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February 14, 2005
Keep Your Eye on Eye Safety
February is Workplace Eye Safety Month, so now is a good time for a refresher course on eye injuries, hazards, and protective measures.

Most eye injuries should never happen. According to the American Academy of Ophthalmology, workplace eye injuries are a leading cause of eye trauma, vision loss, and blindness. The Academy also estimates that 90 percent of all eye injuries could have been prevented by using the right kind of protective eyewear. So it's critically important that employees take eye safety seriously by understanding the potential causes of eye injuries and how to protect themselves.

A hazard assessment is a good place to start. For all kinds of personal protective equipment, OSHA recommends conducting detailed hazard assessments of the workplace to determine the types of PPE employees should be required to use. Apply this approach to your eye safety training sessions by asking the group to name all the eye hazards in the workplace. They may realize that some eye hazards are obvious, while others are not. The list includes:

Why It Matters...
  • An estimated 2,000 eye injuries occur in the workplace every day.
  • A range of 10 percent to 20 percent of eye injuries are disabling.
  • In FY 2004, OSHA gave out nearly 600 citations for violations of its eye and face protection standard (29 CFR 1910.133).
  • Impact--from flying chips, particles, sand, dirt, etc.
  • Burns--from sparks, molten metal, or chemical splashes
  • Heat--extremely high temperature can cause eye damage
  • Irritation--from chemical vapors or dust
  • Light radiation--from welding and similar operations
  • Glare--may not cause eye injury, but affects ability to see well and work safely

Make sure employees use the right protection. There should be no uncertainty about the kind of eyewear to use to protect against impact and splashes: It must conform to American National Standards Institute (ANSI) Z87.1. Train employees to make sure this designation is marked on the lens or frame. Beyond that, make sure they understand other key eye safety basics:

  • Protective eyewear should include side protection unless there is no possible chance of injury from side impact, splashes, or sparks.
  • Always put on protective eyewear before entering an area where hazards may be present.
  • Eye protection must fit properly and comfortably, including when worn over prescription glasses.
  • Eyewear should always be checked for damage and replaced if there is any defect.
  • When there is doubt, assume that eye hazards are present.
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