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Eye on safety: Workplace injuries are preventable when the focus is on safety

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More than 2,000 eye injuries occur each day while people are at work. Of these, 10 percent result in missed workdays and 10 to 20 percent of incidents will cause temporary or permanent blindness.

Almost 90 percent of these injuries could have been prevented by having employees wear appropriate eye protection while on the job.  Following is information to be aware of during Eye Injury Prevention Month, which takes place each October.

Eye injuries can result from a variety of causes:

  • Flying objects in the air
  • Tools
  • Particles
  • Chemical splashes
  • Harmful radiation

To protect your eyes from injuries while at work, consider the following recommendations for employees:

  • Identify and eliminate workplace dangers before beginning your tasks for the day.
  • Select safety glasses or goggles appropriate for the job and your facial features. Glasses should rest firmly on the top of your nose and close to (not against) the face.
  • Wear glasses or goggles that are properly ventilated for the work you are performing. Unless you are working near splash hazards, use goggles with plenty of side ventilation to prevent fogging.
  • If goggles fog easily, try another model with more ventilation or coat them with an anti-fog liquid.
  • Always keep safety goggles and glasses clean. Scratches and dirt can reduce vision, cause glare and may contribute to accidents.
  • If you wear prescription glasses, wear goggles designed to fit over your glasses or use safety glasses made with your prescription.

 But if there is an accident, follow these steps:

Specks in the eye

  • Don’t rub the affected eye.
  • Flush the eye with lots of water.
  • Go to your occupational medical clinic if the speck doesn’t wash out or if pain/redness continues.

Cuts, punctures and foreign objects in the eye

  • Unlike with specks of dust or metal, be sure NOT to wash out the affected eye.
  • Don’t try to remove a foreign object stuck in the eye.
  • Seek immediate medical attention.

Chemical burns

  • Immediately flush the eye with water or drinkable liquid. Open the eye as wide as possible.  Continue flushing for at least 15 minutes, even while you are on your way to seeking medical care.
  • If a contact lens is in the eye, begin flushing over the lens immediately. Flushing may dislodge the lens.
  • Seek immediate medical attention.

Blows to the eye

  • Apply a cold compress without pressure, or tape crushed ice in a plastic bag to the forehead and allow it to rest gently on the injured eye.
  • Seek immediate medical attention if pain continues, if you have reduced vision, or if blood or discoloration appears in the eye.

Sources:  The National Institute for Occupational Safety & Health, National Safety Council, the Health & Safety Institute