March is Workplace Eye Wellness Month
Eye injuries in the workplace are far too common, particularly when the vast majority of these injuries are preventable. Even a minor injury can inflict serious and permanent damage to the eye, up to and including blindness. Safety glasses and goggles are invaluable in protecting your eyes on the job. Metal shavings, sawdust, liquids, acids, gases, sparks, and radiation all pose hazards to your vision.
A leading cause of eye injuries is the failure to wear adequate eye protection. Some common reasons reported for failure to wear eye protection are:
- Improper Fit
Fit is critical. As with any other PPE, eyewear should be fitted to the individual. Non-prescriptive eyewear should be adjustable in order to achieve a balance of proper fit and protection. Options such as gel nose pieces and cushioned brow pieces can improve comfort. Appearance is subjective and, obviously, should never take precedence over safety, but offering a wide selection of frames and styles may encourage workers to wear safety glasses.
Regardless of style and features, all protective lenses should meet proper standards for impact resistance, distortion-free/anti-fogging, and UV protection. Polycarbonate lenses are required for working in high-impact areas where tempered glass lenses or acrylic plastic lenses do not afford enough protection. Filter lenses for welding, hot work, and radiation must be compliant with requirements for each such operation. Eyewear should cover both the front and side of the eye or the entire face. Prescription safety lenses are available and should be provided to employees requiring same. Employers and workers alike should understand the exposures in order to choose the proper safety eyewear. OSHA standards for eye and face protection can be found here.
Employees should assess their environment prior to starting work to minimize and remove hazards where possible. In the event of an eye injury, the American Academy of Ophthalmology recommends the following:
For all eye injuries:
- DO NOT touch, rub or apply pressure to the eye.
- DO NOT try to remove the object stuck in the eye.
- Do not apply ointment or medication to the eye.
- See a doctor as soon as possible, preferably an ophthalmologist.
If your eye has been cut or punctured:
- Gently place a shield over the eye. The bottom of a paper cup taped to the bones surrounding the eye can serve as a shield until you get medical attention.
- DO NOT rinse with water.
- DO NOT remove the object stuck in eye.
- DO NOT rub or apply pressure to eye.
- Avoid giving aspirin, ibuprofen or other non-steroidal, anti-inflammatory drugs. These drugs thin the blood and may increase bleeding.
- After you have finished protecting the eye, see a physician immediately.
If you get a particle or foreign material in your eye:
- DO NOT rub the eye.
- Lift the upper eyelid over the lashes of your lower lid.
- Blink several times and allow tears to flush out the particle.
- If the particle remains, keep your eye closed and seek medical attention.
In case of a chemical burn to the eye:
- Immediately flush the eye with plenty of clean water
- Seek emergency medical treatment right away.
To treat a blow to the eye:
- Gently apply a small cold compress to reduce pain and swelling.
- DO NOT apply any pressure.
- If a black eye, pain or visual disturbance occurs even after a light blow, immediately contact your ophthalmologist or emergency room.
- Remember that even a light blow can cause a significant eye injury.
To treat sand or small debris in the eye:
- Use eye wash to flush the eye out.
- DO NOT rub the eye.
- If the debris doesn’t come out, lightly bandage the eye and see an ophthalmologist or visit the nearest emergency room.
The best medicine is still prevention. Protective eyewear is only effective when worn.