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Keeping Your Eyes Safe While at Work

According to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), approximately 2,000 U.S. workers have job-related eye injuries requiring medical attention every day. Eye doctors and safety professionals believe that using proper eye protection while at work could minimize the severity and lesson the number of eye injuries occurring in the workplace by up to 90 percent. In addition to the physical impact of work related eye injuries, the vision council reports an estimated $300 million is spent annually on medical treatment, compensation and downtime.

Eye Hazards in the Workplace

Potential eye hazards can be found in almost every industry. While injuries are most common in manufacturing and construction jobs, they can also occur in offices, health care facilities, and other types of workplaces. Some common causes of eye injury include:

  • Projectiles (dust, concrete, metal, wood and other particles)
  • Chemicals (splashes and fumes)
  • Bloodborne pathogens from blood and other body fluids
  • Radiation (ultraviolet radiation, heat or infrared radiation and lasers)
Prevention

In order to help protect yourself from eye injuries at work, there are 4 basic guidelines to remember:

  • Know the safety dangers at your workplace
  • Eliminate any possible hazard before working, such as using machine guards, screens, or other engineering controls
  • Use proper eye protection
  • Always keep your safety eyewear in good condition

The proper use of eye protection can help alleviate many potential injuries. OSHA (The Occupational Safety and Health Administration) requires the use of eye protection whenever the use of such protection could prevent eye injuries. Safety eyewear options vary and the type used is dictated by the type of potential hazard and exposure. Some options for protective eyewear include:

  • Non-prescription (plano) and prescription (nonplano) safety glasses
  • Goggles
  • Face Shields
  • Welding helmets
  • Full-face respirators

NIOSH's Eye Safety Checklist

Make sure that the eyewear provided is comfortable to wear, does not impede peripheral vision, and is adjustable to provide a proper fit. Keep your safety glasses clean to ensure proper visibility.

It is every employer's responsibility to assess potential eye hazards and take measures to ensure their employees' safety. Emergency eyewash stations may also be required in high exposure areas. For additional eye safety ideas, click here for NIOSH's Eye Safety Checklist.

Emergency Care

If an eye injury occurs, take the following steps immediately to help prevent permanent damage to the eye:

  • Never try to remove a foreign object from your eye or from the eye of a co-worker
  • Seek eye care from a medical professional immediately.
  • Protect the eye from further damage with a folded cloth over it until medical attention can be obtained
  • Bandage any cuts around the eye to prevent infection or contamination, but never apply a bandage directly over the eye.
  • In case of a chemical burn, flush the eye immediately. If an eyewash station is not available, place the eye under a shower, faucet or garden hose, or pour water over the eye from a clean container.
  • Don't remove contact lenses, begin flushing the eye immediately. Flushing the eye may safely wash the lens out of the eye.

Remember, eye safety at work is everyone's business. If you see a potential hazard, don't hesitate to report it to your safety director or manager. Always use eye protection, your employer can provide all the tools necessary to help protect you from injury, but it will only work if you take individual responsibility and use it. You are the only person who can ensure you are doing everything possible to protect your eyes at all times. It's easy to replace safety glasses or goggles, but you are only given one set of eyes, so do everything you can to protect them!