Stick-on magnifying lenses give clarity to middle-age mine workers

Employers increasingly have to grapple with the challenges of an ageing workforce and mining is no exception.

As the workers get older, employers have to adapt to their changing physical and medical conditions.

Presbyopia is an age-related eye condition, where the sufferer’s ability to focus on nearby objects progressively deteriorates over time.

Presbyopia affects the vast majority of adults as they enter middle-age and the first symptoms are typically encountered after the age of 40.

The condition can be caused by the diminishing elasticity of the crystalline lens, changes to the lens curvature or the weakening of the muscles that are attached to the lens.

The sufferers of this affliction can manage it with prescription glasses.

However, because these glasses are normally only certified to withstand low impacts, the staff would also have to wear safety eyewear to protect against medium impact hazards.

According to Ron Greenwood, the managing director of OPTX Australasia, this is legal, but only if the safety glasses are not comprised in any way.

"However, there is no way you can test if every pair of safety glasses comply with every single pair of standard frames on the market," he told Australian Mining.

"As well as this, wearing both pieces of eyewear is uncomfortable and can cause fogging, restricted vision and restricted movements."

The Australian Standard AS/NZS 1337.6 was introduced in 2007, requiring that prescription safety glasses comply with medium impact requirements.

This meant that glass lenses could no longer be worn with safety goggles and the frames had to meet certain conditions.

Greenwood said that many workplaces have been reluctant to provide their employees with the correct eyewear since then.

"Even when they did, the employees would often want to use them as their only pair of glasses and wear them after hours," he said.

"Because the glasses are not very fashionable, the workers have been known to remove side shields from the frames.

"Of course, this then means they are non-compliant."

The Western Australian Department of Labour Relations issued a policy statement in February this year, confirming that employers had a duty of care to supply the glasses.

"This policy has now set a legal precedent for the employer to bear the cost of the prescription glasses," he said.

"These glasses can cost between $300 and $600 per worker, which is a expense that is rarely budgeted for in projects where workers come and go."

However, Greenwood said that the OPTX 20/20 HydroTac stick-on magnetic lenses could provide a more affordable solution for the industry.

"The lenses are made from a soft plastic material, which can be stuck to the inside of any pair of safety glasses with a drop of water," he said.

"This means that workers with presbyopia will be able to see over short distances, but will also be protected from debris and dusty environments."

Furthermore, if a pair of safety glasses is broken, the employer can easily replace them by putting the lenses in a spare pair.

"A replacement pair of prescription safety glasses can take up to two weeks to arrive on site," Greenwood said.

"While the employees have no glasses, they are unfit to work and are sitting idle until the replacement arrives.

"The stick-on lenses can avoid this problem altogether."

According to Greenwood, many middle-age workers are often in denial about their deteriorating vision.

"Losing your vision and getting glasses is just another milestone in the ageing process, so many are reluctant to get tested," he said.

"Employers rarely take the initiative and offer on-site eye testing for their workers, other than those in pre-employment medical exams, regardless of age.

"They should be sending their employees out for eye tests every two years once they reach 40."

The stick-on magnifying lens will be displayed at The WA Safety Show, which will run from 24 to 26 August at the Perth Convention Exhibition Centre this year.

Greenwood hopes to use the conference to correct some misconceptions about the use of protective eyewear and prescription eyewear in industrial environments.