How to Prevent Eye Injuries
The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health reports that every day approximately 2,000 U.S. workers suffer job-related eye injuries that require medical treatment.
90% of all workplace eye injuries can be avoided with the proper eye protection.
2,000 injuries a day is a lot – but the best defense is a good offense, and in this case that means educating your workers. Make sure they understand the risks and know what to do to protect their irreplaceable eyesight!
Common types of eye injuries
First, know the facts. The most common type of eye injury is caused by a foreign particle entering the eye. Cuts or open wounds to the eyes or face are the next most common, followed by bruises and chemical or thermal burns.
Eye Injury Treatment at Work
If an eye injury does happen, it’s important to know that every worker is prepared to deal with it. Keep everyone up to date on first-aid remedies from organizations like the Minnesota Optometric Association so they know the proper way to deal with an eye injury.
Particles in the Eye
- Use natural tears or an artificial tear solution to wash the speck out.
- Try pulling the upper eyelid over the lower eyelid to remove the particle.
- If that doesn’t work, close the eye, bandage it lightly, and seek medical care. Be sure to use extra caution if you believe the person has a metallic particle in their eye as it may cause rusting spots if left untreated.
Punctures or Open Wounds to the Eye
- Do not wash out the eye or try to remove the object
- Cover the eye with a first-aid eye shield or even a make-shift shield and seek further medical treatment. You can fashion a make-shift eye shield from the bottom of a paper cup and some tape to affix it to the injured worker’s face.
Blows to the Eye
- Apply a cold pad to the eye to reduce pain and swelling
- In case of severe pain or reduced vision, seek out immediate medical care. If necessary, employees can use a wrapped plastic bag filled with crushed ice instead of a cold pad.
Chemical Burns to the Eye
- Flush the affected eye with water for at least 15 minutes. Never use a substance other than water for this purpose, though the water may come from an eyewash station, a faucet, shower, hose, or even a clean container.
- Do not bandage the eye.
- Seek immediate medical care for further treatment.
What kind of eyewear protection should you choose?
Ideally, you’d like to keep workers from ever needing to use their eye-injury-care knowledge! Train every worker on what type of eye protection they need for the job they’re doing. Whether it’s glasses, goggles, face shields, or helmets, never allow them to substitute the wrong type of PPE.
Available in prescription and non-prescription styles, these are stronger than regular eyeglasses because they’re made from materials like plastic and polycarbonate. Safety glasses should be used in areas that contain flying objects like dust and other particles. Most safety glasses include side shields to help provide additional protection to the side of a worker’s face. Styles rated for impact protection are required to include lateral/side coverage of the face.
Safety goggles are built to be impact-resistant and create a strong shield around the eye and surrounding tissue. This means they can be worn over most pairs of prescription glasses and contact lenses. Note that while goggles are often used to prevent harmful substances from splashing into a worker’s eyes, not all goggles are rated for chemical splash.
Full Face Shields
Full Face Shields are meant for protection against chemicals, heat, and blood-borne pathogens, while Helmets are often used for welding. Shields and helmets should only be used as supplemental protection on top of proper eyewear so workers still have vision protection even when the shield or helmet is removed.
Special Purpose Goggles or Helmets
These have specific filters that are used for working near hazardous radiation such as in welding or working with lasers.
Eye Injury Prevention & Training
With your workers’ eyesight on the line, the best policy is to make eye safety part of every day on the job. That means:
- Placing eye safety reminder posters in prominent places around your job site
- Reducing workplace eye hazards where possible and training workers to avoid unnecessary risks
- Providing appropriate eyewear for your workers, walking the job site to double-check that everyone is wearing the proper PPE, and instructing workers to remind each other to work safely
- Training workers to
- inspect their eyewear after each use for any scrapes, punctures, or other defects that could jeopardize their safety
- disinfect their eyewear before putting it away so it will be clean and free from debris for the next use
- place their eyewear in a clean and secure case when it’s not in use
Follow these steps to keep eye safety in sight every day!
Ready to get started? Download a FREE Eye Safety Training Class!