On sunny days, sunglasses are important for working on the bridge or the open deck. Seafarers can be dazzled and potentially suffer damage to their eyes when bright light is reflected off the calm sea, ice caps or even items on the vessel.
It is important that seafarers protect their eyes under such conditions. This isn’t a trivial matter and the issue was brought to light in the recent amendments to the UK Code of Safe Working Practices for Merchant Seafarers (COSWP). A new section in the Code provides guidance on the purchase and wearing of sunglasses for seafarers working in certain conditions.
The Right Protection
Not all sunglasses afford the right protection. When providing sunglasses to seafarers, consider the following recommendations that have been recently included in COSWP:
- Lens tints should be neutral. Brown or grey are best as they cause the least colour distortion.
- Lens tints should be no darker than 80% absorption.
- Graduated lens tint may be useful, where the darkest of the lens is at the top and lighter toward the bottom of the lens.
- Select frames that are well fitting and large enough to allow enough protection from the sun. Avoid wearing sunglasses on top of prescription glasses – it is much safer to obtain prescription sunglasses.
- Choose sunglasses that meet a recognised standard and offer a safe level of ultraviolet protection.
- Avoid the use of sunglasses with polarised lenses, particularly when viewing instrument panels as they don’t always provide a clear view. However, these lenses can help when navigating in shallow waters as they can reduce glare from surrounding water.
The Code reminds seafarers that glasses with photochromic lenses (e.g. lenses that react and darken when exposed to UV light) must not be worn during darkness as they can significantly impair night vision.
Those working on the bridge can be further protected from the sun by installing sun screens on the wheelhouse windows.
Author: Holly Hughes