Hang around any optical conference long enough, and you’ll hear someone equate glasses with shoes. The metaphor is meant to illustrate for patients the necessity of a wardrobe of eyewear, (i.e. you wouldn’t go hiking in the same shoes you’d wear to a wedding). But despite the sound logic, the glasses/shoes approach sometimes falls short. Relying on it too heavily could leave a gap among your sales strategies.
Why? Fashionable optical staff sometimes overemphasize the style angle. Some patients are content with one “go-with-everything” pair of glasses, and even some fashion-forward patients still think it’s frivolous to buy multiple pairs for style’s sake. To increase your multiple pair sales, shift your mindset from form to function using a task-based approach that places safety at its center.
Task-Specific Eyewear At Work
Workplace hazards cause vision loss or blindness all too often, points out Tami Hagemeyer, ABOC, who spoke about eye safety at SECO2016. “Each day about 2000 U.S. workers have a job-related eye injury that requires medical treatment,” according to the CDC. Most workers injured were either not wearing any eye protection at all, the wrong type of eye protection for the job, or eye protection that did not fit properly.
The comment frequently made by injured workers, Hagemeyer continues, was that they “didn’t feel eye protection was necessary, as they had been performing the same duties for long periods of time.” In other words, a false sense of security. One example? Flying objects cause 70 percent of eye injuries, but workers may never see them coming—many are smaller than a pinhead.
Safety experts and eye doctors believe the right eye protection can either lessen the severity or completely prevent workplace eye injuries, according to the AOA. As an optician, it’s your ethical responsibility to ask questions pertaining to eyewear safety and make certain each patient is aware of available products that will adequately protect their eyes. But it’s not enough to wear eye protection, Hagemeyer cautions. It’s just as important that the correct eyewear be worn for each specific job or task. That depends upon the types of job hazards present, the circumstances of exposure, other protective equipment used (like a face shield), and individual vision needs.
Eyes Open: It’s The Law
OSHA requires the use of eye protection whenever that protection could reasonably prevent eye injuries, per Standard Number 1910.133:
- Employees must use eye protection with side shields when there is a hazard of flying objects (even miniscule ones).
- Each employee who wears prescription lenses must wear eye protection “that incorporates the prescription in its design, or wear eye protection that can be worn over the prescription lenses without disturbing the proper position of the prescription lenses or the protective lenses.”
What Patient’s Need to Know About Safety Glasses
- Regular glasses are not safety glasses. The lenses and frames are much stronger than regular eyeglasses. Safety glasses must meet standards of the American National Standards Institute (ANSI). Look for the Z87 mark on the lens or frame.
- Contact lenses can’t provide significant protection from eye hazards in the workplace.
- Side shields placed on your regular glasses do not provide enough protection to meet the OSHA requirement for many work environments.
- Safety glasses must fit properly to provide adequate protection. Goggles can be worn over prescription glasses and contact lenses provided that they are properly fitted and provide a secure shield around the entire eye.
- You must properly maintain protective eyewear. Scratched and dirty devices reduce vision, cause glare and may contribute to accidents.
Occupations with a high risk for eye injuries include:
• Healthcare workers
• Auto repair
Source: American Optometric Association
|• Electrical work
• Janitorial staff
• Laboratory workers
Task-Specific Eyewear At Home
Many accidents that cause ophthalmic injuries or even blindness happen in the home. Often, they involve tasks we usually don’t think of as dangerous, Hagemeyer notes. Some of the usual risks for at home eye injuries include:
- Chemical splashes from fertilizers, pesticides, drain cleaners
- Misdirected sprays from household cleaners
- Splashes from hot grease while cooking
- Debris from chores like lawn mowing, shrub trimming, and gardening
- Do-it-yourself projects involving painting, sanding, cutting, or using motorized tools
Hagemeyer recommends safety glasses, goggles, or shields made with polycarbonate lenses. For working outdoors, polarized lenses are important because they reduce glare, which can temporarily “blind” patients and lead to accidents.
Task-Specific Eyewear For Sports
Sports activities offer unique opportunities for eye injuries, Hagemeyer says, and the risk of injury depends on the activity. AOA pegs the riskiest sports as baseball, basketball, and racquet sports, but any sport activity may present vulnerability, cautions Hagemeyer. It’s imperative for coaches and parents to put a premium on eye safety. Over 200,000 sports-related injuries occur yearly, according to the Consumer Product Safety Commission. Individuals under the age of 25 account for 72 percent of the injuries, and children under the age of 15 account for 43 percent.
In addition to protecting the eyes and enhancing performance through improved vision, protective eyewear has another, less-expected side effect: it shows competitors that the participant takes his or her sport seriously. Again polycarbonate lenses are the gold standard when it comes to safe, shatter-resistant eyewear, whether in sport goggles, swim goggles, face shields, or street-wear frames.
Play Hard, Play Safe
ECPs know the value of UV protection—the key is translating that value for your patients. UV damage accumulates over time, and humans by nature have a lot of difficulty anticipating consequences that won’t appear for years—even if those consequences are very serious.
UV rays are linked to eye diseases like cataracts, ocular tumors, photo keratitis, AMD (especially if a person is genetically predisposed to it), and many more. At Optometry’s Meeting 2016, presenter Joy Gibb, ABOC, encouraged attendees to tell their patients that UV protective lens coatings are “like putting a really good sunscreen on.” She also pointed out these common patient misconceptions:
- Many patients think that the darker the lens, the better protection. They’re surprised to find out that darker, non-UV treated lenses can be more harmful to their eyes. Dark lenses cause the wearer’s pupils to dilate, allowing more sunlight to penetrate deeper into the eyes. They don’t realize that even clear lenses can offer 100 percent protection from UVA and UBV rays.
- Patients may not realize that they have to specifically ask for UV coated lenses. Plus, there’s an upcharge for that coating. They assume all lenses include UV protection, just because they’re buying from an optician. Most polarized lenses do include UV protection, but not all. Gibb recommends verbally highlighting the UV protection even if it’s already included with the polarization.
- Contact lenses may provide some UV protection to the iris, but they do nothing to protect the rest of the eyeball. They’re just not a good substitute for UV coated sunglass lenses.
When explaining the benefits of task-specific eyewear to patients, safety or otherwise, never underestimate the doctors’ recommendation. Fair or not, when optical staff suggests multiple pair options, patients sometimes perceive it as “selling.” But when a doctor makes suggestions, patients view it as a valuable service from someone invested in their ocular health. Gibb suggests that the doctor write prescriptions for specialty eyewear or sunwear, in addition to patients’ regular prescriptions. “Recommendations should always start in the chair,” she says.