News Dedicated to a Healthy Workplace October 2012
The Importance of Eye Safety
Every day, about 2,000 U.S. workers have a job-related eye injury that requires medical treatment. 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 majority of these injuries result from small particles or objects striking or abrading the eye. Examples include metal slivers, wood chips, dust, and cement chips that are ejected by tools, wind blown, or fall from above a worker. Some of these objects, such as nails, staples or slivers of wood or metal can penetrate the eyeball and result in a permanent loss of vision. Large objects may also strike the eye, or a worker may run into an object causing blunt force trauma to the eyeball or eye socket. 

Chemical burns to one or both eyes from splashes of industrial chemicals or cleaning products are common. Thermal burns to the eye occur as well. Among welders, their assistants and nearby workers, ultraviolet radiation burns (also known as welder’s flash) routinely damage workers’ eyes and surrounding tissue. 

In addition to common eye injuries, health care workers, laboratory staff, janitorial workers, animal handlers and other workers may be at risk of acquiring infectious diseases from exposure. Infectious diseases can be transmitted through the mucous membranes of the eye as a result of direct exposure (blood splashes or respiratory droplets generated during coughing or suctioning) or from touching the eyes with contaminated fingers or other objects. These infections may cause relatively minor conjunctivitis or reddening/soreness of the eye. They can also result in life-threatening disease such as HIV, B virus or even avian flu. 

Engineering controls should be used to reduce eye injuries and to protect against eye infection exposures. Personal protective eyewear, such as goggles, face shields, safety glasses or full face respirators must also be used when an eye hazard exists. The eye protection chosen for specific work situations depends upon the nature and extent of the hazard, the circumstances of exposure, other protective equipment used and personal vision needs. 

Eye protection should be fit to an individual or be adjustable to provide appropriate coverage. It should be comfortable and allow for sufficient peripheral vision. Selection of protective eyewear appropriate for a given task should be made based on a hazard assessment of each activity, including regulatory requirements when applicable. 

For more information, contact BarnesCare.

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