers should provide
training on proper contact lens use and on first aid for contact lens wearers
experiencing a chemical exposure.
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