It’s been said the eyes are the windows to the soul. Less poetically, everyone knows how critical they are to not only showing emotions, but to daily functioning.
Protecting eyes in the workplace needs to be a priority, but it seems not everyone is doing it. The consequences of eye injuries can be lost work and productivity and, even more seriously, permanent loss of vision.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that 2,000 people have a job-related eye injury that requires medical attention every day in the U.S. About one third of the injuries are treated in hospital emergency departments and more than 100 of these injuries result in one or more days of lost work.
The threats to eye health in the workplace are not necessarily large, ominous or even immediately obvious. A cement chip, dust or a wood chip blown or projected into the eyes can hurt or abrade them.
Larger objects –nails, staples or metal chips –that may penetrate the eyeball can bring a permanent loss of vision. Other large objects can cause blunt force trauma to the eyes or face if a worker runs into them. Chemicals from cleaning fluids or other liquids can burn the eyes or face.
With so many hazards to be wary of, here are some tips to better protect your eyes:
Know the hazards
Identify the areas where injuries are more likely to occur such as places where materials or chemicals are stored or used or where debris may fly as a result of a task or function. Identify large machines or tools that have the potential to cause harm.
Create a safe environment
Secure equipment, materials or debris that could fall and hurt someone’s eyes. Be sure that tools work properly and that safety features are used. Train workers so they know how to use tools correctly. Keep non-critical staff or bystanders out of hazardous areas.
Wear the appropriate eye protection
Select the proper eye protection for the task at hand, make sure it’s in good condition, fits properly, and is readily available.
Follow protective policies
Make it a practice to remove debris from the workplace by brushing, sweeping, vacuuming or otherwise safely removing it. Also clear it from hardhats, the forehead or face, even the top of the eye gear, before taking off the gear. Always wear the eye gear when needed and clean it regularly, too. Refrain from rubbing eyes with dirty hands or clothing.
Prepare in advance for injuries
Have a First Aid kit with eye wash or sterile solution on hand in the workplace.
For more tips on protecting eyes in the workplace, go to CDC.gov.