The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that about 2,000 US workers are involve in a work-related eye injury that requires medical attention each day. More than 100 of these injuries result in one or more days of lost work.
Majority of these injuries are caused by small particles or objects abrading or striking the eye. Some of these objects include metals slivers, wood chips, dust and cement chips ejected by tools, blown by wind or fall from above the worker. Other eye injuries are also caused by blunt force trauma of large objects or tools, chemical burns and thermal burns or UV radiation burns (welder’s flash).
What causes eye injuries?
- According to BLS 70% of reported eye injury cases are caused by flying or falling particles or sparks striking the eye.
- Contact with chemical caused 20% of the total eye injuries reported.
- Other accidents were caused by objects swinging from fixed or attached positions, like tree limbs, ropes, chains and hand tools.
Where do most eye injury accidents occur most often?
Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that more than 40% of eye injuries recorded happened among craft workers, like mechanics, carpenters, plumbers and handyman. More than 30% of injured workers were industrial equipment operators, such as assemblers, sanders and grinding operators. And more than 20% of eye injury accidents came from the construction industry.
What contributes to eye injury at work?
- Failure to wear eye protection.
- Wearing the wrong kind of eye protection for the job.
How eye injuries can be prevented?
Machines and workplaces must be designed taking into consideration the protection of workers from eye injuries. These controls may include the following:
- Installation of machine guards, screens or other engineering controls to protect the workers from flying particles, dust and arc flashes.
- Installation of local exhaust ventilation to direct fumes, dust and other flying particles away from operator and workers.
- Installation of fixed or mobile screens to isolate the hazardous work area from other personnel in the workplace.
Administrative controls, such as the following should also be considered:
- Removing hazardous substance from the workplace or substituting it with something less hazardous.
- Good preventive maintenance procedures of certain tools such as hammers, chisels and grinders to lessen the potential of metal fragments being dislodge.
Personal Protective Equipment
The use of personal protective equipment to protect the workers from eye injuries may be required to supplement other preventive measures taken.
Personal protective equipment should be appropriately selected, individually fitted and workers using them should be properly trained in the correct use and maintenance of the PPE. Personal Protective Equipment for the eyes may include but not limited to the use of Safety Glasses, safety goggles, face shields, hoods and helmets.
Employee must also be trained and properly instructed before being allowed to start working. Eye injuries can be reduced when workers are trained to recognize the eye injury hazard they may encounter and to use and care for eye protection equipment properly.
Seek medical attention immediately following an eye injury, especially if you have severe pain in the eye, blurred vision, loss of vision or loss of field of vision. In all workplaces where chemicals are present, eye wash stations or eye-wash bottles must be available at strategic locations.
Specific first aid procedures must be properly followed following an eye injury incident:
- Immediately flush the eye with water for at least 15 minutes.
- Do not try to neutralize the chemical with other substance.
- Seek medical attention immediately.
- Gently flush the eye with water to remove the particle.
- Do not rub the eye.
- Try lifting the upper eyelid outward and down over the eyelid to remove the particle.
- If the particle can’t be removed by doing the above, keep the eye closed, bandage it lightly and seem medical attention.