Preventing Eye Injuries at Your Workplace

HR & Safety

Ninety percent of eye injuries are preventable

According to the National Institute of Health, more than 300,000 Americans visit the emergency room each year because of a workplace eye injury. About 40% of these injuries are from workers in the manufacturing, construction, and mining industries. These injuries cost industry an estimated $300 million each year in lost productivity, medical treatment, and workers compensation.

During March, the American Academy of Ophthalmologists reminded employers and workers about the importance of eye protection, since 90% of these injuries are preventable with the appropriate eye protection.

The Academy’s public education website EyeSmart provides the following tips for avoiding eye injuries at work:

  • Wear protective eyewear whenever there is a chance of eye injury, such as anywhere there may be flying debris, falling objects, chemicals, and intense light and heat. This is particularly true of workers involved in welding. Among welders, their assistants, and nearby workers, UV radiation burns (welder’s flash) routinely damage workers’ eyes and surrounding tissue.
  • Make sure your eye protection is American National Standards Institute (ANSI)-approved, OSHA compliant, and appropriate for the hazards in your workplace. If you are working in an area that has particles, flying objects, or dust, you must at least wear safety glasses with side protection (side shields). If you are working with chemicals, you should wear goggles. If you are working near hazardous radiation (welding, lasers or fiber optics) you must use special-purpose safety glasses, goggles, face shields, or helmets designed for that task.

In case of an eye injury, follow the EyeSmart, Care and Treatment Recommendations for Eye Injury to learn the dos and don’ts of eye injury first aid:

  • If your eye has been cut or punctured. DO NOT remove the object stuck in eye, rinse with water, rub or apply pressure to eye. Avoid giving aspirin, ibuprofen, or other non-steroidal, anti-inflammatory drugs. These drugs thin the blood and may increase bleeding. Instead, DO gently place a shield over the eye. The bottom of a paper cup taped to the bones surrounding the eye can serve as a shield until you get medical attention. After you have finished protecting the eye, see a physician immediately.
  • In case of a chemical burn to the eye, DO immediately flush the eye with plenty of clean water, and seek emergency medical treatment right away.
  • To treat a blow to the eye: DO NOT apply any pressure. DO gently apply a small cold compress to reduce pain and swelling. If a black eye, pain, or visual disturbance occurs even after a light blow, immediately contact an ophthalmologist: a medical doctor specializing in the diagnosis, medical, and surgical treatment of eye diseases and condition: or emergency room. Remember that even a light blow can cause a significant eye injury.
  • To treat sand or small debris in the eye: DO NOT rub the eye. DO use eyewash to flush the eye out. If the debris doesn’t come out, lightly bandage the eye and see an ophthalmologist or visit the nearest emergency room.

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