Use of Eye Protection - University of Oxford

University of Oxford Medical Sciences Division
(Non-Clinical Departments Only)
Eye protection is mandatory in all Containment laboratories and other overt ‘wet’ biological laboratories.
This follows the University's decision to implement the policy following extensive discussion and
consultation over the continued reporting of eye accidents. Many of these accidents could have been
prevented by wearing eye protection, as identified as corrective actions during follow-up investigations.
Overall, the level of preventable eye injuries has been deemed unacceptable both in the interests of
individual safety and the operational interests of the University.
The relevant University Policy Statements concerning eye protection in laboratories are “Biological
Health & Safety” UPS 05/09 and “Eye Protection” UPS 08/10. Specific requirements for laser eye
protection are outlined in the University Policy Statement on “Laser safety” UPS 02/09.
Who is likely to be affected?
Researchers, support staff, students, cleaners, maintenance staff, visitors and contractors
Risk Assessment
Laboratories & associated work areas
Work in laboratories poses potential for damage to the eyes from a variety of hazards which may affect
those directly performing the work but also others who may be close by. The main eye injury risks to be
found in laboratories are:
 Splashes with toxic, corrosive or irritant chemicals
 Penetrating injuries from projectiles such as glass and bone fragments
 Splashes with infectious materials such as pathogens, body fluids, genetically modified
 Splashes with cryogenic liquids such as liquid nitrogen and liquid helium.
 Splashes with hot liquids from autoclave or microwave processing.
 Injuries from gas or liquids under pressure
 Damage from ultra violet radiation from UV light boxes or other gel visualisation equipment.
 Splashes with radiochemicals.
 Damage from lasers
With these risks in mind eye protection must be worn at all times when working in all
Containment laboratories (1, 2 & 3). It must also be worn in other laboratories and ‘wet biological
areas’ unless a written risk assessment deems it unnecessary (UPS 08/10).
The following are examples of laboratory activities noted in policy S8/10 as ‘high risk’ and for which eye
protection must always be worn:
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Work with hazardous substances that could cause eye injury
During assembly of experimental equipment
When connecting gas under pressure
When modifying or working with glass apparatus
Work in other ‘wet’ biological laboratories, where infectious material or hazardous
substances are present, where dissections may be undertaken, where animals may be
inoculated with micro-organisms, including genetically modified micro-organisms.
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Work in biological support rooms, e.g. autoclave facilities or media preparation rooms
where operators may sustain eye injury during the handling of both clean and
contaminated loads.
Any other activities where there is a risk of eye injury.
Write-up areas and microscopy
Write up areas within laboratories should be clearly separated, demarcated and away from areas where
hazardous laboratory work is undertaken. Provided this is the case, laboratory coats and eye protection do
not need to be worn when in the write up area. However, where write up areas are in close proximity to
wet laboratory work then laboratory coats and safety glasses will need to be worn.
Eye protection does not need to be worn whilst using microscopes where risk assessment shows there is
negligible risk of eye injury and where microscopes are well separated from other lab activities which
would have the potential for splashing etc. In other cases where eye protection is impractical or where it
is unnecessary on the basis of risk, a written risk assessment must be completed and approved by the
Selection of the type of eye protection
Safety glasses
Lightweight safety glasses with
side shields. Many have
adjustable side arms and/or
nose bridges
Similar to safety glasses but
designed to fit over prescription
Typical uses
General laboratory use for protection against light
impact and occasional/incidental biological or
chemical splashes.
Prescription safety glasses
As safety glasses but fitted with
appropriate corrective lenses
for the wearer.
Safety Goggles (unvented)
Plastic goggles close fitting and
fully enclosing the eye area,
usually secured with an elastic
or adjustable strap behind the
Giving full face coverage and
secured via an adjustable band
around the forehead.
As above but incorporating UV
filtering visor and complying
with EN170 (check specific
wavelength of UV light).
General laboratory use for protection against light
impact and occasional/incidental biological or
chemical splashes (dependent upon lens and frame
Handling of strong acids or bases
Safety over-glasses/eye
Face shield/visor
UV Face shield/visor
Laser safety glasses/goggles
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Specialist laser protective
eye wear
As above, but for occasional or short periods by
wearers of prescription glasses. Also suitable for
use by contractors and visitors
Dispensing liquid nitrogen/liquid helium
Visualising gels on a transilluminator
See Non-clinical Safety website for Guidance on
“Safe use of Ultra Violet Light”
[NB. All UV face shields/visors, must be labelled
“Suitable for UV work”]
Specialist laser applications contact: Departmental
Laser Supervisor (DLS) or the University Laser
Safety Officer for
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Non-Prescription eyewear
The specific type of eye protection (e.g. safety glasses, safety goggles or visors or face shields) required
will depend upon the nature of the hazard and the risk presented. All eye protection should be CE
marked and conform to the relevant standard for the particular hazard. In the case of eye protection for
general laboratory use this is EN 166. Further details on relevant standards for other more specialist eye
wear can be found in the appendix 1 and appendix 2 of UPS S8/10 on “Eye protection”.
