Each day about 2000 U.S. workers sustain a job-related eye injury that requires medical treatment. About one third of the injuries are treated in hospital emergency departments, and more than 100 of these injuries result in one or more days away from work.
How do eye injuries happen to workers?
- Striking or scraping: The majority of eye injuries result from small particles or objects striking or scraping the eye, such as: dust, cement chips, metal slivers, and wood chips. These materials are often ejected by tools, windblown, or fall from above a worker. Large objects may also strike the eye or face, or a worker may run into an object causing blunt-force trauma to the eyeball or eye socket.
- Penetration: Objects like nails, staples, or slivers of wood or metal can go through the eyeball and result in a permanent loss of vision.
- Chemical and thermal burns: Industrial chemicals or cleaning products are common causes of chemical burns to one or both eyes. Thermal burns to the eye also occur, often among welders. These burns routinely damage workers’ eyes and surrounding tissue.
How do workers acquire eye diseases?
Eye diseases are often transmitted through the mucous membranes of the eye as a result of direct exposure to things like blood splashes, and droplets from coughing or sneezing or from touching the eyes with a contaminated finger or object. Eye diseases can result in minor reddening or soreness of the eye or in a life threatening disease such as HIV, hepatitis B virus, or avian influenza.
What can workers do to prevent eye injury and disease?
Wear personal protective eyewear, such as goggles, face shields, safety glasses, or full face respirators.
The eye protection chosen for specific work situations depends upon the nature and extent of the hazard, the circumstances of exposure, other protective equipment used, and personal vision needs. Eye protection should be fit to an individual or adjustable to provide appropriate coverage. It should be comfortable and allow for sufficient peripheral vision.
What can employers do to prevent worker eye injury and disease?
Employers can ensure engineering controls are used to reduce eye injuries and to protect against ocular infection exposures. Employers can also conduct a hazard assessment to determine the appropriate type of protective eyewear appropriate for a given task.