Each day, your eyes face a perilous world filled with hazardous objects. Consider this: One small flying object, a chemical splatter, or the wrong dust-sized particle and one or both of your eyes could be rendered useless. Although our eyelids provide some barrier from these harmful objects and materials, we have to be forewarned in order for the lids to close and protect them and sometimes, that is just not possible. According to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), about 2,000 workers in the United States suffer a work-related eye injury requiring medical treatment each day. Thirty-three percent of these injuries are treated in the emergency room and 5% of them result in missed work. NIOSH has found that the vast majority of these injuries are the result of something as simple as a small object or particle striking or scratching the eye.
Although this type of injury does not always result in vision loss, the pain, expense, and inconvenience of the injuries lead many to wish they had taken the small precautions that could have prevented the injury. Often, the simple safety measures available that would have prevented the injury were ignored because the “It won’t happen to me” mentality was adopted. Taking the right steps toward keeping your eyes safe from painful injuries is easy as long as you know how to assess and minimize your exposure and wear proper safety equipment.
Assess Your Exposure
Your work area is the primary location for an eye-related injury. Luckily, it is a relatively easy space for you to clean and control. Monitor and clean your work area of any loose particles of sawdust, metal shards, or any other material. Keep any chemicals sealed and clean up spills immediately. Your workplace should have written instructions for maintaining your work area. Be sure to follow these instructions daily.
Select Proper Safety Equipment
There are many options for protective gear. Although some protect just your eyes, others can protect your entire face and head. These options include:
- Face shields
When you are working with chemicals that could splatter and cause chemical burns on your face, goggles or glasses will not offer enough protection. Instead, opt for a face shield. Helmets are useful when you have unpredictable elements like the sparks from welding. There are many different materials that protective lenses can be made of including:
- Polycarbonate lenses
- Glass lenses
- Plastic lenses
Although each of these lenses is helpful in protecting against eye injury, Polycarbonate lenses are stronger and better able to stand up to heavy impact. However, they are more prone to scratching than glass, so be sure to store them properly.