Prevent Blindness, the nation’s first eye health and vision care nonprofit organization, has deemed March as Workplace Eye Wellness Month. Did you know that thousands of people are blinded each year from work-related eye injuries? According to the CDC, each day about 2,000 U.S. employees sustain a work-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? The majority of eye injuries result from small foreign objects or flying particles getting in the eye. Large objects may also strike the eye or a worker may run into an object causing blunt-force eye trauma. Many eye injuries are also caused by chemical burns from chemicals such as acids and caustics as well as workplace cleaning products.
The encouraging news is that approximately 90% of eye injuries that occur in the workplace are considered to be preventable. What can you do to prevent eye injuries at your facility? OSHA requires that eye protection be provided whenever necessary to protect against chemical, environmental, radiological, or mechanical irritants and hazards. Employers should conduct a hazard assessment to determine the appropriate type of protective eyewear for a given task. To help with this, OSHA has created a personal protective equipment (PPE) guidance document to help explain how hazard assessments and PPE evaluations should be conducted and documented.
Based on the outcome of the hazard assessment, the appropriate eye protection can be selected 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. Protective eyewear includes goggles, face shields, and safety glasses with side shields (regular or prescription). Eye protection should be fit to an individual or be adjustable to provide appropriate coverage. It should also be comfortable and allow for sufficient peripheral vision.
For questions about protective eyewear requirements or for help conducting a PPE hazard assessment at your workplace, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.