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October 01, 2007
October Is Eye Injury Prevention Month

The American Academy of Ophthalmology has designated October as Eye Injury Prevention Month. Why not take advantage of this opportunity to reinforce your eye safety message and make sure that all your employees are taking proper precautions to protect their valuable eyesight on the job?

Understand why workers suffer eye injuries and what you can do about it. Studies show that the two main reasons so many workers suffer eye injuries are:

  1. They weren't wearing any eye protection.
  2. They were wearing the wrong kind of protection.

That gives you a big clue about where to focus your eye safety programs. To prevent workplace eye injuries, you need to:

  • Identify all possible eye hazards in your workplace.
  • Put up signs that warn workers about eye hazards and specify the need for appropriate eye protection.
  • Make sure employees use the right kind of eye protection for the job.
  • Train employees to use and maintain eye protection properly.
  • Strictly enforce eye safety rules, including the use of required eye protection.
Why It Matters ...
  • About 2,000 American workers sustain work-related eye injuries every day, according to the organization Prevent Blindness America.
  • As many as 10 percent to 20 percent of those employees will suffer a disabling injury, and some will be permanently blinded--at least in one eye.
  • Occupational safety experts say that probably 90 percent of all workplace eye injuries can be prevented.

Make sure you've identified all the hazards. While some eye hazards are obvious, others are not. Possible hazards include:

  • Impact--from flying chips, particles, sand, and dirt, etc.
  • Burns--from sparks, molten metal, or chemical splashes
  • Irritation--from chemical vapors or dust
  • Effects of light radiation--from welding and similar operations

But to make sure you're not missing anything, get specific. Look at each job for particular eye hazards and remote risks. Even a 1 in 10,000 chance of an eye accident could be bad odds for an unlucky employee.

Teach workers to select the right eye protection for the job. The wrong kind of eye protection might not be a whole lot better than no eye protection at all, in some cases. So make sure your workers know which safety eyewear protects against which hazards. For example:

  • Safety glasses with side shields or goggles provide good protection against impact hazards.
  • Ventilated safety goggles prevent chemical vapors or dust from getting at delicate eye tissue.
  • A face shield worn over safety eyewear provides extra protection from flying particles and chemical splashes.
  • Goggles worn with a face shield protect against burn hazards.
  • Welding goggles with special lenses protect eye tissue by filtering out harmful light radiation.

Train employees to use eye protection properly--and enforce the rules relentlessly. Be sure to highlight these precautions in your eye safety training:

  • Obey all warning signs requiring eye protection.
  • Always put on protective eyewear before entering an area where hazards may be present.
  • When there is doubt about the existence of eye hazards, assume they are present.
  • Make sure eye protection fits properly and comfortably.
  • Inspect protective eyewear for damage before each use, and replace it immediately if there is any defect.
  • Store eye protection safely where it won't get scratched or damaged, and keep it clean.
  • If you're not sure which type of eye protection is required in a particular situation, ask your supervisor before you begin to work.

And don't ever forget that training must go hand in hand with enforcement of PPE rules. Make sure your workers are wearing the eye protection they need every day, all day. Provide lots of positive reinforcement when they are, and be right there with corrective feedback when they're not.

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