One of the most common workplace injuries focuses on the eyes. NIOSH (National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health) reports that about 2,000 US employees sustain eye injuries while on the job every day. Eye doctors and safety experts believe that, with the right eye protection, up to 90 percent of those injuries could be prevented or the severity lessened.
Common eye injuries that happen at work can include getting foreign objects or chemicals in the eyes, as well as scrapes and cuts to the cornea. Others can involve getting splashed with oil or grease, steam burns, flying metal or wood chips, and infrared or ultraviolet radiation exposure.
Some people are more susceptible to getting infectious eye diseases from being exposed at work. These include janitorial and laboratory staff, health care workers, and more.
Many times, workers do not believe that the protection was needed for that particular situation. Therefore, they didn’t wear appropriate eye protection. OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) requires that employees use face and eye protection where there could be an injury, which could have been prevented by wearing PPE. Personal protective equipment for the eyes can include face shields, goggles, full-face respirators, and safety glasses. These should be worn when any eye hazards exist. Still, the type you wear depends on the exposure circumstances, kind of danger, vision needs, and more.
Potential Eye Hazards at Work
If you are working around any of the following eye hazards, you should wear eye protection:
In some cases, you may have multiple eye hazards where you are working. It is essential that your eye protection can protect from all potential issues.
Occupations that have a high risk for any eye injury include:
There are various types of eye protection. The one you need depends on the hazards you might encounter. For example, if you are working:
It is important to understand that side shields put over conventional (prescription or dress) glasses don’t provide you with enough protection, according to OSHA.
In addition, you should take the steps needed to make your work environment safe. This means:
How to Protect Your Eyes from Injury
There are four things you can do to protect your eyes. These include:
Types of Eye Protection Available
You can find many types of eye protection, some of which are suitable for any task and some that aren’t.
Prescription and non-prescription safety glasses can look like regular eyewear, but they are designed to give you more eye protection. The frames and lenses are stronger. All safety glasses have to meet the ANSI (American National Standards Institute) standards. Make sure they say Z87 on the frame or lens.
Safety glasses are appropriate for general working conditions where you may encounter flying particles, chips, and dust. Wraparound-style options are available, and side shields can offer more protection for the sides of the face (and eyes).
You can find polycarbonate, plastic, and Trivex lenses. While all options are suitable, polycarbonate offers the best impact protection.
Goggles are also ideal for protecting your eyes from chemical splashes, dust, and impact. They’re impact-resistant like safety goggles. Plus, they provide a secure shield around the full eye and can protect against hazards that come in any direction. You can also wear them over contact lenses or prescription glasses.
Face Helmets and Shields can protect employees who are exposed to heat, blood-borne pathogens, and chemicals. Helmets are generally worn for welding and working with molten products. However, helmets and face shields aren’t the only protection you need for your eyes. You should wear them with goggles or safety glasses so that the eyes are protected, even if the shield is lifted. There are also specialty helmets that have special filters to protect your eyes from radiation exposure when working with lasers or welding.
Regardless of the type of PPE you wear, they must fit correctly to ensure protection. Also, they need to be maintained. If they are dirty or scratched, it can reduce your vision, cause glare, and more.
What About Your Contacts?
Many people wonder if eye contacts are safe enough to wear and protect the eyes. They cannot offer the same protection like goggles, glasses, or other types of PPE. Still, you can wear them in conjunction with protective eyewear.
In fact, you probably should wear your prescription contacts with PPE to improve your vision so that you can see effectively.
When You Don’t Need Eye Protection
Generally, you aren’t going to need to wear eye protection if you work somewhere that doesn’t often have flying objects, dust, and other irritants. Still, you have the right to feel safe in the workplace. If you think that wearing eye protection may be beneficial, request it and do so. That way, you are comfortable enough to do your job and feel safe.
OSHA and other entities are there to ensure that your eyesight is protected while you are doing potentially dangerous jobs. Therefore, if it is required to wear eye protection, you should do so. Even if it isn’t a requirement, you can still wear it if you feel that it is necessary or beneficial.