Eye injuries at workplace cost annually an estimated $300 million in lost productivity, medical treatment and worker compensation, according to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). About 300,000 Americans go to the emergency room every year due to an on- the -job eye injury, with 40 percent of all eye injuries coming from manufacturing, construction and mining, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
October is Eye Injury Prevention Month. Employers are obliged by the law to provide their employees with appropriate protective eyewear. In fact, wearing proper protective eyewear at work can prevent more than 90 percent of serious eye injuries.
Discover the eye dangers
The most common causes for eye injuries at workplace are:
- Flying objects (bits of metal, glass);
- Any combination of these or other hazards.
How to protect your eyes
It is not difficult to help prevent an eye injury at workplace. All you have to do is to:
- Be aware of the eye safety dangers at work.
- Wear appropriate eye protection.
- Get rid of hazards before starting to work by using machine guarding, work screens or other engineering controls.
What type of eye protection should I use?
The hazards in your workplace will determine the type of safety eye protection needed. However, these protection measures should be in compliance with OSHA regulations for eye and face protection. When your working area has particles, flying objects or dust, you have to wear safety glasses with side protection (side shields). If you handle chemicals, you must wear goggles. Finally, if you are exposed to hazardous radiation (welding, lasers or fiber optics) you should use special-purpose safety glasses, goggles, face shields or helmets designed for that task.
Learn more about the types of filter lenses required for specific welding and cutting activities (PDF 181 KB), and cautions about the danger of eye irritation from welding fumes (PDF 405 KB) at the official OSHA’s webpage.
How to identify an eye injury
Eye injuries may cause severe vision loss, so it’s very important to have the ability to identify an injury and properly respond to it. Unfortunately, you cannot always immediately recognize a serious eye injury. Each of these signs in yourself or someone else should alert you to get medical help as soon as possible. Visit the nearest doctor or hospital when you or a co-worker has:
- Obvious pain or trouble seeing
- A cut or torn eyelid
- Blood in the clear part of the eye
- Something in the eye or under the eyelid that can’t be easily removed
- One eye does not move as well as the other.
- One eye sticks out compared to the other.
- The eye has an unusual pupil size or shape.
As a general advice, always wear an OSHA-compliant eye safety, which has also been approved by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) to meet their eye protection standards and avoid treating a serious eye injury yourself.
In case of an eye injury on the job, give the injured person suitable first aid and go immediately to an ophthalmologist or to the emergency room, even if the eye injury seems minor. Delaying medical attention can result in permanent vision loss or blindness.