March Workplace Eye Protection Awareness Month

March Is Workplace Eye Safety Month

More than 2,000 eye injuries occur on the job site every day and about one in 10 of them require missed work days to recover. Of the total amount of work-related eye injuries, 10 to 20 percent will cause temporary or permanent vision loss in the affected employees.

And, while many people think that eye injuries primarily occur in manufacturing, construction or trade jobs, nearly 40 percent of work-related eye injuries occur in offices, healthcare facilities, laboratories and similar environments.

Flying objects, tools, particles, chemicals and harmful radiation, are the causes of most eye injuries. And in many cases, implementing safe work practices and utilizing appropriate personal protective equipment could prevent them entirely.

Eye injuries in the workplace are very common. The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) reports about 2,000 U.S. workers sustain job-related eye injuries that require medical treatment each day. However, safety experts and eye doctors believe the right eye protection could have lessened the severity or even prevented 90% of these eye injuries. Simply using the proper eye protection on the job could prevent thousands of eye injuries each year.

Two major reasons workers experience eye injuries on the job are because they were:

  1. Not wearing eye protection, or
  2. Wearing the wrong kind of protection for the job.

A Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) survey of workers who suffered eye injuries revealed that nearly three out of five were not wearing eye protection at the time of the accident. These workers most often reported that they believed protection was not required for the situation.

What are the potential eye hazards at work?

Potential eye hazards against which protection is needed in the workplace are:

  • Projectiles (dust, concrete, metal, wood and other particles)
  • Chemicals (splashes and fumes)
  • Radiation (especially visible light, ultraviolet radiation, heat or infrared radiation, and lasers)
  • Bloodborne pathogens (hepatitis or HIV) from blood and body fluids

Some working conditions include multiple eye hazards. The proper eye protection takes all hazards into account.

The best methods of eye protection differ for each type of hazard. The protector must be matched to the potential hazard. High risk occupations for eye injuries include:

  • construction
  • manufacturing
  • mining
  • carpentry
  • auto repair
  • electrical work
  • plumbing
  • welding
  • maintenance

The type of safety eye protection you should wear depends on the hazards in your workplace:

  • If you are working in an area that has particles, flying objects, or dust, you must at least wear safety glasses with side protection (side shields)
  • If you are working with chemicals, you must wear goggles
  • If you are working near hazardous radiation (welding, lasers, or fiber optics) you must use special-purpose safety glasses, goggles, face shields, or helmets designed for that task

Additionally, with so many people using computers at work and at home, complaints of eye strain, difficulty focusing and discomfort have become a common place in doctors offices.

One of the main reasons is although offices have marched into the age of technology, not much else has. People are still using the same lighting and desk configurations they had when using typewriters.

To mark March as Workplace Eye Safety Month, the CDC/NIOSH and American Academy of Ophthalmology has put together some tips to help us alleviate some of the eye problems modern technology has given birth to. They are:

  • Has it been a year or two since your last exam get an eye exam by your ophthalmologist, who can rule out the possibility of any eye disease. If you wear glasses or contact lenses you could simply need glasses when working at a computer, reading, or your prescription might need updating.

  • Screen distance you should sit approximately 20 inches from the computer monitor, a little further than you would for reading distance, with the top of the screen at 2 plus or minus eye level.
  • Equipment if possible chooses a monitor that has both contrast and brightness controls.
  • Reference materials keep reference materials on a document holder so you dont have to keep looking back and forth, frequently refocusing your eyes and turning your neck and head.
  • Lighting modify your lighting to eliminate as much reflections or glare as possible. If possible arrange your work station away from window glare.
  • Rest breaks take periodic rest breaks and try to blink often to keep your eyes from drying out. Use the 20-20-20 method. Every 20 minutes of typing stop and focus on an object 20 feet away for 20 seconds. Allowing your eyes to reduce the constant focus strain. Additionally, force yourself to yawn this can help moisturize your eyes.

Another thing to remember is that the forced-air heating systems can increase problems with dry eyes during the winter months. The usual symptoms of dry eye are stinging or burning eyes, scratchiness, a feeling that theres something in the eye, excessive tearing or difficulty wearing contact lenses.

Over-the-counter eye drops, called artificial tears or saline drops, usually help, but if dry eye persists, see your eye doctor for an evaluation.

Why is eye safety at work important?

Eye injuries in the workplace are very common. More than 2,000 people injure their eyes at home or work each day. About 1 in 10 injuries require one or more missed workdays to recover. Of the total amount of work-related injuries, 10-20 % will cause temporary or permanent vision loss.

Experts believe that the right eye protection could lessen the severity or even prevented 90% of eye injuries in accidents.

What are the common causes of eye injuries?

Common causes for eye injuries are:

  • Flying objects (bits of metal, wood or glass)
  • Tools
  • Particles
  • Chemicals
  • Harmful radiation
  • Any combination of these or other hazards

What is my best defense against an eye injury?

There are three things you can do to help prevent an eye injury

  • Know the eye safety dangers at work.
  • Eliminate hazards before starting work. Use machine guarding, work screens, adjust lighting to reduce glare or other engineering controls.
  • Use proper eye protection.

The protective lens above saved the employees eyes from certain blindness!

When should I protect my eyes at work?

You should wear safety eyewear whenever there is a chance of eye injury. Anyone working in or passing through areas that pose eye hazards should wear protective eyewear.

What type of safety eyewear is available to me?

Safety eyewear protection includes:

  • Non-prescription and prescription safety glasses
  • Goggles
  • Face shields
  • Welding helmets
  • Full-face respirators

What type of safety eye protection should I wear?

The type of safety eye protection you should wear depends on the hazards in your workplace. If you are working in an area that has particles, flying objects, or dust, you must at least wear safety glasses with side protection (side shields). If you are working with chemicals, you should wear goggles. If you are working near hazardous radiation (welding, lasers, or fiber optics) you must use special-purpose safety glasses, goggles, face shields, or helmets designed for that task.

What is the difference between glass, plastic, and polycarbonate safety lenses?

All three types of safety lenses meet or exceed the ANSI (American National Standards Institute) requirements for protecting your eyes.

Glass lenses

  • Are not easily scratched
  • Can be used around harsh chemicals
  • Can be made in your corrective prescription
  • Are sometimes heavy and uncomfortable

Plastic lenses

  • Are lighter weight
  • Protect against welding splatter
  • Are not likely to fog
  • Are not as scratch-resistant as glass

Polycarbonate lenses

  • Are lightweight
  • Protect against welding splatter
  • Are not likely to fog
  • Are stronger than glass and plastic
  • Are more impact resistant than glass or plastic
  • Are not as scratch resistant as glass
  • Are more expensive than Glass or Plastic lens

So remember – something as simple as putting on a pair of safety glasses can prevent serious eye injuries. These injuries are painful, cause many lost workdays and sometimes lead to permanent vision loss. So during the month of March, and year round, remember to wear your safety glasses!

Does safety eye protection work?

Yes, eye protection does work. The Wise Owl Program, sponsored by Prevent Blindness America, has recognized more than 100,000 people in 2012 who avoided losing their sight in a workplace accident because they were wearing proper eye protection.

For more information on eye safety, email at info, visit the website at

www.preventblindness.org or call 1-800-331-2020

Information provided by CDC/NIOSH, American Academy of Ophthalmology and the Wise Owl program for Prevention of Blindness.

Ken Oswald, Safety and Security Manager for Plateau

keno@plateautel.com

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3 thoughts on “March Workplace Eye Protection Awareness Month

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