The workplace safety issue facing Australia’s tradespeople – Sydney Morning Herald


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It’s easy to take our hearing and eyesight for granted when we can seamlessly see and hear. But if we fail to protect them on the job site we could be needlessly putting ourselves at risk of long-term damage.
New Specsavers research shows that 56 per cent of Australian tradies surveyed do not wear appropriate hearing protection when working in loud environments or using machinery, while half admit to never wearing protective goggles.
56 per cent of Aussie tradies don’t wear appropriate hearing protection.Credit:iStock
And with fewer than two in five tradies consistently wearing sunglasses when working outdoors, optometrists are calling on these workers to prioritise their ear and eye protection in the interests of their future good health.
It only takes one microscopic metal shard, splinter or chemical drop to land in the wrong part of the eye to cause lasting damage.
“Scarring can cause permanent vision loss [with symptoms such as] blurring, a lot of glare and halos at night,” explains Patrick Mac, Specsavers optometrist.
When it comes to UV protection, Mac says your eyes need just as much protection as your skin from the sun’s harmful UV rays, and that simply putting on sunglasses or tinting your safety specs can do wonders.
“Once you get sun damage in the eye, it’s irreversible and only gets worse. UV light can speed up the progression of cataracts and cause things like pterygium, known as surfer’s eye, which is a growth over the eye that can cause you to lose vision,” says Mac.
As for hearing loss, that can come as a cumulation of consistent exposure to loud noises and you may not realise the damage you are doing until years down the track.
“Hearing loss is not usually instant, it happens over time and people don’t really notice it [at first],” explains Deanne Boules, from people, safety and culture consultancy InSync Workplace Solutions.
“It’s not until years later that you’ll start losing hearing.”
Here’s how to put your use of safety glasses and ear plugs on autopilot:
You might have gotten away without eye protection in the past, but it’s important to remember what’s flying around the air on job sites.
“Wearing goggles can protect you from debris and small bits of metal, dust, dirt or grit from getting into the eye, which can cause the eyes to water, redness, pain, and a scratchy sensation,” explains Mac.
“This type of irritation can cause your vision to become blurry or sensitive to light or even cause damage to the cornea, which is important to help focus your vision.”
Consider how you want to live a long life with good eyesight and hearing to help motivate you to reach for safety goggles and earmuffs.
“Imagine the impact in 10 or 20 years’ time if you can’t listen to that music or TV show that you love, or easily have a conversation with someone,” Boules says. “It’s going to mean you have a better quality of life later on.“
“Create new wiring in the brain,” Boules says, suggesting you keep your goggles and earmuffs on top of your toolbox to remind you to put them on.
“It’s something you’ve got to keep doing until it becomes natural. Eventually, it will become as automatic as when you put your seatbelt on as soon as you get in the car.”
Habits are contagious and if you start consistently wearing eye and ear protection, there’s a good chance your colleagues will follow suit.
“It’s all about creating an environment where everyone wears them,” Boules says.
Get your ears and eyes checked every two years.Credit:Specsavers
Getting regular health checks is important for keeping your eyes and ears safe now and for years to come.
“If you work in a noisy environment or on-site and have noticed any changes to your hearing or eyesight, visit your local optometrist or audiology professional to understand if your eyes and ears are healthy and free of damage,” says Mac.
“We recommend you get your ears and eyes tested every two years, or every year if you’re over the age of 65, or notice any change in your eyes or hearing.”
To book in for an appointment or for more information, go to specsavers.com.au
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