Eye and Face Protection
Regulation 29 CFR 1926.102
Enforcement from October 2018-September 2019
Total citations: 1,698
Total inspections: 1,691
Total proposed penalties: $4,372,282
Most Frequently Violated OSHA Standard Ranking–Number 10
Industries most often violating eye and face protection requirements:
Specialty Trade Contractors $4,099,758
Construction of Buildings $216,923
Merchant Wholesalers, Durable Goods $12,472
Administrative and Support Services $12,155
Heavy and Civil Engineering Construction $12,125
Waste Management and Remediation Services $6,203
Truck Transportation $6,251
Wood Product Manufacturing $2,500
Fabricated Metal Product Manufacturing $2,046
Thousands of people are blinded each year from work-related eye injuries that could have been prevented with the proper selection and use of eye and face protection.
Each day, approximately 2,000 U.S. workers sustain a job-related eye injury that requires medical treatment. About one third of the injuries are treated in hospital emergency departments, and more than 100 of these injuries result in one or more days away from work. OSHA requires employers to ensure the safety of all employees in the work environment. Eye and face protection must be provided, whenever necessary, to protect against chemical, environmental, radiological or mechanical irritants and hazards.
How do eye injuries happen to workers?
Striking or scraping: The majority of eye injuries result from small particles or objects striking or scraping the eye, such as dust, cement chips, metal slivers and wood chips. These materials are often ejected by tools; are windblown; or fall from above a worker. Large objects may also strike the eye or face, or a worker may run into an object—causing blunt-force trauma to the eyeball or eye socket.
Penetration: Objects like nails, staples, or slivers of wood or metal can go through the eyeball and result in a permanent loss of vision.
Chemical and thermal burns: Industrial chemicals or cleaning products are common causes of chemical burns to one or both eyes. Thermal burns to the eye also occur, often among welders. These burns routinely damage workers’ eyes and surrounding tissue.
How do workers acquire eye diseases?
Eye diseases are often transmitted through the mucous membranes of the eye as a result of direct exposure to things like blood splashes; droplets from coughing or sneezing; or from touching the eyes with a contaminated finger or object. Eye diseases can result in minor reddening or soreness of the eye or in a life-threatening disease, such as HIV, hepatitis B virus or avian influenza. [Editor’s note: COVID-19 is, of course, now top-of-mind for all industrial hygienists and safety professionals.]
What can workers do to prevent eye injury and disease?
Wear personal protective eyewear, such as goggles, face shields, safety glasses or full-face respirators.
The eye protection chosen for specific work situations depends upon the nature and extent of the hazard; the circumstances of exposure; other protective equipment used; and personal vision needs. Eye protection should be fit to an individual or adjustable to provide appropriate coverage. It should be comfortable and allow for sufficient peripheral vision.
What can employers do to prevent worker eye injury and disease?
Employers can ensure engineering controls are used to reduce eye injuries and to protect against ocular infection exposures. Employers can also conduct a hazard assessment to determine the appropriate type of protective eyewear appropriate for a given task.
Infection Control Q & A
Infectious diseases can be transmitted through various mechanisms, among which are infections that can be introduced through the mucous membranes of the eye (conjunctiva).
What types of eye protection should be worn?
The eye protection chosen for specific work situations depends upon the circumstances of exposure, other PPE used and personal vision needs. There is wide variety in the types of protective eyewear, and appropriate selection should be based on a number of factors—the most important of which is the nature and extent of the hazard.
Eye protection must be comfortable and allow for sufficient peripheral vision and must be adjustable to ensure a secure fit. It may be necessary to provide several different types, styles and sizes. Selection of protective eyewear appropriate for a given task should be made from an evaluation of each activity, including regulatory requirements, when applicable. These hazard assessments require a clear understanding of the work tasks, including knowledge of the potential routes of exposure and the opportunities for exposure in the task assessed (nature and extent of worker contact). Exposure incident reports should be reviewed to identify those incidents (whether or not infection occurred) that could have been prevented by the proper use of protective eyewear.
How should potentially contaminated eye protection be removed?
Eye protection should be removed by handling only the portion of this equipment that secures the device to the head (i.e., plastic temples, elasticized band, ties), as this is considered relatively “clean.” The front and sides of the device (i.e., goggles, face shield) should not be touched, as these are the surfaces most likely to become contaminated by sprays, splashes or droplets during patient care. Non-disposable eye protection should be placed in a designated receptacle for subsequent cleaning and disinfection. The sequence of PPE removal should follow a defined regimen that should be developed by infection-control staff and take into consideration the need to remove other PPE. (See donning and removing PPE).
Is it safe for others to reuse my eye protection?
Safety eyewear is generally not disposable and must be disinfected before reuse. Where possible, each individual worker should be assigned his/her own eye protection to ensure appropriate fit and to minimize the potential of exposing the next wearer. A labeled container for used (potentially contaminated) eye protection should be available in the HCW change-out/locker room. Eye protection deposited here can be collected, disinfected, washed and then reused.