Eye injuries in the workplace are very common in fact, more common than you might think. The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) reports about 2,000 eye injuries per day occur in American workplaces. The financial cost of these injuries is enormous; more than $300 million per year in lost production time, medical expenses, and workers compensation. No dollar figure can adequately reflect the personal toll these accidents take on the injured workers. Safety experts and eye doctors believe that proper eye protection could have lessened the severity or even prevented 90% of these eye injuries.
As you might imagine there are numerous ways to injure your eyes in the workplace. Some are due to carelessness and/or the lack of common sense while others are simply accidents. The lists reported to NIOSH of common eye injuries occurring at work include: injuries from chemicals or foreign objects, cuts or scrapes to the cornea, splashes with grease and oil, burns from steam, ultraviolet or infrared radiation exposure, and flying wood or metal chips. In addition, infectious ocular diseases can occur from blood splashes, respiratory droplets, or from touching the eyes with contaminated fingers or other objects.
Almost all of these injuries could be avoided with the appropriate selection of protective eyewear. Different tasks require different safety glasses, goggles or masks. The selection should be made based on a hazard assessment of each activity. Types of eye protection include:
Non-prescription and prescription safety glasses — although safety glasses may look like casual eyewear, they are designed to provide significantly more protection. Safety eyewear must meet standards of the American National Standards Institute (ANSI), which requires them to be much stronger than regular eyeglasses. Look for the Z87 mark on the lens and frame.
Safety glasses provide eye protection for general working conditions where there may be dust, chips, or flying particles. Additional side protection can be provided by the use of side shields and wrap around-style safety glasses.
Safety lenses are available in plastic, polycarbonate, and Trivex materials. While all three types must meet or exceed the minimum requirements for protecting your eyes, polycarbonate and Trivex lenses provide the highest level of impact resistance.
Goggles — Goggles provide impact, dust, and chemical splash protection. Like safety glasses, safety goggles are highly impact resistant. In addition, they provide a secure shield around the entire eye and protect against hazardous objects coming from any direction. Goggles can be worn over prescription glasses and contact lenses.
Face shields — Full face shields are used to protect workers exposed to chemicals, heat, or blood borne pathogens. Face shields are used for welding or working with molten material; however, should not be used as a sole means for protective eyewear. Safety glasses or goggles should be worn under a face shield to provide protection when the shield is lifted.
Special protection — other types of protection, such as helmets or goggles with special filters to protect the eyes from optical radiation exposure, should be used for tasks such as welding or working with lasers.
One way to ensure that safety glasses provide adequate protection is to make sure they fit correctly. Eyewear that is too big, too little, or not adjusted appropriately, can lead to injury. In addition, protective eyewear must be properly maintained. Scratched and dirty lenses reduce vision, promote glare and may contribute to accidents. Combined with machine guards, screened or divided work stations, and other engineering controls, using the correct protective eyewear can help keep you safe from any type of material or situation that could be a potential hazard to your eyes and vision.
If you are interested in learning more about protective eyewear, please visit our office in Stillwater. You can contact us at 405-372-1715. We also invite you to visit our website at www.cockrelleyecare.com and like us on Facebook at Cockrell Eye Care Center!