Contact Lenses

Policy Perspective

Historically, Michigan State University has prohibited its employees from wearing contact lenses in chemical environments (MSU Chemical Hygiene Plan 2.2.F). Recent research and industry recommendation indicate that contact lens wear does not increase risks, but can minimize or prevent injury in a majority of eye hazardous situations.

Policy

Contact lens wear in university laboratories is permitted, except where noted in “Policy Exceptions” below.

Guidelines

The principal investigator and/or Chemical Hygiene Officer must enforce the use of appropriate eye protection at all times, regardless of contact lens use in the laboratory.

Principal investigators and laboratory workers must consult material safety data sheets (MSDS) or the Office of Environmental Health and Safety to note any contraindications to wearing contact lenses prior to working with chemicals.

Individual principal investigators have the final responsibility and authority to determine whether or not employees may wear contact lenses within individual research laboratories.

Within undergraduate teaching laboratories, the department chair has the final responsibility and authority to determine whether or not students may wear contact lenses.

Exceptions

The following federal regulations prohibit the wear of contact lenses while using the following chemicals:

  • Methylene chloride (29 CFR 1910.1052)
  • 1,2-dibromo-3-chloropropane (29 CFR 1910.1044)
  • Acrylonitrile (29 CFR 1910.1045)
  • Ethylene oxide (29 CFR 1910.1047),
  • Methylenedianiline (29 CFR 1910.1050)

And as prohibited by Principal Investigators and Departmental Chairs in individual and departmental laboratories as outlined in “Policy Guidelines” above.

Policy Rationale

Several prominent occupational medicine organizations issued revised guidelines on the use of contact lenses in the chemical workplace.

The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) reviewed these updated guidelines, current industry policy, eye injuries involving contact lenses, and published literature on chemical absorption and adsorption of contact lenses.
In response, NIOSH issued Current Intelligence Bulletin #59, recommending that workers be permitted to wear contact lenses when handling hazardous chemicals, provided: employers follow the guidelines contained in Current Information Bulletin #59, contact lens use is not banned by regulation, and contact lens use is not contraindicated by medical or safety recommendations.

The rationale for this recommendation is that wearing contact lenses provides workers with a greater choice of eye and face protection, as well as better visual acuity.

Corollary policy change

MSU Chemical Hygiene Plan 2.3, change to:

“There shall be no food drink, smoking, applying cosmetics or changing contact lenses in laboratories which have radioactive materials, biohazardous materials or hazardous chemicals present.”

Referenced documents

  • Schulte P, Ahlers H, Jackson L, et al. Current Intelligence Bulletin 59: Contact lens use in a chemical environment. National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health 2005.
  • American Optometric Association Occupational Vision Manual. St. Louis, MO: AOA, 2002
  • Code of Federal Regulations-Parts 1910 and 1926 Respiratory protection final rule. Fed Reg. Vol. 63. no 5

As proposed and amended by

Bob Ceru, Chemical Hygiene Officer, Michigan State University

Michigan State University Chemical Hygiene Subcommittee July 1, 2010