Where Do Work-Related Eye Injuries Happen, and How Can You Prevent Them?
All occupations have their own unique safety gear. Professional football players never step onto the field without a helmet, shoulder pads, mouth guard, and cleats. Construction workers wear helmets onsite to protect themselves from falling debris. And lumberjacks wear heavy-duty gloves to protect their hands from wood and harsh weather conditions.
But what about workers’ eyes? The eyes are some of the most sensitive organs in the body, but few industries require protective eye gear in the same way they require hardhats, boots, or gloves.
The lack of eye-specific safety gear has its consequences. According to the CDC, 2000 Americans are treated for work-related eye injuries every day. In our blog below, we’ll tell you which industries make employees more susceptible to eye injuries, and then give you tips on avoiding those injuries altogether.
Most eye injuries come from flying objects and debris, dangerous chemicals, and bright lights. Not every occupation carries the same risk of eye injury. You should take extra precautions for your eyes if you work in one of the following industries.
Carpentry and Construction
As carpenters and construction workers work with wood, small woodchips and sawdust fly into the air. These particles might seem too small to do any damage, but if they come in contact with the eye, they can cause inflammation and even cuts, especially on the cornea. This hazard also affects anyone who operates sanders and grinding machines.
Welding sends at least 11,000 workers to the hospital with eye injuries per year. In particular, sparks from welding cause flash burns, which are also known as “welder’s flash” because they happen so frequently to welding professionals.
Flash burns feel like sunburns on the eye. Symptoms usually start a few hours after exposure to bright UV light from a welding torch. Depending on the burn’s severity, the victim might feel mild to intense eye pain, have bloodshot and watery eyes, and experience blurred vision and light sensitivity. Flash burns require immediate medical treatment to prevent further eye damage.
Janitorial, Plumbing, and Health Care Work
Professionals who work in these industries frequently come in contact with bodily fluids like blood and mucus. If these bodily fluids enter the eye, they can cause infection and disease, including eye diseases like conjunctivitis or dangerous diseases like hepatitis.
Janitors are also at risk from the cleaning chemicals they work with. If these chemicals splash onto the eye, they can cause inflammation and chemical burns.
No matter what industry you work in, you can take active steps to safeguard your eyes. Follow these guidelines while you work:
Always Wear Protective Eye Gear
Effective eye protection can prevent the vast majority of work-related eye injuries. In fact, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, three out of five employees treated for eye wounds weren’t wearing eye safety gear when the injury occurred.
Depending on your industry, you should use safety goggles, safety glasses, face shields, or even full-face respirators. Whether or not your employer requires safety gear, you should take this measure into your own hands.
Make sure you wear the right level of eye protection for the job. Your eye-care professional can give you advice on the right safety gear for your needs. Your eyewear should also fit correctly and stay in place as you move around.
Once you have your eye protection gear, keep it in good condition. Always clean your eye gear and replace it if you see fractures or cracks in the lenses.
Operate a Safe Work Environment
Do what you can to keep your work environment hazard-free. Remove debris from the workplace and clean up wood chips or sawdust immediately (with your eye gear on). Ensure that you and your fellow workers all know how to operate machines and tools appropriately. Identify any worksite hazards specific to your job and remove them immediately.
Similarly, follow safe work practices, like washing your hands before you rub your eyes. Always shake loose debris like dust and wood shavings from your clothes, hands, hat, and hair before you remove your protective eye gear.
Know What to Do in an Emergency
If an eye injury happens on the job, know how to act. Recognize the symptoms, including:
- Eye pain
- Difficulty seeing
- Bleeding, especially in the white of the eye
- Difficulty moving the eye
- Cuts and tears in the skin around the eye or on the eyelid
You should visit the emergency room or your ophthalmologist immediately-since the eyes are so delicate, leaving injuries untreated can cause vision loss. Remember not to touch the eye or to try to remove any objects that have punctured it. This can make the injury worse.
Talk to Your Ophthalmologist
With a few simple safety precautions, especially eye safety gear, you and your co-workers can stay safe from eye injuries on the job. If you have more questions, talk to your ophthalmologist. He or she can assess your vision and recommend the appropriate safety gear. He or she can also treat or diagnose your injuries, so don’t hesitate to schedule an emergency appointment if needed.