Eye safety at work refers to the measures taken to protect the eyes from potential hazards in the workplace. This includes avoiding or minimizing exposure to hazardous substances, physical hazards such as flying debris, and harmful radiant energy sources such as ultraviolet and laser light. Eye safety at work also involves providing workers with OSHA-approved personal protective equipment, such as safety glasses or face shields, and training and education to help them recognize and respond to potential eye hazards. The ultimate goal of eye safety at work is to prevent eye injuries and illnesses and ensure that workers can perform their tasks safely and effectively. This article will cover the most common causes of eye injuries on the job, the costs of these injuries, and how to prevent them.
Common Causes of Eye Injuries in the Workplace
With approximately 20,000 occupational eye injuries annually, it is important to understand the leading causes of these injuries. Here are some common causes of eye injuries at work:
- Flying debris. These include small particles such as wood chips, metal fragments, and dust that can cause eye injuries if thrown or expelled from machinery or tools. This is particularly common in the construction industry.
- Chemical exposure. Chemicals such as acids, bases, and solvents can cause eye injuries if they come into contact with the eyes. This can occur in almost any industry, from engineering to office work.
- Radiant energy. Sources of radiant energy such as ultraviolet light, laser light, and infrared radiation can cause eye injuries if workers are not protected from exposure. Welders, automobile workers, and chemists are most prone to this.
- Impact injuries. Workers can suffer eye injuries from blunt force trauma, such as being hit by a falling object or being poked in the eye by a tool.
These causes of eye injuries in the workplace highlight the importance of taking preventative measures to protect workers’ eyes.
Costs of Eye Injuries
Occupational eye injuries have adverse effects on both employers and employees.
The physical effects of an eye injury can be short-term or long-term. Eye injuries can cause permanent or temporary damage to the eye, resulting in vision loss or complete blindness. About 10-20% of occupational eye injuries cause temporary or permanent blindness. Cornea scratches and damage can cause severe pain and discomfort, especially if the injury is severe or involves chemical exposure. Such damages can also cause disfigurements, like eye loss and scarring.
Work-related eye injuries can take a severe toll on employee mental health. A work-related injury may make some employees experience depression or anxiety, particularly if the injury is severe. Additionally, injuries decrease productivity and employee morale, making it more challenging to retain good workers.
The financial costs of an eye injury to the employer may be astronomical. The total work-related injury costs for 2020 were $163.9 billion, including lost productivity. Eye injuries can require extensive medical treatment, including surgery, hospital stays, and rehabilitation. These expenses can be significant, especially if the injury is severe or requires long-term care. Employers may be responsible for paying workers’ compensation benefits to employees who suffer eye injuries on the job. Finally, injuries can result in decreased productivity for both the affected worker and the company as a whole.
These financial costs of work-related eye injuries can be substantial, highlighting the importance of taking preventative measures to protect workers’ eyes in the workplace. By implementing effective eye safety programs and providing workers with appropriate protective equipment and training, employers can help to minimize the risk of eye injuries and reduce the financial costs associated with these incidents.
Preventative Measures for Eye Safety at Work
There are several measures employers should take to protect their employees from eye injuries. First, it is important to provide appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE). Employers should provide workers with safety glasses or face shields to protect their eyes from hazards in the workplace. The workplace should also have safety standards that require the use of such eye protection before walking onto the worksite.
Additionally, employers should implement safe work practices to minimize the risk of eye injuries, such as using machine guards, conducting regular equipment inspections, and ensuring that workers follow proper procedures when using tools or chemicals. This protects workers from injury and can prolong the life of machinery and tools.
Finally, employers must provide workers with training and education on eye safety, including how to recognize and respond to eye hazards, how to use PPE effectively, and the importance of reporting eye injuries or incidents. This training should also include first-aid information as well as information on how to report incidents.
By taking these steps, employers can help to ensure that workers can perform their tasks safely and effectively and can minimize the risk of eye injuries and illnesses in the workplace.
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