Keeping an Eye on Safety

Vision is one of our most valuable and useful resources but keeping eyes protected is sometimes easier said than done. At GAT Airline Ground Support, eye safety is not just talked about, but practiced daily to keep employees safe, reports Alicia Hammond

May 2003

Nearly three out of the five work related eye injuries are due to a failure to wear eye protection, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. With all of the possible dangers working in ground support services, the potential for eye injuries should not be overlooked.

At GAT Airline Ground Support & GAT Security Services, based in Mobile, AL, eye safety is of the utmost importance. Over the past 30 years, GAT has grown to serve 15 cities throughout the U.S. in all aspects of the aviation industry, including GSE support.

"Eye safety is very important in ground support. The most important thing is keeping the workers safe," says Jeremy King, Director of Safety at GAT.

GAT follows the National Safety Council rules and regulations for eye safety, which designates the month of March as Eye Safety Month. GAT gives special awareness to this issue through its monthly newsletter and meetings that are held to discuss and remind employees about issues of importance, including eye safety.

"We usually bring up eye safety at the monthly meetings and especially focus on it in March because of the National Safety Council (NSC). But, we also remind the employees about eye safety at the safety briefings, which take place at the beginning of each shift in each one of our locations," says King.

Protective eyewear is required of all GAT employees, but individuals are allowed to pick out his or her preferred type of protectant that they are comfortable wearing. There are instances where specific types of eyewear are required, such as for mechanics.

GAT continually ensures that its employees are following the rules for eye safety and this includes going around the workplace and checking to make sure everyone is wearing safety equipment properly. If an individual is not wearing safety goggles or glasses in a designated area, their superiors will bring the forgotten item and and remind them. Further resistance to the rules will result in warnings, counseling, and in extreme cases, termination from the position.

Many organizations have rules and regulations concerning eye safety in the workplace including the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and the NSC. By requiring employers to take responsibility for their employees, these regulations present a good first step. All employers are required to:

  • Provide eye and face protection equipment for employees that work in a hazardous environment that could present potential injury from physical, chemical, or radiation agents.
  • Notify employees about the type of protection they should wear.
  • Provide training to each employee who is required to wear personal protective equipment.
  • Guarantee that each employee is using appropriate eye or face protection when exposed to hazards.
  • Ensure use of eye protection that provides side protection when there is a hazard from flying objects.

The real responsibility lies in the hands of the individual worker, after all, it is their vision that is in possible jeopardy. The Prevent Blindness America organization says that 90 percent of all workplace eye injuries are preventable with the use of proper safety eyewear.

Injuries to the eyes affect the individual, but depending on the circumstances could damage equipment or hurt others. Safety protection equipment is much easier to remember to wear when the employee does not mind wearing it. OSHA advises that protectors should be reasonably comfortable when worn in the designated areas, fit snugly, does not interfere with the movements of the wearer, is easily cleanable, and is durable.

Accidents do happen, but companies can take steps to be prepared for those events.

King advises, "If some fluid or unknown particle gets in your eye, you should let someone know so you can get the help you need. If it is serious, you should call a technician or paramedic to make sure your eye is clean. And if there is still some irritation, that person needs to go to a doctor."

Constant reminders, updates, and training is a good way to keep everyone's mind on safety. By educating people on the possibilities and the proper course of action, the numbers of accidents on the job will most likely diminish.