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August 08, 2005
Look Out for Eye Injuries

Now is the perfect time to do a session on eye safety, in recognition of Eye Injury Prevention Month (August 2005).

Many eye hazards are not obvious. An OSHA analysis of workplace eye injuries indicates that more than two-thirds of these injuries are caused by flying objects. That's not a big surprise—but also note that about 60 percent of the objects were smaller than a pinhead. Put another way, nearly half of all eye injuries are caused by tiny particles that may not even be noticeable (until they hit your eye). Other leading causes of eye injuries are chemical splashes and swinging objects, such as ropes and chains. Remind employees that most eye injuries result from things they cannot even see or situations that they do not expect.

Not just any kind of eye protection will do. Employers should do a hazard analysis to determine the right type of eye protection for their employees in various situations. To go one step further, encourage employees to do their own hazard analysis every time they do a job, and make sure they're wearing the best eye protection for the job. As with most kinds of personal protective equipment (PPE), OSHA has found that many eye injuries have been caused when employees wear eye protection but don't wear the right kind. Examples include:

Why It Matters...
  • While estimates vary, the number of workplace eye injuries ranges from 1,000 to 2,000 per day, with 10 percent to 20 percent of these causing vision loss.
  • Experts believe that proper eye protection can prevent or reduce the severity of 90 percent of eye injuries.
  • In FY 2004, OSHA handed out nearly 600 citations for violating its eye and face protection standard (29 CFR 1910.133).
  • Wearing protective lenses without side pieces—this may allow flying particles or splashes to strike the eye from the side.
  • Wearing a face shield without goggles—sparks, particles, or splashes may still get under or around the shield.
  • Wearing glasses instead of goggles—again, goggles provide much more complete protection from all types of hazards.
  • Wearing regular prescription glasses instead of safety eyewear—OSHA requires that protective eyewear either fit completely over the wearer's glasses, or else use eyewear that incorporates the wearer's prescription.

Eye safety is important at home, too!

In fact, the majority of eye injuries occur at home, but they are generally of the same type, and caused by the same things, as eye injuries in the workplace. Ask your group to review the types of jobs they do both at work and at home that require eye protection. For many employees, the lists will be very similar—working with wood or concrete, handling hazardous chemicals, etc. And, as in the workplace, most eye injuries at home are preventable, simply by recognizing the hazards and be sure to wear the right kind of protection.

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