Workplace eye safety is a critical concern across various industries. Every day, employees face potential hazards that can lead to severe visual impairment or even permanent blindness. Understanding the common types of eye injuries and adopting prevention strategies are essential to maintaining a safe working environment.
The 7 Most Common Eye Injuries in the Workplace
#1 Foreign Objects in the Eye
One of the most prevalent eye injuries in industrial settings is caused by foreign objects such as dust, wood chips, metal slivers, and other small particles. When these materials make contact with the eye, they can become lodged on the surface of the eye or under the eyelids. This can result in redness, pain, and a reflexive tearing designed to wash out the irritant. If not removed, these foreign bodies can cause scratches on the cornea, leading to more severe complications like infections or vision impairment.
Prevention: Prescription safety glasses or goggles with side protection are essential to shield the eyes from flying debris. Workplaces can also install protective screens or barriers in areas where debris is a byproduct of the work process.
#2 Corneal Abrasions
Corneal abrasions occur when the eye's surface, the cornea, is scratched. This can happen due to direct contact with dust, debris, fingers, paper, or even branches for those working outdoors. Symptoms may include a gritty feeling in the eye, pain, redness, sensitivity to light, and tearing. Corneal abrasions can become serious if they get infected, leading to corneal ulcers.
Prevention: Workers should wear eye protection at all times and be educated on the importance of not rubbing their eyes, especially with dirty hands or when they feel something has entered their eye.
#3 Chemical Burns
Chemicals splashing into the eyes can be particularly hazardous. Alkali substances tend to be more dangerous than acidic chemicals, but both can cause severe damage. Symptoms of chemical burns include a burning sensation, redness, tearing, and sometimes vision loss. Immediate flushing of the eyes with water is critical to minimize damage.
Prevention: Chemical goggles, face shields, and having an accessible emergency eyewash station are vital. Proper handling and storage procedures for chemicals can also reduce the incidence of splashes.
#4 UV Radiation Exposure
Overexposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation is a risk for workers who are outdoors or involved in welding, cutting, and laser work. Prolonged UV exposure can lead to photokeratitis, a painful eye condition that is akin to a sunburn of the eyes, and long-term exposure can cause cataracts.
Prevention: Protective eyewear with the correct shading to block UV rays is essential for these workers. Providing tents or shaded areas and encouraging the use of hats with brims can also help those working outdoors.
#5 Penetrating Injuries
These injuries result when sharp objects such as nails, staples, or shards of metal or glass pierce the eye. These are particularly serious and can result in significant and sometimes irreversible damage to the eye's internal structures.
Prevention: Using safety glasses with side shields or full face shields, depending on the level of risk, is key. Additional guards and protective measures on machinery can also reduce the risk of these injuries.
#6 Thermal Burns
Workers exposed to splashes of molten metal, hot liquids, or flames can suffer from thermal burns to the eyes and surrounding areas. These burns can cause damage to the cornea and may even lead to blindness.
Prevention: Heat-resistant face shields and goggles are crucial for workers in environments where thermal burns are risky. Fire-resistant clothing and equipment can also help prevent these types of injuries.
#7 Eyestrain from Computer Use
While not as acute as other injuries, digital eye strain is increasingly common in the modern workplace. Symptoms include dry eyes, blurred vision, fatigue, and sometimes headaches. Over time, constant eyestrain can lead to more severe vision problems.
Prevention: Employers should ensure that workers take regular breaks from screen time, follow the 20-20-20 rule (every 20 minutes, look at something 20 feet away for at least 20 seconds), and adjust their workstation setup to reduce glare and strain.
Implementing a Comprehensive Eye Safety Program
#1 Assessment of Potential Eye Hazards
Conducting thorough risk assessments can help identify potential eye hazards specific to a workplace.
#2 Selection of Appropriate Eye Protection
Choosing the right kind of protective eyewear for various job tasks is essential for effective protection. You can purchase prescription safety glasses online and get better options.
#3 Maintenance of Protective Eyewear
Regular inspection and maintenance ensure that the protective eyewear provides the intended level of safety.
Eye injuries in the workplace are preventable with the right knowledge, tools, and strategies. By understanding common injuries and implementing comprehensive prevention programs, businesses can safeguard their employees' vision and well-being.