Eye Injuries in the Workplace

One of the most common injuries in the workplace is also one that can very easily be reduced. We’re talking about eye injuries.

Did you know that there are over 20,000 recorded eye injuries each year? And that’s not counting all the injuries that go unreported. It is estimated that eye injuries alone account for almost $300 million each year in medical costs, workman’s comp and lost time.

The simple fact is  that safety eyewear can reduce these injuries by up to 90%. That’s substantial!

Nemesis_Clear

A quick assessment of you workplace will let you know if safety glasses or goggles are needed. Are there particles in the air (sawdust, for example)? Is there any debris? Are there chemicals present that might constitute a splash hazard? Is there grinding, welding, sawing, hammering, etc… happening?

There are so many options and styles available today that there really isn’t a good reason not to protect your eyes while working.


Why wear eye protection

It seems anymore that we are told to wear eye protection for almost any and all jobs. Nothing wrong with that. I would rather be wearing eye protection even if the risk of eye injury is infinitesimaly small than not be wearing it when I need it and go through the rest of my life either blind or with only one good eye.

That being said, all eye wear is not created equal and in order to be properly protected, you need to identify the hazard or risk an eye injury even if you are wearing eye protection.

OSHA identifies five hazards when it comes to possible eye injury:

1. Impact – This is probably the first one that people can identify. There are a myriad of safety glasses out there in all sizes, styles, shades and shape that are designed to protect your eyes from flying objects. Additionally, depending on the work being done, faceshields or goggles might be a better choice (if, for example, you need to protect the whole face rather than just the eyes, a faceshield would be a better option).

2. Dust – Safety glasses have been found to be extremely ineffective in protecting against eye injuries where there is dust in the air. The dust particles simply flow under, around or over the lens and find their way into your eye. Goggles are the obvious choice in this instance.

3. Chemicals – If the hazard is a chemical rather than a flying piece of debris, safety glasses are not going to be adequate. A chemical splash might result in the liquid dripping down into the eyes in spite of the fact that the glasses protected against immediate splash contact. Chemical splash goggles and/or a faceshield would be the best manner of protection.

4. Heat – If the hazard is extreme temperatures, a heat shield, welding goggle or welding helmet is needed. If you are using a heat shield in instances of molten metal or chemicals that may splash, you will need to double up with a heat goggle under the heat shield.
Electrical arc flash is a good example of this type of application. Arc flash kits (like this one from National Safety apparel) come complete with a high heat faceshield because of the extreme temperatures generate by an arc flash.

5. Optical Radiation – Even the briefest of contacts with optical radiation or lasers can permanently damage the eye. In this instance, you will need special “laser eyewear“. Here again, not all laser eyewear is equal in protection. You will need to identify the filter type, the laser type, the wavelength, the lens color and the VLT% in order to get the correct protection factor.

Note: if you are wearing a faceshield that can be pivoted up, as most faceshields do, OSHA requires that you wear safety glasses or googles under the faceshiel. The idea being that the hazard might occur while the faceshield is in the “up” position.


Chart for Lens Tint for Protection against Radiant Energy

Operation

Electrode Size in Arc Current 1/32″ (0.8mm)

Arc Current

Minimum * Protective Shade

Shielded metal

arc welding

< 3

3-5

5-8

> 8

< 60

60-160

160-250

250-550

7

8

10

11

Gas Metal arc Welding and Flux cored arc welding

 

< 60

60-160

160-250

250-500

7

10

10

10

Gas Tungsten arc welding

 

< 50

50-150

150-500

8

8

10

Air Carbon

Light

< 500

10

Arc Cutting

Heavy

500 – 1,000

11

Plasma Arc Welding

 

< 20

20-100

100-400

400-800

6

8

10

11

Plasma Arc Cutting

Light **

Medium **

Heavy **

< 300

300-400

400-800

8

9

10

Torch Brazing

   

3

Torch Soldering

   

2

Carbon Arc Welding

   

14

 

Operations

Plate Thickness

Minimum * Protective Shade

Light Gas Welding

< 1/8 ” (3.2mm)

4

Medium Gas Welding

1/8″- ½” (3.2-12.7mm)

5

Heavy Gas Welding

> ½” (12.7mm)

6

Light Oxygen Cutting

< 1 (25mm)

3

Medium Oxygen Cutting

1-6″ (25-150mm)

4

Heavy Oxygen Cutting

> 6″ (150mm)

5

* As a rule of thumb, start with a shade that is too dark to see the weld zone. Then go to a lighter shade which gives sufficient view of the weld zone without going below the minimum. In oxyfuel gas welding or cutting where the torch produces a high yellow light, it is desirable to use a filter lens that absorbs the yellow or sodium line in the visible light of the (spectrum) operation.

 

** These values apply where the actual arc is clearly seen. Experience has shown that lighter filters may be used when the arc is hidden by the work piece.

 

Source: 29 CFR 1910.133(a)(5). (www.OSHA.gov)


Eye Protection when not at work

Stumble It! Digg! Add to Mixx! Pownce

While most of us understand the necessity of wearing eyewear while at work, there aren’t too many of us who think about safety glasses once we’ve clocked out for the day. Fact is that half of all eye injuries happen when we aren’t at work. Think about all the things that you do each day that have the potential for eye injury… mowing the lawn and other yard work, sports, home maintenance, car maintenance, even cooking (think about hot oil splashing into your eye!).


(Photo by Dan Foy. Click on photo to go to his flickr page)

So what are we to do? We can’t exactly walk around wearing safety glasses 24/7. The Prevent Blindness America foundation has some suggestions on their website at http://www.preventblindness.org/safety/homesafe.html. Here are some of the most note worthy.

  • Pad or cushion sharp corners and edges of furnishing and home fixtures.
  • Inspect and remove debris from lawns before mowing.
  • Keep paints, pesticides, fertilizers, and similar products properly stored in a secure area.
  • Keep your tools in good condition; damaged tools should be repaired or replaced.
  • Wear safety glasses or dust goggles to protect against flying particles, and chemical goggles to guard against exposure to fertilizers and pesticides.
  • Wear chemical safety goggles when using hazardous solvents and detergents.
  • Do not mix cleaning agents.
  • Know that regular eyeglasses don’t always provide enough protection.
  • Avoid toys with sharp or rigid points, shafts, spikes, rods, and dangerous edges.
  • Avoid flying toys and projectile-firing toys; these pose a danger to all children, particularly those under five years old.
  • Be aware of items in playgrounds and play areas that pose potential eye hazards.
  • Keep BB guns away from kids.
  • Wear proper safety goggles (lensed polycarbonate protectors) for racquet sports or basketball.
  • Use batting helmets with polycarbonate face shields for youth baseball.
  • Use helmets and face shields approved by the U.S. Amateur Hockey Association when playing hockey.

There are a lot more hints and tips at http://www.preventblindness.org