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In practically any industrial setting, requiring workers to wear protective eyewear is almost always a good idea.
Eye injuries are one of the most common workplace injuries. Nearly 2,000 US workers sustain on the job eye injuries that require medical treatment each year, according to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health. That’s more than 30 workers per day!
But if those workers had been wearing eye protective gear, about 90% of those accidents could have been either prevented or the severity of their injuries substantially lessened.
Causes of Eye Injuries
Let’s face it: Industrial settings are dangerous places. In warehouses, manufacturing facilities and other workplaces, potential for eye injuries come from:
- Projectiles — Dust, concrete, metal, wood and other particles
- Chemicals — Splashes and fumes
- Radiation — Visible light, ultraviolet radiation, heat or infrared radiation, and lasers
- Bloodborne Pathogens — Hepatitis, HIV, body fluids, and blood
Industries with the highest risk for eye injuries include construction, factory work, mining, carpentry, auto repair, electrical work, plumbing, welding, and maintenance workers.
Types of Protective Eyewear
Many workplaces require employees to wear protective eyewear whenever they are on the job or in a work zone. But these rules are not always enforced, even though they should be.
The type of eyewear that is required generally depends on the types of hazards found in the workplace. For example, areas that have a lot of flying particles, objects, and dust usually require safety glasses that have side protections, or side shields.
People who work around chemicals may need to wear goggles. And those who work around hazardous radiation — including welding, lasers, and fiber optics — often are required to use special-purpose protective eyewear, goggles, face shields, or even helmets that are specifically designed for the task at hand.
What Management Can Do
Besides enforcing rules requiring the use of protective eyewear, management can reduce the number of eye injuries and improve workplace safety by conducting a comprehensive eye hazard assessment of the workplace.
Any potential eye hazards should be removed or limited to acceptable levels of risk. If employees are required to wear protective eyewear, employers should provide the appropriate personal protective equipment.
Responding to Eye Injuries
Should an eye injury occur in the workplace, immediate urgent care is often required.
For chemicals in the eye, flush the eye with water for at least 15 minutes. If an emergency eyewash station is not available, place the victim’s eye under a faucet or shower, use a garden hose, or pour water into the eye from a clean container.
Don’t try to neutralize the chemicals with other substances and don’t try to bandage the eye. Contact emergency medical personnel immediately and continue flushing the eye until they arrive.
For particles in the eye, try not to rub the eye. Instead, let the body’s natural tear ducts wash the particle out or wash out the eye using an artificial tear solution.
If the particle doesn’t wash out on its own, lift the upper eyelid outward and down over the lower eyelid and remove the particle manually. If the particle still cannot be removed, keep the eye closed, bandage it tightly and seek medical care.