Advice on the selection of eye protection for particular activities can be obtained from the Area Safety
Officer (ASO) or the University Safety Office.
Prescription eye wear
For general laboratory work prescription glasses may be acceptable if they will provide sufficient
protection to the eye from inadvertent splashing with low risk substances or exposure to low impact
debris. Where supervisors determine that an individual’s glasses are not suitable or more robust eye
protection is required by risk assessment (e.g. for dispensing toxic or corrosive liquids), then overglasses, goggles, face shields or prescription safety glasses must be worn as appropriate. The selection of
over-glasses or prescription safety glasses for those who need corrective lenses will often depend on the
length of time they are required to wear them and frequency of use. Over-glasses may be suitable for
some short duration tasks but may not be comfortable for longer periods of use, although this will vary
with individuals.
Provision of eye protection
Departments are responsible for providing protective eye protection for all employees, students, visitors
and contractors as required. It is recommended that all employees and graduate students are provided
with their own personal pair of safety glasses rather than having communal supplies. Where possible,
individuals should be involved in the selection of their own safety glasses to ensure a good fit and
comfort. This may be catered for by providing a selection of appropriate types in departmental or group
stores. Eye protection will also need to be provided for undergraduate practical classes so departments
must ensure sufficient communal supplies are available and worn when required. Visitors and contractors
and others who only occasionally need eye protection can be catered for by providing suitable communal
supplies (including protective over-glasses for those who wear prescription glasses) along with
appropriate cleaning materials.
For employees who require prescription safety glasses the department is responsible for meeting the cost
of these. Employees should contact their Departmental Safety Officer, in the first instance, regarding the
process for obtaining these.
Individuals need to highlight any concerns over the use of the selected eye protection to their supervisors.
Training & Supervision
Supervisors are responsible for ensuring that all employees, students and others under their control (e.g.
visitors) understand the policy on eye protection and wear eye protection when required. Supervisors are
also responsible for ensuring that where any activities pose a risk of eye injury, these are suitably
assessed and appropriate eye protection selected and worn.
Persons who are responsible for visitors and contractors must also make sure they are provided with
appropriate eye protection for the duration of their visit, that it is worn correctly and that it is handed
back when they leave.
Care of eye protection
In order to be comfortable and suitable for work activities all eye protection must be maintained in a
clean and good state of repair. Practically this means regular cleaning of lenses or visors with appropriate
non-scratch materials, appropriate storage to minimise scratches to lenses, contamination and other
damage, and the replacement of damaged equipment. Communal supplies for visitors should also be
monitored to ensure they are kept clean and in a good condition.
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Compatibility with other Personal Protective Equipment
In some instances it may be necessary for individuals to wear several items of personal protective
equipment (PPE) at the same time e.g. safety glasses or goggles together with respiratory protective
equipment such as a disposable respirator or half mask reusable respirator. In these instances care should
be taken to ensure the equipment is compatible and will not interfere with its function or the comfort of
the users. Where eye protection or prescription glasses need to be worn with a respirator, they should be
brought along and worn during the individual’s face-fit test. If in doubt about the compatibility of items
of PPE, advice should be sought from the Departmental Safety Officer or the Area Safety Officer.
Emergency Procedures
In the event of an accident resulting in eye injury the following action should be taken:
For splashes to the eye with chemical or biological material: immediately rinse the eye using an
eyewash shower or eyewash bottles and flush for at least 10 minutes. Assistance should be sought from a
first aider where possible
For impacts to the eye or where a foreign object has entered the eye causalities should be referred to
hospital at:
Eye Casualty, John Radcliffe Hospital, Headington, Oxford, Telephone: 01865 234800.
All suspected laser strikes should be referred to an ophthalmologist at the John Radcliffe Eye
Hospital, who should undertake a full ophthalmic examination within 24 hours of being notified.
All accidents should be reported by recording the details in the accident/incident book located in the
Related Policies & Links
University "Eye Protection" Policy UPS 08/10
University "Biological Health & Safety" Policy UPS 05/09
University "Risk Assessment" Policy S5/08
University "Laser safety" Policy UPS 02/09
Further information and advice
Further advice on this departmental policy and the associated policies may be obtained from the
Departmental Safety Officer or Area Safety Officer.
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