Each year, more than 300,000 Americans visit emergency rooms with workplace eye injuries. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that these injuries cost an estimated $300 million dollars annually in lost productivity, medical treatment and workers’ compensation fees.
- Workplace eye injuries range from simple strains to severe trauma, which can cause pain, damage and even blindness.
- Almost 40 percent of these injuries occur in construction, manufacturing and mining. Nearly three-quarters of them are due to flying or falling objects, most of which are particles smaller than the head of a pin.
- Many workers who suffer eye injuries do so because they didn’t realize they needed eye protection or were wearing inadequate protection.
- The most telling statistic is that 90 percent of workplace eye injuries are preventable.
It takes a minimum of effort and common sense to prevent your workers from potentially devastating eye injuries.
The Importance of PPE
Personal protective equipment (PPE) is a critical component of your effective safety program. Wearing appropriate eye protection is the single best way to ward off workplace injuries.
- Be safe, not sorry. Make sure workers are in full compliance with PPE policies at all times. Eye protection is necessary wherever there is a chance of flying debris, falling objects, chemicals, or intense heat or light. This is especially important for anyone involved in or working near welding.
- Eye protection should be American National Standards Institute (ANSI) approved. It also must be appropriate for the hazards associated with a specific work site. Employees in areas with particles, flying objects or excessive dust should, at the very least, wear safety glasses with side shields. Those who work with chemicals should wear goggles. And if working near hazardous radiation, workers must use special-purpose safety glasses, face shields or helmets designed for the specific task.
Maintain a Safe Work Environment
Make yours a safety culture by minimizing hazards and making PPE compliance a way of life. Enforce consistent discipline to reinforce the message that safety is not a matter to be taken lightly.
- Minimize hazards. Implement processes to protect workers from falling or unstable objects. Make sure all tools work properly, that relevant safety procedures are in place, and that employees are trained in their proper use. Keep bystanders out of hazardous areas.
- Follow smart safety practices. Workers should always brush, shake or vacuum dust and debris from their hardhats, hair, forehead or eyebrows before removing their safety glasses. They should never rub their eyes with dirty hands or clothing. Safety eyewear should be kept clean and well maintained at all times.
- Have first aid procedures in place. Treatment varies depending on the nature of an eye injury. For instance, if there is a chemical burn, the eye should be flushed with plenty of clean water for at least 15 minutes. But in the event of an eye cut or puncture, rinsing the injury could be detrimental. Provide training and up-to-date information on steps to take if a coworker sustains an eye injury.