How Can I Avoid Eye Injuries at Work?

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Eye injuries are one of the most common types of injuries in the workplace. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that there are about 20,000 eye injuries that occur in the workplace each year. Approximately 2,000 people sustain a work-related eye injury each day in the United States, according to the CDC. These injuries result in an estimated $300 million in costs for medical care, lost productivity, and Workers’ Compensation collectively. 

Eye injuries can range from minor to severe enough to require time away from work. Some injuries can even lead to permanent damage. In fact, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) reports that thousands of people are blinded each year from work-related eye injuries.

The most common type of work-related eye injury involves foreign bodies or particles lodging in the eyes. Examples of such objects include shards of metal, wood splinters, plastic shavings, and crystalline silica. Other types of injuries involve various cuts, bruises, or other wounds that can be caused by power or lawn tools that slip or malfunction. Serious eye injuries can also be caused by hot sparks, chemical splashes, thermal burns, or radiation exposure.

Certain occupations have a higher risk for eye injuries, such as those involving construction, carpentry, manufacturing, mining, auto repair, electrical work, plumbing, welding, and general maintenance. 

However, it is not just workers in construction or industrial settings who are at risk for eye injuries. Office workers regularly deal with eye strain resulting from long periods of time looking at desktop, tablet, or cell phone screens. These eye strains can cause anything from dryness and discomfort to headaches and insomnia, which contribute to long-term health problems. 

In addition to traumatic eye injuries, it is also important to remember that certain workers are exposed to infectious diseases through their eyes in work-related accidents. Eyes have permeable mucous membranes that allow substances to pass through when exposed to certain substances. For example, when exposed to blood splashes and respiratory droplets of infected individuals, infectious diseases can be acquired through our eyes. Medical workers, EMT responders, and police officers often come into contact with blood. When blood splashes into the eye area, it can transmit diseases, such as HIV, hepatitis, and staph infections.

Preventing Eye Injuries at Work

The good news is, according to the American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO), 90 percent of eye injuries in the workplace are preventable. Taking preventive measures helps avoid such injuries, as well as reduce vision damage and overall health problems. Workers should always ensure that they wear the appropriate eyewear protection at work in order to prevent major eye injuries. 

There are several factors that determine the type of eyewear that is appropriate in the workplace, including the type of hazards workers are at risk of encountering. This includes the use of safety goggles, safety eyeglasses, face shields, helmets, and other occupational gear that is specifically designed to protect against flying debris, fiberoptics, or optical radiation exposure. Eyewear is especially beneficial when chemicals are used in the workplace. 

Safety eyewear should always be maintained in the proper condition. Workers should ensure that all safety eyewear is kept in the proper condition so that they can be fully protected against all hazardous conditions. The rationale behind wearing safety eyewear, such as safety-goggles and safety-glasses, is to be protected from flying debris and certain types of splashes. Therefore, all safety eyewear should be replaced if it becomes damaged.

Protective eyewear should also be tested to determine its impact and scratch resistance. Whatever type of protective eyewear is used in the workplace, it should meet the standards established by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI). Safety glasses and safety goggles should have lenses that are made of impact resistant materials, such as polycarbonate.

It is important to note that proper protective eyewear does not include regular eyeglasses or sunglasses. Corrective lenses may be necessary for a worker to see properly or to wear while working outside, but neither type of eyewear will protect eyes from traumatic injury or harm from flying debris or splashes. In fact, wearing regular eyeglasses or sunglasses without proper protective eyewear on top can actually cause more harm to the eyes if they shatter in the event of a traumatic accident. 

In addition to using the most appropriate protective eyewear for the job and the particular hazards that job presents, it is also important that the protective eyewear fits properly. All safety eyewear worn in the workplace should be adjustable or custom fit to provide complete and appropriate coverage. Protective eyewear should allow for good peripheral vision and be comfortable.  Also, the best types of safety glasses should have side protection to prevent injury from different angles and be designed to resist impact.

It is also crucial that workers are able to stay aware of potential eye safety hazards in order to be able to avoid them. This can be accomplished when such hazards are clearly marked by words or other signage. Before starting their work day, employees should ensure they are taking all necessary precautions to eliminate any eye hazards. Examples include information and statements regarding the proper use of machine guards, work screens, or other related engineering controls.

Next, it is important for workers to be aware of what types of safety hazards each job presents. Work environments should be assessed carefully to determine what poses certain risks so that necessary precautions can be taken if needed. If employers do not provide appropriate protective eyewear, it should be brought to their attention. If a work environment involves chemicals, workers should know the locations of the nearest emergency eye flushing stations. In the case of a chemical splash, a worker needs to flush the eye immediately for at least 15 minutes and seek emergency medical attention.

It is crucial to identify a work-related injury quickly, in order to get professional medical help fast. In some cases, signs of an eye injury are obvious. Other times, symptoms may be mild or subtle. Examples of an eye-injury include pain, blurred or cloudy vision, a torn eyelid, unusual pupil size, and a feeling that something is stuck under the eyelid.

Treating an Eye Injury

If an eye injury is sustained at work, it is important to see an eye doctor immediately. Do not touch or rub your injured eye or try to remove any objects yourself. In the case of chemical burns, the eye should be flushed with clean water for at least 15 minutes and emergency treatment should be sought immediately. The employer should have eye flush stations provided per OSHA regulations. 

Baltimore Workers’ Compensation Lawyers at LeViness, Tolzman & Hamilton Represent Clients with Work-Related Injuries

If you suffered a serious work-related injury or illness while on the job, you are urged to contact the Baltimore Workers’ Compensation lawyers at LeViness, Tolzman & Hamilton at your earliest convenience. Our dedicated legal team will assist you with the process of gathering evidence that will help prove that the injury is work-related and ensure that you receive the financial benefits to which you are entitled. We will continue to fight for you until you are completely satisfied. To schedule a free, confidential consultation, call us today at 844-556-4LAW (4529) or contact us online

Located in Baltimore, we serve clients throughout Maryland.