Every day 1,000 American workers injure their eyes in work-related accidents according to Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) statistics. Six hundred of those thousand injured were not wearing eye protection devices. Of those who were, most were not wearing a device approved by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) code.
These injuries cost more than 133 million dollars a year in lost production, medical expenses and workers compensation, not to mention personal suffering and potential vision loss. Most eye injuries occur among workers employed in manufacturing durable goods, such as machinery, fabricated metal products, metal electronic and electrical equipment, and at job sites with fewer than 500 employees.
Nine out of every 10 of these injuries can be prevented by establishing or improving existing eye safety programs in the workplace. The OSHA Act of 1970 states:
- No unprotected worker will knowingly be subjected to a hazardous environmental condition.
- Protective eye and face equipment is required whenever a reasonable probability exists that injuries could be prevented by such equipment.
- Employers are required to make the type of protection best suited for the work to be performed conveniently available. Employees are required to use the provided eye protectors.
- Suitable eye protectors are to be provided where machines or operations present the hazard of flying objects, glare, liquids, injurious radiation or a combination of these hazards.
- The design, construction, testing and use of devices provided for eye and face protection must be in accordance with ANSI code Z87.1 of 1979.
Components of an eye safety program
A successful eye safety program can only be achieved with the cooperation of management, union and workers. All parties must agree that an eye safety program is desirable and that enforcement and compliance are necessary for continuing employment.
Every eye safety program should include:
- Vision screening for workers
- Determination of visual requirements for each job
- Assessment of potential eye hazards in the job environment
- Rules requiring that basic eye protection be worn
- A supply of corrective safety glasses for workers
Treatment of eye injuries
Though most eye injuries can be avoided by wearing the proper protective eyewear, eye injuries that do occur should be treated by trained personnel.
As a general rule, avoid rubbing the injured eye, apply a loose patch, and go to an ophthalmologist or an emergency room physician as soon as possible. In the case of chemical injuries, flush the eye immediately with generous amounts of water, and contact an ophthalmologist promptly.