Eye injuries happen at work. According to the NIOSH (National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health) around 2,000 people in the United States sustain vision-threatening eye injuries on the job every day. Injuries to the eyes at work include chemical and grease splashes, steam burns, ultraviolet radiation exposure, and flying pieces of wood or metal. Severe eye damage is often caused by actual cuts and scrapes to the eye itself.
Besides serious eye injuries, workers may also be at risk of developing diseases from eye exposure. Some infectious diseases can be transmitted through the mucous membranes of the eye. Direct exposure to blood splashes, respiratory droplets from coughing, or from touching the eyes with contaminated fingers or other objects are often culprits. The good news is that safety experts and eye doctors believe eye protection lessens the severity of many eye injuries and in many cases even prevents them.
Why Eye Injuries Happen at Work
Eye injuries happen at work for two main reasons:
- not wearing eye protection
- wearing the wrong kind of eye protection.
A Bureau of Labor Statistics survey determined nearly 3 out of 5 workers who received eye injuries were not wearing eye protection at the time of the accident. In most of these cases, the workers believed that eye protection was not required for the task they were involved in. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) requires that workers use eye and face protection at all times if there is a reasonable probability of injury that could be prevented. Personal protective eyewear, including goggles, face shields, safety glasses, or full-face respirators must be used when an eye hazard exists. Proper eye protection depends on the type of hazard, the circumstances of exposure, and individual vision needs.
Potential Eye Hazards at Work
Whenever a risk for eye injury exists on the job, proper eye protection must be used. Keep in mind that some jobs may include more than one potential eye hazard. Protection is needed if any of the following eye hazards are present:
- Projectile objects like metal, wood, dust, concrete, etc.
- Chemical splashes and fumes
- Radiation from ultraviolet light, heat or infrared radiation from lasers
- Blood borne pathogens from blood and body fluids
Some jobs pose more of a vision hazard than others. The following occupations have a high risk for sustaining eye injuries:
- Auto repair
How to Protect Your Eyes on the Job
The most important element in protecting your eyes in the workplace is to be aware that risk of injury exists.
Things that can help keep your eyes safe at work:
- Eliminate hazards at the beginning of the day by using machine guards, work screens or other engineering controls.
- Use proper eye protection.
- Keep your safety eyewear in good condition.
- Replace damaged safety eyewear.
March is Workplace Eye Wellness month. Advanced Eyecare Optometry will be visiting all you need to know throughout the month to help keep your eyes safe and healthy!
For more helpful eye care and vision care tips, please visit our main blog page.