According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, each day about 2,000 U.S workers experience some sort of job-related eye injury that requires medical treatment. Some of these injuries are due to small particles or objects that come in contact with the eye and/or scratching it. These small particles could be anything from dust and wood chips to metal slivers.
Other injuries may result from:
- Solvent/chemical splashes
- Welder’s flash
- Eyeball laceration
- Corneal abrasions or conjunctivitis
- Concrete or metal particles or slivers embedded in the eye
- Facial contusions and black eyes
It is possible any eye injury could result in vision loss. Approximately 10-20% of eye injuries will result in temporary or permanent loss of vision. This could be a devastating injury and simple measures can be taken to prevent these injuries from occurring.
Preventing eye injuries in the workplace can be achieved through two methods:
- Personal protective equipment (PPE) – eye goggles, shields or other devices worn by the employee
- Engineering controls – machine or equipment guards or enclosures
The protection you choose for your employees should be made after completion of a careful and thorough hazard assessment. This will assist you in identifying the hazards that are associated with the job’s tasks. Remember that even a great PPE choice might not be effective if you have not built in engineering controls to your workspaces. Any employee working in an environment or on a job where eye hazards cannot be completely eliminated through engineering controls must have the appropriate eye protection in order to avoid an injury.
Eye protection should fit and be comfortable to the individual. Go to the Occupation and Safety Health Administration’s online tool for selecting proper PPE for eye and face protection.
All protective eyewear used in the workplace must be American National Standards Institute (ANSI) Z87.1 certified. Examples of eye protection include:
- Face shields
- Safety glasses (with shields)
- Full face respirators
- Welding helmets
Remember face shields should not be used as the primary type of protection. Safety glasses or goggles should be used in conjunction with face shields.
It is also important that you install an ANSI approved eyewash station and train your employees on how to use the station. There should be first aid instructions posted close to potential danger spots. If something gets into an employee’s eye, you should flush it with clean water for at least 15-20 minutes and seek medical attention. If however, your employee’s eye is cut or punctured, NEVER rinse or wash and do not touch your eye or lift the upper lid, seeking immediate medical attention.
You should provide good work practices for your employees, stressing caution in the work place. Make it a habit to instruct employees to remove all dust and debris from hard hats, hair, forehead, and/or top of eye protection before removing. Encourage them to never rub their eyes with dirty hands or clothing. It is essential to remember that even though you might not be performing the job you should still protect yourself around the area in which the job is being done.
You should not only be aware of dangers that could cause an eye injury but also be aware of germs. Diseases spread fastest through the eyes so encourage your employees to wash their hands frequently and avoid touching their eyes.
Here is a checklist to share with your employees to ensure they have a safe workday:
Do you have your safety glasses and/or other appropriate PPE?
Have you been properly trained in the use and care of your PPE?
Are they handy?
Are they in good clean condition?
Do they fit properly?
Do you know where the nearest eyewash stations are from your work area?
Do you know how to get medical attention if needed?