Protective Eyewear and Eye Safety in the Workplace

Protective Eyewear and Eye Safety in the Workplace

According to a recent article in Safety & Health, each day over one thousand eye injuries occur in the workplace. These eye injuries are directly responsible for over $3 million each year in medical expenses, lost production, and worker’s compensation fees. The worst part about this is the fact that OSHA approximates that about 90% of these eye injuries could’ve been prevented with the correct use of protective eyewear. Considering so many people are injuring their eyes due to ignorance or just lack of education, we felt it would be appropriate to remind you exactly why eye protection is so important in the workplace and what you can do to prevent eye injuries from happening in the future.

First, let’s take a quick refresher on which operations within the workplace typically present threats to your eyes.

  • Hammering, chiseling, grinding, wood working, or any similar activity that results in large fragments or small particles to fly through the air and possibly into your eyes. 
  • Spraying, painting, metal working, sanding, spot welding, or any process that involves fumes, dust, or tiny particulates becoming airborne.
  • Electric welding, cutting with a torch, furnace tending, or any operations or work tasks that are performed around or near intense heat or radiant energy.
  • Handling acids, caustics, hot metal casting, or babbitting where vapors, gases, liquids, or splashing metals are produced.

If you are going to be performing ANY of the above tasks, make sure you are wearing protective eyewear! Logically, everyone should be wearing eye protection at all times within the workplace and especially while performing the above tasks, but like we mentioned earlier, a majority of eye injuries happen due to worker negligence and ignorance of the dangers around them.

protective eyewear

To better put in perspective the level of ignorance that is occurring across the country and where these injuries are happening, here are some FACTS concerning eye safety, and the ignorance of eye safety, in the workplace. These numbers are based off of the Safety & Health report we mentioned at the beginning of this article.

  • 3 out of every 5 eye injuries occur due to the lack of the worker wearing ANY eye protection at the time of the incident.
  • 40% of injured workers WERE wearing some form of protective eyewear, but were wearing the WRONG TYPE of eyewear that failed to protect them. The biggest reason for this was the absence of side shields.
  • Falling or flying objects led to 70% of eye injuries with 60% of these cases involving an object that was literally smaller than a pinhead.
  • 20% of eye injuries resulted from contact with chemicals through splashing or spraying directly into the eye.
  • Craft workers, repairers, mechanics, plumbers, and carpenters accounted for 40% of eye injuries while operatives such as sanders, assemblers, and grinding machine operators accounted for 30% of eye injuries.
  • 50% of workers who were injured worked in manufacturing, while 20% worked in construction.

As you can see, a lot of the eye injuries that are occurring across the country on a daily basis are in some way preventable. Not only are some workers just blatantly disregarding eye protection in general, but some are actually wearing eye protection, just not the CORRECT eye protection. In fact, 94% of eye injuries that occur result from objects or chemicals going UNDER or AROUND the eye protection. This means workers are either wearing eyewear that doesn’t properly fit them, or they are wearing the wrong type of eyewear relative to the conditions they are working in and the tasks they need to accomplish. There are also workers who are wearing eyewear that is old and hasn’t been cleaned in awhile, so they end up injuring their eyes because their lenses are dirty and they could not see what they were doing. Don’t be one of these people! Make sure you know which eyewear is appropriate for each given situation and wear the CORRECT protective eyewear. Your vision, and your quality of life in the future, depend on it.

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About The Author
Brett Gordon is a writer for Safety Partners, LTD.

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