March is Workplace Eye Safety Month
Despite existing safety legislation and educational programs, more than 2,000 employees sustain job-related eye injuries every day in the U.S., making workplace injury a leading cause of ocular trauma, visual loss and blindness. Fortunately, 90% of all workplace eye injuries can be avoided by using proper safety eyewear.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that three out of every five workers who suffered eye injuries were not wearing eye protection. Others were harmed when they wore the wrong kind of eye protection for the job. The financial cost of these injuries is enormous – more than $300 million per year in lost production time, medical expense and workers’ compensation. In addition to the 60 percent of workers not wearing eye protection at the time of their accidents, about 40 percent of injured workers were wearing eyeglasses without side shields. Almost 70 percent of work-related eye accidents are caused by flying or falling objects – most of them smaller than a pinhead. Also, contact with chemicals caused about 20 percent of injuries. Tight-fitting goggles offer the most complete protection and should be worn for protection against liquid chemical hazards.
Potential eye hazards can be found in nearly every industry, but the risk is much higher in certain occupations. National statistics shows that more than 40 percent of workplace eye injuries involved craft workers such as mechanics, carpenters and plumbers. More than one-third of injured workers were assemblers, sanders and grinding machine operators. Laborers suffered about 20 percent of the eye injuries. Most injuries occur where safety eyewear is not mandated and is left up to the individual.
The good news is that workplace eye injuries can be prevented. OSHA standards require that employers provide, and workers wear, eye protection for certain jobs. And remember, to be effective, eyewear must be the appropriate type and properly fitted.
Even though the vast majority of employers furnish eye protection at no cost to employees, research shows that about 40 percent of workers receive no information on where and what types of eye protection should be used. Employees should not be hesitant about asking their employer for eye protection and training. After all, your future vision may depend on it.