Eye Safety In The Workplace
We’ve all felt the same way about protective eyewear at one point or another: They’re uncomfortable, the fog up easily and they definitely don’t look cool. We’ve all wondered, are these things really necessary? The answer is yes. Sure, you may know the ins and outs of your job like a master who can’t make a mistake, but what happens on the day the machine malfunctions or a careless co-worker fails to set up the workspace properly. That’s when the unthinkable happens.
Unfortunately, failure to wear proper protective gear is common among employees who work with potentially hazardous tools or equipment. This oversight is often the cause of many eye injuries that occur on the job. Eye injuries happen all too often, usually in settings and situations we have become too comfortable in. A shocking 2,000 U.S. workers sustain job-related eye injuries daily. Additionally, more than 100 of them will result in one or more days of missed work.
Frequent Workplace Eye Injuries
Our eyes are very delicate. Something as minor as an unintended eye poke may cause pain. You may notice your vision getting blurry, cloudy or you may start seeing double. Eye injuries in the workplace can range from minor eye strains to more severe trauma resulting in lifelong damage, such as permanent vision loss.
One of the most common eye injuries in the workplace is a foreign object entering the eye. For example, tools eject flying debris such as metal chips that get lodged in the eyes. If this happens, the cornea is at risk of being cut or scraped causing life-altering damage. Surgery may be required to extract the foreign object as they tend to be smaller than the head of a pin.
Other common causes of eye injuries in the workplace include:
- Chemical burns often occur among welders. The chemical fumes will damage the worker’s eyes and surrounding tissue making scarring, infection and permanent loss of vision a possibility.
- Nails, staples, wood or metal puncturing the eyeball makes permanent loss of vision highly likely.
- Splashes of grease and oil have the potential of burning the eyes.
- Radiation, especially visible light, ultraviolet radiation, and lasers can cause temporary vision loss. However, it may take 24 hours for the extent of the eye injury to be known.
Regardless of how the eye injury occurred or the type of eye injury, it is important to watch for signs of an eye infection.
High-Risk Eye Injury Occupations
The types of eye injuries one is at risk of running into while in the workplace will depend on the type of work the employee performs. For example, a carpenter may risk a staple piercing their eyeball while a mechanic may risk getting brake fluid in the eyes. Occupations involving a high-risk of eye injury include:
- Auto repair
- Electrical work
Preventing Eye Injuries In The Workplace
Experts believe that about 90 percent of work-related eye injuries are preventable. There are various ways in which you can prevent injuries to your eyes while at work.
1. Be aware of the eye safety dangers in your workplace. Identify potential hazards to the eyes in all work areas, access routes, as well as equipment.
2. Create a safe work environment. Eliminate hazards that are likely to cause harm such as sharp objects that could puncture an eye if someone walks by or harmful dust that was not cleaned up after a previous task was performed.
3. Do not remove protective eyewear until all dangers are gone. Shake or vacuum dust and debris from your face and hair to avoid small particles falling in your eye. Further, don’t rub your eyes with dirty hands or clothing as many dangerous particles are not immediately visible.
4. Keep your protective eyewear in good condition. Clean your eyewear regularly, and if they are not in good condition, it is time for a new set.
5. Create protective eyewear only zones. Keep any bystanders away from potentially hazardous areas. Anyone passing through work areas that pose potential eye injuries should also wear protective eyewear.
6. Be ready in case of an emergency. Know where there is an eyewash station, especially if you work around chemicals.
7. Use the proper protection. Depending on the type of work you do, the most important tip is to use the correct eye protection including safety glasses, goggles, face shields, welding helmets or full-face respirators.
Choosing the Right Eye Protection
Eye injuries in the workplace occur for two main reasons:
1. Not wearing eye protection.
2. Wearing the incorrect eye protection for the job.
When shopping for the right protective eyewear, keep in mind that one size does not fit all. You will want to choose a pair that is the perfect balance of comfort, fit and performance. To make sure your protective eyewear stays in place comfortably and allows for sufficient peripheral vision try it on. In fact, experts recommend you have your eyewear fitted by an eye care professional.
Protective eyewear should meet the current standards from the Occupational Safety and Health Act. Remember that in some working conditions, multiple eye hazards are present. This means that you might want to get more than just one pair of protective eye equipment. It is important to choose protective eyewear designed for the specific duties and hazards that you work with. For example, if you are in areas:
- With flying objects or dust, you need to wear safety glasses that come with side shields.
- With chemicals, you need to wear goggles.
- Near hazardous radiation such as welding or fiber optics, you need special-purpose safety glasses, goggles and face shields designed for that specific task.
What lenses will work best for you
Protective eyewear lenses come with either glass, plastic or polycarbonate. Depending on the type of work you do, the type of lens you choose will greatly affect the effectiveness of protecting your eyes.
- Not easily scratched
- Can be used around harsh chemicals
- Come in prescription or non-prescription
- Can feel heavy and uncomfortable
- Are lighter weight
- Protect against welding splatter
- Not likely to fog
- Are not as scratch-resistant as glass
- Protect against welding splatter
- Not likely to fog
- Stronger than glass and plastic
- Are more impact resistant than glass or plastic
- Not as scratch resistant as glass
The U.S. Department Of Labor provides an e-tool for those needing additional help with choosing the proper eye and face protection equipment.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) reports:
- More than 700,000 Americans injure their eyes at work each year.
- Thousands of people are blinded each year from work-related eye injuries.
- Eye injuries cost more than $300 million annually in lost production time, medical expenses and workers compensation.
How The Carlson Law Firm can help
Any damage to our eyes has the potential to jeopardize our vision. Eye injuries can affect the ability to earn a living and enjoy a normal life. If you or a loved one has suffered an eye injury or lost their vision in the workplace, we can help you obtain maximum compensation to move forward with your life. Our firm will protect your rights and fight for the justice you deserve. The Carlson Law Firm’s Eye Injury Lawyers have more than 40 years of experience in proving liability in eye injury cases. We have the resources needed to prove liability and go up against insurance companies who will try and undervalue your claim.
- Written by Adriana Torres