The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) estimates that up to 1,000 occupational eye injuries occur every day in the U.S. workplace. This costs American employers roughly $300 million a year in Workers Compensation claims, production loss, and medical expenses.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported in a 1980 survey that three out of five workers who sustained an injury were not wearing personal eye protection when the injury occurred. Another 40% of workers injured were wearing some eye protection, such as protective eyeglasses, that did not include a side shield. The BLS survey also revealed that roughly 70% of eye injuries resulted from flying particles or sparks. Exposure to chemicals accounted for another 20% of eye injuries.
It is estimated that more than 90% of all eye injuries could have been avoided with the use of the appropriate eye protection.
Simple Steps to Reduce Eye Injuries
Reducing eye injuries in the workplace is a relatively simple matter. Here are some suggestions and ideas that you as an employer and worker can employ to reduce damage to this very precious sensory organ:
- Know the Dangers — Every employer should conduct a hazard assessment of their workplace. Hazards vary from minor dust, high impact particles to chemical splashes. It is not enough to provide eye protection; it is equally important to supply the right eye protection to suit the employment circumstances.
- Train Your Workers — Many workers simply don’t bother with wearing any eye protection at all. Almost half of injured workers said their employer neglected to tell them when to wear eye protection let alone the correct type of eye protection. By taking the time to educate your workers on the dangers posed in their jobs and enforcing protective measures, you can dramatically reduce unnecessary and avoidable eye injuries.
Using the Correct Eye Protection
Different jobs and trades require different eye protection. Here is a brief description of available eye protection:
- Safety Glasses which have side guards offer the least amount of protection. They are best used in minimal exposure areas with low amounts of dust, or limited exposure to flying chips or particles. There are different types available ranging from glass to plastic, but the latter is not very scratch resistant.
- Goggles/Glasses Hybrid offer superior protection from the affects of dust or impact particles because they possess a seal of either rubber or foam which prevents particulates from otherwise breeching exposed eyes. Workers who wear prescription eyeglasses which have non-safety lens are best advised to wear goggles.
- Face Shield Protection provides additional protection to the face and is especially valuable in guarding the entire face against chemical splashes, particles and chips. Face shields do NOT provide primary protection against eye injuries. They should almost always be used in conjunction with either goggles or safety glasses.
- Filtered Helmets or Goggles are best used when working with either laser or welding equipment. As many of these workers will need to lift these protective helmets frequently, it is also recommended that they be wearing either goggles or safety glasses to avoid eye damage from nearby workers such as grinders for example.
Preventing costly and needless eye injuries can easily be achieved simply by taking a little extra care and time to spot the dangers, educating your employees, and providing the right eye protection to suit the job.