During the winter, people are incredibly cautious and take many measures to handle the turbulent weather, such as wearing clothing to stay warm and appropriate footwear to prevent slippage. However, it can be easy to overlook the problem of snow glare, since it is related to the Sun during a time when everybody is worried about the cold. Snow glare can be a major problem for worksite personnel, and even anybody else in their everyday routines.
UV is the most extreme when the Sun is at its highest inthe sky (generally between 10 am and 4 pm), and UV exposure is the greatest in the summer. Despite this, there are still powerful UV rays reaching us during the daytime in the winter, something that recent snowfall can make incredibly dangerous. In fact, snow reflects nearly 80 percent of the Sun’s rays that strike it, while beach sand, something that people often wear sunglasses while exposed to, only reflects 15 percent.
Snow glare, like all kinds of UV exposure, can lead to skin cancer and other skin-related diseases. However, this reflection of the majority of the Sun’s rays is one of the closest things to looking directly at the Sun itself, and thus can lead to significant eye damage. Hours of bright sunlight can temporarily damage the surface of the eye in a condition called photokeratitis, a “sunburn” of the eye. When this occurs from snow glare, it is called “snow blindness”, and is common during skiing, snowboarding, and mountain climbing, when the thin mountainous air allows UV rays to pass onto the vast reflective snow.
Despite its high prevalence in winter sports, snow blindness can occur anywhere that there is snow, but it is not the only ocular condition associated with solar reflectivity of snow. Over time, unprotected exposure to this can contribute to cataracts, cancer of the eyelids and the skin around the eyes, and, in individuals over 65, it increases the risk of macular degeneration.
Snow glare, just as cold air, wind, snow, and ice can pose additional hazards for personnel who operate outdoors, and winter weather considerations should be taken into account into a worker safety plan. Wearing goggles that are ANSI Z87.1 certified, due to adherence to the guidelines established in ANSI/ISEA Z87.1-2020 – American National Standard for Occupational and Educational Personal Eye and Face Protection Devices, gives these workers protection from the risks associated with snow glare and other winter weather exposure.
Appropriate eyewear can also be beneficial for people who are outside during the winter for any other reason. Sunglasses that can protect car drivers from snow glare can help to reduce the possibility of getting into an accident relating to the interference of sunlight.
For more information on ANSI Z87.1 certification, please see our past post on the latest revision of ANSI/ISEA Z87.1.