According to the CDC, the American workforce averages 2,000 work-related eye injuries (requiring medical treatment) every day.
61% of eye injuries occur in manufacturing, construction, or trade jobs. Even though these industries pose greater risks to your eyes, eye injuries can happen in offices, hospitals, labs and more. Workers in all industries need to be aware of the potential dangers at work, whether at the facility, in the field or working remotely from home.
Common Workplace Eye Injuries
- Over-exposure to computer screens. Staring into the light of a computer can cause eye pain, eye dryness and other eye issues.
- Small flying particles such as wood chips, metal slivers or cement chips can cause irritation or even penetrate the eye or surrounding skin.
- Large objects such as wooden beams or metal bars can hit the eye socket or eyeball resulting in bruising, orbital injury, retinal detachment, or bleeding.
- Chemical workplace eye injuries happen more in the janitorial, medical or construction industries. Ammonia, disinfectants, and other substances can irritate the eyes, potentially causing scarring and blindness.
- Occupational heat, such as from ovens, welding equipment or industrial materials can result in severe injury to the eyes.
- Radiation from x-rays, welding arcs and electric sparks are common causes of workplace eye burn injuries.
Eye Safety Tips
- Know the eye safety hazards in your work environment by doing an eye hazard assessment. Whenever there is any risk of eye injury, eye protection must be worn. Review injury and illness reports and implement safety protocols as needed.
- Eliminate hazards before starting work; use machine guarding, work screens or other engineering controls.
- Use proper eye protection for your job and industry and ensure it fits correctly. Make sure that it is readily available and worn whenever necessary. PPE eye protection may include non-prescription or prescription safety glasses, goggles, face shields, welding helmets or full-face respirators.
- Conduct a review of all eye safety signs in your workplace to ensure there are adequate Caution and Reminder signs to “Wear Eye Protection” in the areas where they are needed.
- Establish first aid procedures for eye injuries and make eyewash stations available, especially where chemicals are in use.
- Make eye safety part of your employee training and new hire orientation.
- Regularly review and update your policies regarding eye wellness and safety.
Remember: OSHA’s eye and face protection standard [1910.133] requires employers to “ensure that each affected employee uses appropriate eye or face protection when exposed to eye or face hazards from flying particles, molten metal, liquid chemicals, acids or caustic liquids, chemical gases or vapors, or potentially injurious light radition.”
Digital Eye Strain
Not all work-related eye injuries are accident related. What happens when you work on a computer? According to The Vision Council, 80% of adults spend at least 2 hours a day on digital devices. Those hours spent staring at digital devices – computers, tablets, cell phones – can lead to eye fatigue, dry and irritated eyes, blurry vision, and headaches.
Tips to relieve eye strain.
- Keep the computer screen 20-26 inches away from you and a little below eye level. Use an anti-glare screen to make computer work gentler on your eyes.
- Use a document holder to avoid constantly changing eye focus.
- Use larger text sizes on your digital device for more comfortable reading.
- Adjust the lighting in and around your workstation to reduce glare and harsh reflections.
- Follow the 20-20-20 break plan. Take a 20-second break every 20 minutes and look at something 20 feet away.