Are you in danger of becoming an eye injury statistic? According to Prevent Blindness, a Chicago-based volunteer eye health and safety organization, 2,000 workers per day experience a job-related eye injury that requires medical attention. Of those injuries, 10 percent to 20 percent result in temporary or permanent vision loss.
How are so many workers being injured? Eye injuries can occur in numerous ways. According to the National Safety Council, flying objects, such as metal or stone chips, nails, or abrasive materials, cause the most injuries. Other ways employees are injured include being splashed with corrosive liquids or molten metals, being hit by a tool, or coming into contact with poisonous gas or vapors.
Before deciding what kind of eye protection is needed, it’s important to understand that personal protective equipment should be a worker’s last line of defense. Prevent Blindness states that the best protection against suffering an eye injury at work is to first understand what the dangers are for any given job task. To do so, complete an eye hazard assessment. Then eliminate any hazards before beginning work, and use engineering controls such as machine guarding or work screens. After these steps have been taken, determine if any PPE is needed. Protection can include goggles, faceshields and safety glasses.
Prevent Blindness presents 10 ways to help prevent eye injuries in your workplace:
- Assess your workplace operations carefully, looking closely at work areas, access routes and equipment for potential eye hazards. Study your facility’s eye injury reports for patterns.
- Provide vision tests for workers.
- Ensure workers are wearing the correct PPE for their job task.
- Establish a mandatory eye protection program for your workplace. “A broad program prevents more injuries and is easier to enforce than one that limits eye protection to certain departments, areas or jobs,” Prevent Blindness states.
- Have a trained professional check that the eye protection your workers wear fits properly. Make repairs to any defective eyewear but have workers be in charge of their own gear.
- Be prepared for an emergency by establishing first aid procedures for eye injuries and providing eyewash stations that are easy to access.
- Provide workers with ongoing educational training on protective eyewear.
- Let workers know that management cares about their eye safety. One way to show this is by having management wear protective eyewear whenever needed.
- Don’t let your eye injury prevention policies go stale. Regularly review and update them.
- Keep a copy of your organization’s eye protection program in your workplace in areas where employees gather.