How to Prevent Eye Injuries in the Workplace

Eye injuries in the workplace have the potential to cause temporary or permanent vision loss and about 10% of eye injuries result in missed workdays. Most injuries occur when a worker is not wearing eye protection but, in some cases, a worker may not have been wearing the right eye protection for the job. By understand the workplace hazards, workers can be equipped with appropriate eye protection and 90% of workplace eye injuries can be prevented. Being educated about eye injuries in the workplace is an essential first step in protecting yourself and others.

What are the causes of eye injuries at work?

• Flying particles

• Chemical splashes, vapors, or dust

• Being struck by or impacting an object

• Sparks, molten metal, or other hot liquid splashes

• Light radiation

How can employers help prevent eye injuries?

• Assess: Look carefully at the workplace operations and inspect all work areas, access routes, and equipment for hazards to eyes.

• Test: Vision testing should be included in routine physical exams. Uncorrected vision problems can cause accidents.

• Protect: Choose and use protective eyewear that is designed for the specific work or hazard. Make sure that eyewear meets the requirements of the health and safety regulations in your geography or industry.

• Fit: Protective eyewear needs to fit well and be comfortable.

• Plan: Have a safety program that includes a first-aid response plan for eye injuries. Eyewash stations and basic first-aid training should be a part of your response plan.

• Educate: Put your safety plan in writing and display it in work or common areas. All new hire training should include a review of the safety plan.

• Review: Whether eye injuries occur or not, you need to regularly review and update your accident prevention policies.

How can employees protect themselves from eye injuries?

• Know the eye safety dangers at work

• Complete an eye hazard assessment

• Eliminate hazards before starting work

• Use machine guarding, work screens, or other engineering controls

• Use proper eye protection

• Always wear safety eyewear when there is a chance of eye injury

Be sure to remember that eye injuries can occur anywhere hazards are present. Even if you’re not actively at work, if you’re passing through an area with hazards, you should wear protective eyewear.

What type of eye protection should be used?

• Non-prescription or prescription safety glasses

• Goggles

• Face shields

• Welding helmets

• Full-face respirators

The type of safety eye protection you should wear depends on the hazards in your workplace. If you are working in an area that has particles, flying objects, or dust, you must wear safety glasses with side protection. If you are working with chemicals, you should wear goggles. If you are working near hazardous radiation (welding, lasers, or fiber optics) you must use special-purpose safety eyewear designed for that task.

What is the difference between the different types of lenses?

The three basic types of lenses are glass, plastic, and polycarbonate and you should choose the lens type that is suitable for your job. If you are exposed to high temperatures or corrosive chemicals, polycarbonate or plastic lenses may not be appropriate. Instead you should choose lenses made of treated safety glass as long as there is no risk of impact to your eyes. If there is a risk of impact to your eyes, your safety eyewear must have polycarbonate or plastic lenses.

Glass lenses

• Are not easily scratched

• Can be used around harsh chemicals

• Can be made in your corrective prescription

• Are sometimes heavy and uncomfortable

Plastic lenses

• Are lighter weight

• Protect against welding splatter

• Are not likely to fog

• Are not as scratch-resistant as glass

Polycarbonate lenses

• Are lightweight

• Protect against welding splatter

• Are not likely to fog

• Are stronger than glass and plastic

• Are more impact resistant than glass or plastic

• Are not as scratch resistant as glass

Make workplace eye safety a priority: understand the hazards, how to prevent injury, and how to protect yourself. 90% of eye injuries are preventable so make sure you’re choosing the right type of eye protection for the job to safeguard your vision.