NOIRS 1997 Abstracts of the National Occupational Injury Research Symposium 1997. Washington, DC: National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, 1997 Oct; :51
Acute eye injuries continue to occur in the workplace despite being a preventable injury. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (1996) reported that private industry eye injuries in 1994 accounted for 3.7% (about 83000 incidents) of all nonfatal injuries involving a day or more of lost work. Eye injury and illness incident rates varied greatly among industries with the construction industry having the highest incident rate (29.0 incidents/10,000 full-time workers), about three times higher than the average rate for all private industries (10.4 incidents/10,000 full-time workers). Despite the high incidence rate of eye injuries in some industries, relatively little information is available about industry-specific eye injury risk factors, effectiveness of prevention measures, and associated medical treatment and lost work time. In order to develop a better understanding of occupational eye injury, we examined data from three sources: the West Virginia Workers' Compensation Program (WVWCP) for work-related injury claims for July 1995 through June 1996; the 1988 National Health Interview Survey (NHIS) for self-reported injuries and medical treatment that occurred during a one-year period; and the National Electronic Injury Surveillance System (NEISS) for emergency department reports for the one year period October 1995 through September 1996. Eye injuries accounted for 7.6% of the annual compensable claims (4422 eye injury claims/58,325 total claims) in the WVWCP. The number of eye injuries reported in the NHIS correspond to an estimated 626,000 eye injuries for a 12-month period. This represented 5.9% of the estimate for all work-related injuries (10,600,000) for the same time period. Forty-three percent of NHIS respondents with eye injuries filed workers' compensation claims which suggests that there may be a more than two-fold under-reporting of eye injury when restricting analyses to only workers' compensation claims such as in WVWCP. From NEISS records, work-related eye injuries were about 7.1% (240,000) of all injuries (3,380,000) treated in emergency departments for the one-year period examined. Thirty eight percent of self-reported eye injuries in NHIS were treated in a hospital emergency department in 1988. Extrapolation of the NEISS emergency department eye injuries, assuming that these injuries represent 38% of all medically treated eye injuries, suggests that there are 632,000 work-related eye injuries annually in the U.S. Because of underreporting of work-relatedness in emergency department visits, this latter estimate is likely to still be an underestimate of the true number of work-related eye injuries. The three injury perspectives uniformly indicate that a significant proportion of occupational injuries are eye injuries - a largely preventable work-related injury.