Eye safety and eye health on the job

May 6th, 2008 by Julie Ferguson

If today is an average day, more than 2,000 people will have an eye injury at work. And tomorrow, the risk is even greater because the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) says that more eye injuries occur on Wednesdays than any other day of the week. While many eye injuries will be relatively minor, about 5 percent will be debilitating enough to interfere with work on a short or a long-term basis. According to BLS, more than 36,000 eye injuries require time off from work. Yet with proper eyewear, it is estimated that 90% of these injuries could be prevented. Approximately 3 out of 5 of the injured workers were either wearing no eye protection whatsoever or were wearing the wrong type of eye protection.
This month is a good time to redouble your eye safety efforts since May is Healthy Vision month. Most eye injuries were surface wounds, injuries resulting from being struck by foreign matter such as splinters or chips. The second most common type of injuries are abrasions and scratches, and the third most common are chemical burns. A 2002 BLS report on Nonfatal Occupational Injuries Involving the Eyes offers more detail on the nature of work eye injuries and the types of professions where injuries are most prevalent.
Special worker populations and eye safety
When you audit your workplace for eye safety, don’t forget eye protection for outdoor and seasonal workers, such as groundskeepers. Outside work can involve dust and flying objects, such as chips from mowers and clippers. Exposure to UV rays is another hazard, and one that requires head coverings with a visor and eyewear that limits UV rays.
Another group of workers that are often overlooked for eye safety are computer users. The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health reports that 75% of computer users surveyed report occasional aching or burning eyes at work. The Lighting Blog offers a good list of 22 ways to reduce eye strain at your computer.
Eye safety resources
Eye protection in the workplace – from OSHA
Eye safety – from NIOSH
Types of eye protection – illustrated examples – from the CDC
First aid – from the CDC
Wise Owl Program – from Prevent Blindness
Workplace Eye Safety – from Prevent Blindness
Ten Ways to Prevent Eye Injuries at Work – from Prevent Blindness
Eye Safety for emergency response and disaster recovery – from the CDC

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