Optical radiation and bystanders

Workers performing job tasks are not the only ones exposed to eye safety hazards. In welding operations, the risk of welder’s flash – when the ultraviolet light of the electric arc injures the eye – is greater for helpers and bystanders because the welders are more likely to be wearing appropriate eye protection, according to the National Safety Council.

Other forms of optical radiation may occur in settings such as labs that use lasers or infrared radiation. In these settings, safety professionals “should also ensure that assistants, nearby workers, and site visitors either wear the appropriate radiation protector, are screened from the radiation source or are restricted from accessing the active work area,” said Larry L. Jackson, chief of the Injury Surveillance Team for the Surveillance and Field Investigations Branch of NIOSH’s Division of Safety Research.

The Johns Hopkins University Whiting School of Engineering in Baltimore has implemented a laser safety program to help protect employees. Frances Humphrey-Carothers, associate director for Health, Safety and Environment at Johns Hopkins Medicine, said employees are given pre-employment eye exams to determine the health of the eye prior to working in the labs. In the case of an incident, she said, workers are screened to determine whether optical radiation caused a change in vision.

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