Eye Health and Safety in Workplace
Eye injuries in the workplace are very common. The good news is that up to 90% of these eye injuries can be prevented or at least lessened by wearing the right eye protection. The most common eye injuries occurring at work result from chemical splash, foreign objects in the eye, cuts or scratches on the cornea, or touching the eyes with contaminated fingers or other objects.
Two major reasons workers experience eye injuries on the job are because they were not wearing eye protection or wearing the wrong kind of protection for the job. Many times this happens because workers are unaware that safety eyewear is required for their situation.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) requires the use of eye and face protection whenever there is a reasonable probability of injury that could be prevented by such equipment. The eye protection chosen for specific work situations depends upon the type of hazard, the circumstances of exposure, other protective equipment used, and individual vision needs. Types of eye protection include:
- Non-prescription and prescription safety glasses — although safety glasses may look like normal eyewear, they are designed to provide significantly more eye protection. The lenses and frames are much stronger than regular eyeglasses because safety glasses must meet standards of the American National Standards Institute (ANSI). 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 wraparound-style safety glasses.
- Goggles – like safety glasses, safety goggles are highly impact resistant and provide protection from hazards coming from any direction. They can be worn over prescription glasses and contact lenses.
- Face shields and helmets — full face shields are used to protect workers exposed to chemicals and/or bloodborne pathogens, and those who work with molten materials. Face shields and helmets should be used in conjunction with safety glasses or goggles. This provides protection when the shield is lifted.
- Special protection — those who weld or work with lasers should use helmets or goggles with special filters to protect the eyes from optical radiation exposure.
Protective eyewear works best when you know how to use it and maintain it properly. Improper fit, scratched or dirty devices reduce vision, cause glare and may contribute to an accident. Wearing eye protection is a very important part of job safety. If, however, in spite of all precautions an injury does occur, seek medical attention as soon as possible—especially if you have pain in the eye, blurred vision, loss of vision or loss of field of vision.