Crystal-clear regulations are in place, but injuries still occur
Every single day, about 1,000 eye injuries happen at work in the United States alone.
That staggering statistic represents a cost of more than $300 million a year in lost production time, medical expenses and worker compensation. This is despite the fact that eye protection in American workplaces is a health and safety practice carefully regulated by OSHA.
Workers stand the greatest chance of eye injury as a result of flying objects and fragments, followed by heat burn, chemical contamination and dust.
The best prevention of eye injury is to wear properly fitted eyewear that is of the appropriate type for the hazard encountered. Eye protection is a key component of having appropriate safety equipment at your workplace.
Eye hazards are present in every industry, but the Labor Department's Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) has reported that more than 40 percent of eye injuries occur among craft workers such as mechanics, repairers, carpenters and plumbers. More than a third of injured workers are operatives such as sanders, grinding machine operators and assemblers.
Manufacturing workers get the most eye injuries
Almost half of the workers with eye injuries are employed in manufacturing; about 20 percent of them work in construction.
Employers are responsible for ensuring that proper eye protection equipment is available in the workplace - and U.S. Department of Labor statistics show that most employers do.
So then, why do so many injuries occur?
Here's what injured workers admitted in a BLS survey.
- 60 percent were not wearing eye protection at the time of the accident.
- 40 percent were wearing the wrong type of eye protection for the job. Most of these workers were wearing safety glasses with no side shields.
- 70 percent of workers' eyes were injured by flying or falling objects or sparks striking the eye. Almost half of the workers reported that the culprit objects were smaller than a pin head and traveling faster than a hand-thrown object when the accident occurred.
- 20 percent of eye injuries were caused by contact with chemicals.
- Other eye injuries were caused by objects swinging from a fixed or attached position such as tools, ropes, chains or tree limbs.
Even though an overwhelming majority of employers in the study furnished eye protection at no cost to the employees, about 40 percent of the workers did not receive any training on where and what kind of eyewear should be used!
The best protection comes with knowing the facts
Those vital facts include knowing the types of hazards that proper eye protection can protect against in the circumstances of
- impact / penetration / compression - flying particles account for 70 percent of eye injuries and require safety spectacles with side shields
- extreme heat
- chemicals, including fumes, splashes, vapors and mists
- dust - for which safety goggles are the only real defense
- light and optical radiation.
A welder might be even safer wearing a welding mask, or welding shield as it's also called. Welders need protection from exposure to bright, ultraviolet or infrared light; their masks are fitted with filtered lenses shaded according to the amount of radiant light being produced by the welding process.
With proper use of eye protection in all types of workplace situations, the vast majority of eye injuries can be prevented.
Regulations on eye protection are clearly defined, so that with education, training and compliance, eye injuries in the workplace can be greatly reduced.