Work-related eye injuries cause workers to lose an average of two working days.
Scores of people are injured at work every day in St. Louis, and a portion of them fall prey to eye injuries. What makes these damages so severe is that they sometimes lead to blindness. Even when they don’t, they are very painful and often warrant compensation. To protect yourself, you should understand the common causes, industries at risk, and avoidance tips.
Any foreign object causing irritation, injury, or blindness is the most commonly reported eye injury. Flying objects, bits of glass and metal, tools, chemicals, and minute particles are hazards often resulting in eye injuries. When a person suffers an eye injury resulting in partial or total loss of vision, the ability to live a normal life and to earn a living is seriously compromised.
Work-Related Eye Injuries Are Common
The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that each year, there are about 25,290 workplace-related eye injuries. This amounts to 69 injuries per day or 3 eye injuries per hour! The BLS data shows that such eye injuries cause workers to lose an average of two working days.
Common Causes of Eye Injuries
Though there are a variety of reasons for eyes injuries, the following four are most prominent:
Particles – If your work involves cutting or grinding, you are at risk of having a particle fly into your eye. This can lead to injury right away, or it can damage your eye over time. Either way, it can lead to severe injury.
Blunt Force – While particles are very dangerous, blunt force trauma is often even more damaging. It comes from larger objects hitting you. This can come from a variety of scenarios, but the most common is something falling on your from above or a piece of machinery swinging and hitting you.
Chemicals – Certain employees work with harmful chemicals. When they do, they are at risk of getting those chemicals in their eyes, which can cause severe damage.
Screens – Though office jobs are generally not thought of as risky, they can lead to eye damage. The reason is that exposing your eyes to a computer screen for many hours a day can damage them over long periods of time.
Medical Treatments for Eye Injuries Are Expensive
In addition to the loss of pay due to absence from work, medical treatment costs for eye injuries are high. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) states that eye injuries cost more than $300 million per year. This amount includes lost production time, medical expenses, and workers’ compensation benefits.
Industries at Risk
The professions that are most at risk of eye injuries are the ones that feature the four common causes above. They are woodworking, manufacturing, construction, healthcare, and office work.
Eye Injuries Can Be Prevented
OSHA reveals that proper protection and safety gear can prevent most eye injuries. Many reported cases of serious eye injuries could have been avoided by the use of correct safety and prevention measures. The American Academy of Ophthalmology states that more than 90 percent of all reported eye injuries can be avoided with protective eyewear.
All employers are responsible for providing a safe working environment for their employees. An employer is also responsible to demonstrate the correct use of protective gear and provide proper training. OSHA has provided standards for industries related to construction, shipyard employees, long-shoring and general industries.
In a profession that is prone to particles or blunt force trauma, it is important to wear goggles that are specifically designed to protect against potential dangers. If you regularly work with chemicals, safe handling techniques and protective eyewear are standard. For screens, you can try using blue light filtering glasses and taking frequent breaks from looking at the screen.
5 Tips for Minimizing Your Risk of a Workplace Eye Injury
1. Wear the Right Eye Protection for the Job
First, make sure you wear the right eye protection for the job. If you’re working with chemicals or other potentially harmful substances, wear safety goggles or a face shield to protect your eyes. If you’re working in an area with dust or flying debris, wear safety glasses with side shields. And if you’re working outdoors, wear sunglasses to protect your eyes from the sun’s ultraviolet rays.
2. Keep Your Work Area Clean and Well-Organized
A cluttered work area can lead to all sorts of problems, including an increased risk of eye injuries. When your work area is cluttered, it’s harder to find what you need and to keep track of where things are. This can lead to you rushing around and not being as careful as you should be.
A cluttered work area can also create dust and debris that can get into your eyes and cause irritation or even an infection. To minimize your risk of a workplace eye injury, take a few minutes at the beginning of each shift to tidy up your workstation.
3. Be Aware of Potential Hazards
When you’re working, take a few minutes to assess the potential hazards in your area. Are there any chemicals or other substances that could splash into your eyes? Are there any tools or machines that could break and send shards of metal flying into your face? If so, take the necessary precautions to protect yourself. First, place the hazard as far away from you as possible. If that’s not possible, put up a barrier between you and the hazard, such as a plexiglass shield.
4. Avoid Touching Your Eyes
We all touch our eyes dozens, if not hundreds, of times a day. However, it’s important to avoid touching your eyes when you’re working. When you touch your eyes, you can transfer dirt and bacteria to them, leading to an infection. If you must touch your eyes, wash your hands first.
If you follow these simple tips, you can greatly reduce your risk of a workplace eye injury. However, accidents can still happen even if you take all the necessary precautions. If you experience an eye injury at work, seek medical attention immediately.
Reporting an Eye Injury
It is essential for workers to report an eye injury in a timely manner. Proper reporting will help an injured employee to be eligible for workers’ compensation benefits. A delay in reporting can jeopardize your eligibility. Injuries should be reported in writing.
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