Did you know that more than 2,000 workers experience an eye injury, everyday? That’s according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Roughly 10-20% of those injuries result in temporary or permanent vision loss.
Scary stuff, right? After all, we only have one set of eyes. We should be doing everything we can to protect them. That’s not easy when costs for safety equipment might come out of your wallet. The thing is, it will cost much more if you’re involved in an accident that leads to injury that could have been prevented.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and eye experts all agree that 90% of eye injuries are preventable. You can protect yourself from eye hazards by wearing the right eye protection.
The right equipment will depend on the job. It also depends on the hazard.
For instance, protecting yourself from chemical splashes requires a different strategy than protecting yourself from welding sparks.
Let’s take a closer look at the five most common eye hazards in the workplace. Then we’ll discuss the ways that you can protect yourself from each of them.
Dust is probably the most basic, most common eye hazard that workers face. Especially if you work outdoors. Those who work in construction, mining, woodworking, and the oil and gas industries deal with dust hazards on a daily basis.
And while “dust” may seem relatively harmless, it can cause short-term trauma that is both painful and an inconvenience.
Safety glasses are commonly worn to protect workers from dust exposure. But, dust particles are so small and fine. They can easily slip between the gaps of the glasses and the person’s face. Goggles might be the better choice.
Or, if you don’t fancy wearing big bulky goggles, try a pair of full-rim safety glasses. You can find a pair that has a full foam or rubber seal around the edges. They do a better job of protecting you than the basic safety glasses will.
2. Flying Objects
Another common eye hazard is flying objects. Similar to dust
exposure, this involves any loose, airborne particulates and pieces. Examples of flying objects include cement chips, metal fragments, and wood particles.
Flying objects are often the result of someone else doing work nearby. Tasks that you should be on the lookout for include:
|• Chipping||• Chiseling|
|• Grinding||• Hammering|
|• Machining||• Riveting|
Larger tools and objects may also accidentally strike you in the eye or face. Materials can be dropped from above by another worker. So, always be aware of your surroundings. Make sure you’re wearing safety glasses. You just never know when something could come flying at you.
Eye injuries can also occur from chemical splashes, mists, vapors, and fumes. Direct contact with chemicals can be serious, and the damage is sometimes irreversible.
When people hear the term “chemicals” they often think of a lab setting with highly dangerous products. But, even the most basic stuff you use throughout the day can be considered a dangerous chemical.
Grease, oil, gasoline, cleaning products, paint thinners, and a whole lot more can do some serious damage to your eyes.
So what do you do if you get a chemical splash in your eye? People who work in a plant or indoor facility often have access to eyewash stations. That’s not usually the case for oil field workers and service technicians.
Instead, make sure you have portable eye saline bottles in your first aid kit. These can be used to flush out your eyes if something happens in a remote area. These little bottles will also help flush out smaller particles like nuisance dust.
Welding work and laser operations create high concentrations of heat, infrared, and ultraviolet radiation. Unprotected exposure can result in retinal burns, cataracts, and even blindness. The hazards of optical radiation are significant.
Protect yourself by wearing the right goggles or hoods when doing this type of work.
Check the OSHA regulations to make sure you’re using the right level of lens protection. The lens shade you’ll need will depend on the intensity of the rays emitted from the source. Check out our recent post on UV hazards here.
Ask your company’s safety professional if you still need help.
The final hazard we’ll talk about today is the penetration of tools or objects. If something pierces or becomes embedded in the eye, it can cause permanent damage.
Staples and nails are some of the more common objects that penetrate a worker’s eye.
Basic safety glasses can protect you from this hazard. It’s also important to use common sense, and stay out of the line of fire from these objects. Don’t mess around with nail guns and staple guns. Make sure they are empty and disconnected before cleaning or doing any repairs.
If an object becomes lodged in your eye, seek medical attention immediately. Do not attempt to remove it.
Eye injuries can happen in the blink of an eye. There’s usually no time to react before an eye injury occurs. Make sure you’re prepared by wearing the right eye protection.
For more information on eye hazards in the workplace, check out the Prevent Blindness organization’s website. OSHA and the CDC also have additional resources that you might find helpful. If you have questions, don’t hesitate to contact us.