To anyone who thinks eye protection may not be a crucial component of PPE in the workplace, think again. Nearly three out of five injured workers were not wearing eye protection at the time of the accident or were wearing the wrong kind of eye protection for the job. Eye injuries alone cost more than $300 million per year in lost production time, medical expenses and worker compensation.
These are staggering figures that drive home the importance of protecting the eyes of workers both through engineering controls and via personal protective equipment (PPE) such as safety glasses; goggles; hybrid eye safety products, which combine the comfort of glasses with the side protection of goggles; face shields; full-face respirators; and welding helmets.
The majority of workplace eye injuries are caused by small particles or objects (such as metal slivers, wood chips or dust) striking or abrading the eye, according to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH). The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) found that 70 percent of eye injuries studied resulted from flying or falling objects or sparks striking the eye. Injured workers said that nearly three-fifths of the objects were smaller than a pinhead.
Injuries also can occur when nails, staples or metal penetrate the eyeball, which can result in a permanent loss of vision. Blunt force traumas caused by objects striking the eyes or face or from a worker running into an object are another threat, as are chemical burns from splashes of industrial chemicals or cleaning products. Welders, their assistants and nearby workers are at risk for thermal burns and UV radiation burns from welder’s flash.