Prioritize Eye Protection in the Workplace

When vision is impaired, your quality of life and ability to work is affected, which is why preventing eye injuries should be a priority for every safety professional and employer. The National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NOISH) statistics show that each day 2000 U.S. workers sustain a job-related eye injury that requires medical treatment and more than 100 of those injuries result in one or more missed days of work. Even more staggering – 90% of the injuries could be prevented, or made less severe, by wearing the right eye protection.

A Bureau of Labor Statistics survey of workers who suffered eye injuries revealed that nearly three out of five were not wearing eye protection at the time they were hurt, with the workers most often reporting that they believed protection was not required for the situation.

What can employers do to prevent eye injuries?

  • Conduct a job hazard analysis – The type of eye protection to specify depends on the hazards in the workplace so conducting a Job Hazard Analysis is crucially important.
  • Educate – Ensure that employees and employers realize the importance of eye protection through training, educational programs, eye safety and new employee orientation.
  • Prepare for emergencies – Establish and train workers in first aid procedures. Make eyewash stations available and ensure that they are inspected.
  • Support – Have eye protection available and make sure that management always wears eye protection. Ensure eyewear is fitted correctly and maintained. Eye and face protection must be kept clean, especially when dirty or fogged goggles have the potential to impair vision.

Always keep records and have eye protection policies in writing. Eye safety policies should be clear.

NIOSH suggests that the following key points be addressed and communicated to workers:

  • When to wear safety eye protection.
  • How and where workers can obtain protective eyewear.
  • How workers can get replacements.
  • What to do if eye protection is missing from a workstation.

An on-the-job eye injury can cause lasting and permanent vision damage, potentially disabling a worker for life. Even “minor” eye injuries can cause long-term vision problems and suffering, such as recurrent and painful corneal erosion from a simple scratch from sawdust, cement, or drywall.

Four things employees can do to protect their eyes from injury

  • Know the eye safety dangers at their work.
  • Eliminate hazards before starting work by using machine guards, screens, and other types of engineering controls.
  • Wear appropriate eye protection for the hazards.
  • Keep PPE in good condition and have it replaced if it becomes damaged.

Paula Tetrault
Paula Tetrault
Paula joined the ICW Group Risk Management team in 2014 and provides service throughout Georgia and Tennessee. She assists clients across a spectrum of industries, including trucking, warehouse and distribution, construction, manufacturing, healthcare/home care, fast food/restaurants, and hospitality. Paula earned her bachelor's degree in Industrial Management from the Georgia Institute of Technology, and holds an Associate in Risk Management (ARM) designation from the Insurance Institute of America.

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