Eye Safety at Work

By Shelby Jenuwine, Contributing Writer

Eye injuries in the workplace are fearfully prevalent. The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) reports that every day nearly 2,000 workers in the U.S. alone sustain job-related eye injuries that demand medical attention. Safety experts and eye doctors believe that using correct eye protection can decrease the severity or even prevent up to 90% of these injuries.

The most common work-related eye injuries include chemicals or foreign objects in the eye, as well as cuts or scrapes on the cornea. Other common eye injuries include:

  • Splashes from grease and oil;
  • Ultraviolet or infrared radiation exposure
  • Burns from steam; and
  • Airborne wood or metal chips.

In addition, healthcare workers, laboratory and janitorial personnel, and many other workers are at an increased risk of acquiring infectious diseases from eye exposure. Many infectious diseases are transmitted through the mucus membrane of the eye. This transmission can occur through direct exposure to blood, respiratory droplets produced during coughing, or touching the eyes with fingers or other objects that many be contaminated.

Workers experience eye injuries in the workplace for two major reasons:

  1. Failure to wear eye protection, and
  2. Wearing the incorrect form of protection for the job.

A Bureau of Labor Statistics survey of workers who endured eye injuries revealed that nearly three out of five workers were not wearing eye protection at the time of the injury. Many of these workers reported that they believed eye protection was not mandatory for the job.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) requires workers to wear face and eye protection whenever there is reasonable likelihood of injury that could be prevented by implementing safety equipment. Personal protective eyewear (PPE), such as safety glasses, goggles, face shields or full-face respirators must be used when an eye hazard exists. The type of eye protection individuals should wear is dependent on the hazards in the workplace, circumstances of exposure, other protective measures in place and the individual vision needs. If working in an area that has particulates, airborne objects or dust, individuals must wear safety glass with side protection, also known as side shields. When working with chemicals, safety goggles must be worn.

To prevent an eye injury in the workplace it is important to know the eye safety dangers. To help better understand the dangers an eye hazard assessment can be completed.