NEW YORK—A number of eyecare retailers, both national chains and independents, along with several major lens, laboratory and frame companies are continuing to bring new ideas to product innovation, diverse lens choices and more streamlined delivery systems to the category of prescription safety eyewear (SRx) to serve the needs of manufacturing and industrial workers and to bring attention to good eye-care and effective vision correction products to themselves and their families.

OSHA regulations require employers to ensure that employees have appropriate eye or face protection if they are exposed to potential hazards. General dress eyewear (streetwear or non-safety frames) does not meet the ANSI Standard for Safety Prescription Eyewear. The latest ANSI Z87.1-2015 standards specify that safety prescription eyewear meet stringent design, structural and lens retention requirements.

Often times, ECPs overlook the role they can play in the SRx category. It’s true that larger employers, those with 500 or more employees, often work their safety programs directly with larger supplier/lab networks. But for hundreds of thousands of small to mid-sized employers across the country, some have formal coverage programs while others could benefit from the programs that make access to ANZI approved eyewear easier. The larger safety companies and ophthalmic labs have been working to make it easier for eyecare professionals to take part and serve the eye protection needs of those employees.

Today, in addition to a more diversified and style-right mix of products that appeal to workers, there are programs that enable ECPs to work directly with employers or in tandem with lab and specialty partners in the category. These programs can meet the needs of workers on-site, prepare them and their associates to meet the needs of safety client workers coming into their practices or dispensaries to inquire about products and/or facilitate their use of safety kits that make promoting SRx as a second pair to the streetwear customer.

Hoya has significantly expanded its Hoya Safety Division (the company acquired the former 3M safety business over a year ago) to better serve its growing range of clients but also to help the three Os take part through its Eyes on Safety program, which assists ECPs in the development of a program.

According to Bruce Scott, VP and general manager for Hoya Global Safety division, “We drive a lot of employees and patients to ECPs for dispensing. Many large customers go with a direct program where we send people to their facilities but in other instances we drive employees to dispensers. The Eyes on Safety program features a range of Hoya lenses and safety frames and Hoya pays a dispensing fee to fit and dispense and so this greatly enhances profitability options for those ECPs who take part.”

In addition to facilitating access, the product solutions within Rx Safety have been expanded in recent years.

Hilco Vision continues to innovate its OnGuard safety eyewear brand with the ever growing market of “sport wrap” styles and fashionable safety eyewear. Noted Kelly Piotti, safety product manager for Hilco, “We find that employees want to look and feel good on the job and eyewear is a very personal choice. Allowing employees to choose what works for their personality will ensure that they maintain compliance on the job.

“We have found over the years that if safety frames are dictated, employees are more likely to not wear them at all times. We sometimes see eyewear propped on the head or off because it’s uncomfortable or ‘ugly.’ Our newest innovations of the OG240S, OG225S, OG255S and the Elite collection have made significant strides in allowing users to feel confident, comfortable and compliant in the workplace.

Karen Wilkerson, director of optical sales at Wiley X, described the company’s mission “to provide protective eyewear for all walks of life. More than ever, we are investing heavily in Rx technology so that we can provide eyecare professionals and their patients with stylish and functional prescription eyewear.”

Wilkerson noted that the company is expanding its WorkSight collection and will add new styles next month. “These frames are a combination of metal fronts with plastic temples. They are so fashionable they can easily be mistaken for an everyday pair of eyeglasses, but are actually safety certified and pass the ANSI standard when worn with side shields.”

John E. McMahan, senior director, Essilor Prescription Safety Eyewear, pointed out that the company’s programs feature “Essilor’s industry-leading premium lens brands and technology, recognized safety frame brands, dedicated and experienced customer service and extensive U.S. lab network to offer on-site and off-site management programs for safety clients.”

He added, “We feel the strength of program, products, and experience that Essilor Prescription Safety Eyewear offers would be a good fit for anyone who requires prescription safety eyewear and wants to work with a professional company who has a sincere desire to promote eye health and wants to prevent eye disease/damage and eye injury.”

Companies who focus on the safety space encourage ECPs to consider expanding their services in the Rx safety category. They emphasize that taking part in Rx safety increases patient traffic, strengthens a community presence for the practice and further builds a stronger and loyal patient base among workers and their families.