Protecting Your Eyes in the Workplace

eye protection safety glasses and hardhat

Learn why proper eye protection and workplace safety are crucial.

Eye safety is a critical aspect of workplace safety that often goes overlooked (pun intended!). Caring for your eyes on the job site or in the workplace may seem less important than your head or hands, but the truth is that your eyes are just as vulnerable to injury.

According to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), nearly 2,000 workers in the U.S. sustain eye injuries on the job every day!

This equates to hundreds of thousands of eye injuries annually, many of which could be prevented with proper eye protection and safety measures. Employers and employees must work together to prioritize eye safety in the workplace to reduce the risk of these preventable injuries.

What are Common Eye Hazards in the Workplace?

There are several common eye hazards present in various work environments. Even those who may not work in high-risk industries such as construction or manufacturing are still at risk for eye injuries. Some of the most common workplace eye hazards include:

  1. Projectiles: Dust, concrete, metal, wood, and other particles can be ejected from tools or materials during various work processes, posing a significant risk to the eyes.
  2. Chemicals: Splashes and fumes from chemicals used in manufacturing, cleaning, and other processes can cause severe damage to the eyes.
  3. Radiation: Exposure to visible light, ultraviolet radiation, heat, infrared radiation, and lasers can harm the eyes, particularly in industries such as welding, laser operation, and fiber optics.
  4. Bloodborne pathogens: In healthcare settings, there is a risk of eye exposure to bloodborne pathogens such as hepatitis or HIV through contact with blood and body fluids.

By knowing the risks that exist in their workplace, employees can take proper precautions to protect their eyes from harm. This includes wearing appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) such as safety glasses or goggles, face shields, and specialized eyewear for specific hazards like lasers or radiation.

High-Risk Occupations for Eye Injuries

While eye care is key for any role, some vocations are more likely to run the risk of eye injuries. These high-risk occupations include:

  • Construction: Workers in the construction industry are exposed to projectiles, dust, and debris from various tasks such as cutting, drilling, and grinding.
  • Manufacturing: Manufacturing processes often involve working with chemicals, machinery, and materials that can pose risks to the eyes.
  • Mining: Mining workers face eye hazards from dust, particles, and flying debris during excavation and drilling operations.
  • Carpentry: Carpenters risk eye injuries from wood chips, sawdust, and flying particles when cutting and shaping materials.
  • Auto repair: Mechanics are exposed to eye hazards from flying debris, chemicals, and tools during repair and maintenance tasks.
  • Electrical work: Electricians face eye hazards from sparks, flashes, and debris when working with electrical systems and components.
  • Plumbing: Plumbers encounter eye risks from debris, chemicals, and particles during pipe cutting, welding, and soldering.
  • Welding: Welders are exposed to intense light, radiation, and flying sparks that can cause serious eye damage without proper protection.
  • Chemical handling: Workers in chemical plants and laboratories face potential eye injuries from exposure to hazardous chemicals, acids, and corrosive substances.
  • Military: Members of the military are at risk for eye injuries from explosions, gunfire, and other hazards while on duty.

Tips for Protecting Your Eyes at Work

Protecting your eyes in the workplace is crucial to avoiding potentially debilitating injuries. By following these essential steps, you can significantly reduce your risk of eye damage:

Identify Eye Safety Dangers

Conduct a thorough assessment of your work environment and tasks to identify potential eye hazards. Look for risks such as flying debris, chemicals, radiation, and bloodborne pathogens. Don't forget to consider less obvious hazards, such as the strain caused by prolonged computer use or exposure to UV light when working outdoors.

Eliminate Hazards Before Starting Work

Whenever possible, remove or reduce eye hazards through engineering controls. This can include installing machine guards, work screens, or other physical barriers to prevent eye injuries. Consider redesigning work processes to minimize exposure to eye hazards. A few key things to watch for include:

  • Protruding objects, such as nails or sharp edges on equipment
  • Loose materials that could become airborne, such as sawdust or metal shavings
  • Chemicals and fumes that can irritate the eyes or cause vision impairment
  • UV light from welding, sunlight, or other sources
eye protection safety glasses while welding

Use Proper Eye Protection

Select and wear appropriate eye protection based on the specific hazards present in your work environment. Ensure your eye protection meets ANSI Z87 standards and fits comfortably and securely. 

  • Safety glasses: Protect against general hazards like dust, chips, and flying particles. Look for wraparound styles or glasses with side shields for increased protection.
  • Goggles: Offer protection from impact, dust, and chemical splashes. They provide a secure shield around the entire eye and can be worn over prescription glasses.
  • Face shields and helmets: Used for protection against chemicals, heat, or bloodborne pathogens. Always wear face shields, helmets, and safety glasses or goggles for complete eye protection.
  • Special protection: For tasks involving radiation or intense light, use specialized eye protection, such as welding helmets with the appropriate lens shade or laser safety goggles with the correct optical density.

Keep Your Eye Protection in Good Condition

Regularly inspect your eye protection for damage, such as scratches, cracks, or loose frames. Clean your eye protection according to the manufacturer's instructions to maintain clarity and prevent damage. Replace eye protection immediately if it becomes damaged or compromised.

If you find that your eye protection is uncomfortable or impairs your vision, speak to your supervisor to find a better solution. Never attempt to work without eye protection that fits well and is fully functional.

Educate and Train Employees on Eye Safety

Make sure all employees are properly trained in eye safety protocols. This includes knowing how to use personal protective equipment (PPE) such as safety glasses, goggles, face shields, and hoods. 

Employees should also be aware of emergency procedures in case of an eye injury. Regular training sessions and reminders can help keep eye safety top of mind for everyone in the workplace – including new hires.

Encourage a Culture of Eye Safety

Creating a culture of safety in the workplace is key to maintaining eye safety. This can be done by promoting and encouraging safe practices, such as wearing eye protection at all times when necessary.

Displaying informative posters or signs around the workplace can also serve as visual reminders to prioritize eye safety. Additionally, making sure that first aid kits are well-stocked with supplies specifically for treating eye injuries can show employees that their safety is a top priority.

Don’t Take Your Eye Care For Granted

Regardless of your workplace, caring for your sight is essential. The risks of eye injuries are not only life-altering but can lead to lawsuits and financial burdens for both the employee and employer. That’s why taking the right steps to prevent and address eye injuries is more important than you might expect!

Let Alta Max assist you in finding the correct protective eyewear for your manufacturing applications. Our team of experts can help you choose the right materials for your specific needs, ensuring you never risk your valuable eyesight. Don't wait until it's too late; make eye safety a priority in your workplace today with Alta Max.

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