Every day, about 2,000 workers suffer an eye injury that requires medical treatment. More than 100 of these workers will lose more than one day of work because of the injury.
In this blog post, we will discuss the causes of on-the-job eye injuries and some common-sense steps that workers can take to minimize the possibility of eye injuries.
What are the most common types of eye injuries?
There are four major types of on-the-job eye injuries. Ranked in order of prevalence, these are:
Scraping or striking injuries – The majority of eye injuries happen when small particles such as dust, paint chips, metal slivers or saw dust brush against the cornea. Larger objects can also strike the eye, or a worker can hit his or her face against an object. Occupations most susceptible to these types of injuries include construction workers and installation and service technicians and machinists.
Penetrating injuries – These happen when an object penetrates the eyeball, such as a nail, staple, or metal slivers. A penetrating eye injury can result in permanent loss of vision. Construction workers are most vulnerable to penetrating eye injuries.
Chemical and thermal burns – Chemical burns can occur when industrial chemicals or cleaning agents splash into a worker’s eyes. Those working in janitorial occupations are most vulnerable. Thermal burns occur when heat damages eyes and the tissues surrounding the eyes. Welders are most vulnerable.
Communicable diseases – When contaminated blood or mucus splash into the eyes or when a worker touches the eyes with a contaminated finger, diseases can be transmitted through the eyes. In some cases, the effects can be merely irritating and bothersome. In other cases however, serious and life-threatening diseases can be transmitted, such as HIV, hepatitis B and avian flu. Workers susceptible to eye diseases include nurses, dental hygienists, physicians, dentists, emergency medical technicians and police officers.
How to avoid eye injuries
Workers can take proactive measures to minimize the possibility of eye injuries. The most important thing to do is to wear proper eye protection gear that’s suitable for the job at hand. Depending on the situation, these can include safety glasses, full-face shields and full-face shields with respirators. Whatever type of eye protection wear is used, it should be comfortable and allow peripheral vision.
For their part, employers can conduct a work hazard assessment and based on the assessment provide workers with the right type of protective gear. When hazardous chemicals are routinely used in the workplace, employers should also purchase and install the appropriate type of eye wash stations in the facility. These can range in cost from as little as $17 to several hundred dollars each. Considering the cost of medical treatment for a single eye injury and the value of a person’s eyesight, eye wash stations are a good investment whatever the cost.
If you have sustained an eye injury at work that requires medical treatment or you have had to take time off work after an eye injury, you may be eligible for workers’ compensation benefits. Speak with an attorney if you have questions about a claim.