Although eye injuries may sound like a relatively minor concern compared to other possibilities that can befall employees at work, overlooking the need to address potential damage to the eyes can lead workers to blindness that can interfere with their daily activities.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) about 2000 workers in the U.S. receive an eye injury every day. A third of these require emergency treatment, and many resulting in a permanent loss of vision. In addition to complete blindness, workers can face partial blindness, an inability to focus their vision, and related headaches as a result of eye injuries.
It’s easy to imagine how blindness resulting from an eye injury at work can cause a number of issues. Apart from a severely reduced quality of life, injured workers will not be able to continue their employment and will face many other costs. Medical bills and specialized equipment needs can quickly add up, in addition to any on-going care needs. Everyday tasks such as driving can instantly become impossible due to eye damage from even the smallest injury to the eyes.
Types of Eye Injuries
The most common harm to the eye results from debris and small particles scraping or striking the eye. These can range widely depending on the work performed, but include:
– Metal slivers
– Dust and dirt
– Cement chips
Toxic chemicals can burn the eyes and come from a wide range of sources. Plants and treatment facilities are home to many hazardous substances, but even common cleaning supplies can cause serious damage to the eye. Heat and UV radiation cause different types of burns and many jobs feature unique risks to the eyes of workers. For example, welder’s flash is a common injury that must be combated with properly tinted face shields.
How to Protect Workers from Eye Injuries
Protecting workers against eye injuries usually comes down to equipment. Glasses, goggles, and face shields are all effective in protecting against different risks, but they are only effective if they are consistently used, chosen for the correct hazard, and worn properly. Employers must provide the correct safety gear for their workers, but it must also train them in their proper use. Goggles are not helpful in protecting the eyes if they do not fit and allows particles or chemicals to enter the eye area.
Different types of lenses provide certain benefits that can make them a better fit for certain workers. Side shields can also offer additional protection in particularly hazardous professions.
Additional measures can reduce the potential hazards to workers at the source. For instance, working in well-ventilated areas can reduce harmful particles or vapors in the air. Wet-sanding and using vacuum sanders can greatly reduce the dust and other debris cast off by sanding jobs, while similar process may reduce the risks of other jobs.
Jobs most at risk for eye injuries include:
- Grinding machine operators
These particular fields see a high number of injuries and must take extra precautions to protect workers. Although the Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) sets federal guidelines regarding the steps that employers must take to protect workers, many workplaces do not take every possible action to prevent injuries. For instance, even though most employers offer free eye protection for workers, many employees may not know that this option is available or how important it is to use adequate eye protection. Training and education play an imperative role in reducing all types in injuries in the workplace.
Different job types can often benefit from different types of eyewear. Choosing an appropriate lens type of goggles and glasses can make a big difference in ensuring that workers are being protected in the most effective way.
- Glass lenses are the most difficult to scratch, can be made in a prescription, and protect against chemicals better than plastics, but they are often more heavy and uncomfortable to wear.
- Plastic lenses are more effective against welding splatter and are less likely to fog than glass, but they are more prone to scratches.
- Polycarbonate lenses will also protect against welding splatter and fogging. They are stronger than glass or plastic lenses and are less likely to break on impact than glass or plastic.
Maintaining proper eyewear is also important in keeping a workplace safe. Dirty or scratched lenses can increase eyestrain and prevent workers from seeing issues. They may also make workers less likely to wear their safety gear, as poor visibility may impede their work. Regularly cleaning and replacing lenses can reduce this risk.
The high number of eye injuries each year is made even more tragic by how preventable this damage usually is. Neglect in the workplace can easily lead to an eye injury that can change a worker’s life, and in these instances the responsible party may be liable for the damages. If you or a loved one had received an eye injury at work due to the neglect of a worker’s safety, the attorneys of Liggett Law Group may be able to help you seek out compensation for the financial burdens our facing as a result of this injury.