Every day an estimated 1,000 eye injuries occur in American workplaces. The financial cost of these injuries is enormous -- more than $300 million per year in lost production time, medical expenses, and workers compensation. No dollar figure can adequately reflect the personal toll these accidents take on the injured workers.
What contributes to eye injuries at work?
Take a moment to think about possible eye hazards at your workplace. A survey by the Labor Department's Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) of about 1,000 minor eye injuries reveals how and why many on-the-job accidents occur.
What is the most common unsafe behavior?
- Not wearing eye protection. BLS reports that nearly three out of every five workers injured were not wearing eye protection at the time of the accident.
- Wearing the wrong kind of eye protection for the job. About 40% of the injured workers were wearing some form of eye protection when the accident occurred.
What causes eye injuries?
- Flying particles. BLS found that almost 70% of the accidents studied resulted from flying or falling objects or sparks striking the eye. Injured workers estimated that nearly three-fifths of the objects were smaller than a pin head. Most of the particles were said to be traveling faster than a hand-thrown object when the accident occurred.
- Contact with chemicals caused one-fifth of the injuries. Other accidents were caused by objects swinging from a fixed or attached position, like tree limbs, ropes, chains, or tools which were pulled into the eye while the worker was using them.
Where do accidents occur most often?
- Craft work; industrial equipment operation. Potential eye hazards can be found in nearly every industry, but BLS reported that more than 40% of injuries occurred among craft workers, like mechanics, repairers, carpenters, and plumbers.
- Over a third of the injured workers were operatives, such as assemblers, sanders, and grinding machine operators. Laborers suffered about one-fifth of the eye injuries. Almost half the injured workers were employed in manufacturing; slightly more than 20% were in construction.
How can eye injuries be prevented?
- Always wear effective eye protection. To be effective, eyewear must appropriate for the hazard encountered and properly fitted.
- Better training and education. BLS reported that most workers were hurt while doing their regular jobs.
- Workers injured while not wearing protective eyewear most often said they believed it was not required by the situation. Even though the vast majority of employers furnished eye protection at no cost to employees, about 40% of the workers received no information on where and what kind of eyewear should be used.
- Eye protection devices must be properly maintained. Scratched and dirty devices reduce vision, cause glare and may contribute to accidents.
Description and Use of Eye/Face Protectors
- Protective eyeglasses are made with safety frames, tempered glass or plastic lenses, temples and side shields which provide eye protection from moderate impact and particles encountered in job tasks such as carpentry, woodworking, grinding, scaling, etc. Safety glasses are also available in prescription form for those persons who need corrective lenses.
- Vinyl framed goggles of soft pliable body design provide adequate eye protection from many hazards. These goggles are available with clear or tinted lenses, perforated, port vented, or non-vented frames. Single lens goggles provide similar protection to spectacles and may be worn in combination with spectacles or corrective lenses to insure protection along with proper vision. Welders goggles provide protection from sparking, scaling, or splashing metals and harmful light rays. Lenses are impact resistant and are available in graduated shades of filtration. Chippers/Grinders goggles provide eye protection from flying particles. The dual protective eye cups house impact resistant clear lenses with individual cover plates.
- Face Shields. These normally consist of an adjustable headgear and face shield of tinted/transparent acetate or polycarbonate materials, or wire screen. Face shields are available in various sizes, tensile strength, impact/heat resistance and light ray filtering capacity. Face shields will be used in operations when the entire face needs protection and should be worn to protect eyes and face against flying particles, metal sparks, and chemical/biological splash.
- Welding Shields. These shield assemblies consist of vulcanized fiber or glass fiber body, a ratchet/button type adjustable headgear or cap attachment and a filter and cover plate holder. These shields will be provided to protect workers’ eyes and face from infrared or radiant light burns, flying sparks, metal spatter and slag chips encountered during welding, brazing, soldering, resistance welding, bare or shielded electric arc welding and oxyacetylene welding and cutting operations.
Selection chart guidelines for eye and face protection
|Eye and Face Protection Selection Chart|
|Source||Assessment of Hazard||Protection|
|IMPACT - Chipping, grinding, machining, drilling, chiseling, riveting, sanding, etc.||Flying fragments, objects, large chips, particles, sand, dirt, etc.||Spectacles with side protection, goggles, face shields.
For severe exposure, use face shield over primary eye protection.
|HEAT - Furnace operations, pouring, casting, hot dipping, and welding.||Hot sparks
Splash from moten metals
High temperature exposure
|Faceshields, goggles, spectacles with side protection. For severe exposure use faceshield.
Faceshields, reflective face shields.
Screen face shields, reflective face shields.
|CHEMICALS - Acid and chemicals handling||Splash
|Goggles, eyecup and cover types. For severe exposure, use face shield over primary eye protection
|DUST - Woodworking, buffing, general dusty conditions||Nuisance dust||Goggles, eyecup and cover types.|
|LIGHT and/or RADIATION
Welding - electric arcWelding - gas
Cutting, torch brazing, torch soldering
|Welding helmets or welding shields. Typical shades: 10-14
Welding goggles or welding face shield. Typical shades: gas welding 4-8, cutting 3-6, brazing 3-4
Spectacles or welding face shield. Typical shades: 1.5-3
Spectacles with shaded or special-purpose lenses, as suitable.
Some occupations (not a complete list) for which eye protection should be routinely considered are: carpenters, electricians, machinists, mechanics and repairers, millwrights, plumbers and pipe fitters, sheet metal workers and tinsmiths, assemblers, sanders, grinding machine operators, lathe and milling machine operators, sawyers, welders, laborers, chemical process operators and handlers, and timber cutting and logging workers. The following chart provides general guidance for the proper selection of eye and face protection to protect against hazards associated with the listed hazard "source" operations.
Eye Safety - OSHA Safety Training: Most employees take "healthy eyes" for granted. But our eyes are really very fragile, and statistics show that eye injuries occur frequently in the workplace.
Our training products on "Eye Safety" show how many eye problems are caused by not paying attention to the work employees are doing, or not wearing the appropriate protective equipment. They remind employees that eye injuries can easily happen to them and show them how to prevent these injuries. Topics covered in these products include:
- Who is affected by eye problems… and how.
- How the eye "works".
- Wearing contact lenses at work.
- Physical and radiation hazards, and personal protective equipment.
- and more.
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