March is Workplace Eye Wellness Month and although there’s alot more to eye wellness at work today we are just going to be focusing on eye safety and protection at work!
Eye injuries in the workplace are common. The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) reports every day around 2,000 U.S. workers sustain job-related eye injuries that require medical treatment. Safety experts and eye doctors believe the right eye protection can help lessen the severity or even prevent 90% of these eye injuries.
Workers can experience on-the-job eye injuries for two major reasons:
- Failing to wear proper eye protection.
- Wearing the wrong kind of protection for the job.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics surveyed workers who suffered eye injuries revealing that nearly 3 out of 5 were not wearing eye protection at the time of the accident. And those same workers reported that they believed protection was not required for the situation.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) requires workers to use eye and face protection whenever there is a reasonable probability of injury that could be prevented by such equipment. Personal protective eyewear, such as goggles, face shields, safety glasses or full face respirators must be used when an eye hazard exists. The necessary eye protection depends upon the type of hazard, the circumstances of exposure, other protective equipment used and individual vision needs.
Eye Hazards at Work
Workplace eye protection is required when the following eye hazards are present:
- Projectiles such as dust, concrete, metal, wood and other particles.
- Chemicals that can splash and create fumes.
- Radiation most especially visible light, ultraviolet radiation, heat or infrared radiation, and lasers.
- Blood-borne pathogens such as hepatitis or HIV from blood and body fluids.
- Computer vision syndrome or computer eye strain.
Many working conditions include multiple eye hazards. Proper eye protection takes all hazards into account.
Occupations at High Risk
- Construction, Carpentry, Electrical, Plumbing
- Mechanical, Manufacturing, Welding
- Auto Repair
Types of Safety Eye Protection
Types of safety eye protection to wear depends on the hazards in your workplace:
- When working in an area that has particles, flying objects or dust, you must at least wear safety glasses with side protection (side shields).
- If you are working with chemicals, you must wear goggles.
- If you are working near hazardous radiation (welding, lasers or fiber optics) you must use special-purpose safety glasses, goggles, face shields or helmets designed for that task.
Know the requirements for your work environment. Side shields placed on your conventional (dress) glasses do not provide enough protection to meet the OSHA requirement for many work environments.
Additionally, your employer is required to take necessary steps to ensure that their work environment as safe as possible. Their steps include:
- Conducting eye hazard assessment
- Removing or reducing eye hazards wherever and whenever possible
- Providing all the appropriate safety eyewear and requiring employees to wear it
Your doctor of optometry can assist your employer and you in evaluating potential eye hazards in your workplace and determining what type of eye protection may be needed.
What You Can Do
Four things you can do to protect your eyes from injury are:
- Be aware of all the eye safety dangers at your work.
- Be sure to eliminate hazards before starting work by using machine guards, work screens or other engineering controls.
- Always use proper eye protection.
- Keep your safety eyewear in good condition and replace if it becomes damaged.
Your selection of protective eyewear that is appropriate for your specific task should be made based on your employers hazard assessment of each activity.