The eyes are an extremely important part of the human body and are naturally protected by the eyelids and the bony framework surrounding the eyeball. Eye injuries can be devastating when they occur. Thus, employees should take precautions and use personal protective equipment whenever there is a risk of eye injury. Eye injuries in the workplace are very common. The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) reports that every day about 2,000 U.S. workers sustain job-related eye injuries that require medical treatment. However, safety experts and eye doctors believe the right eye protection can lessen the severity or even prevent 90 percent of these eye injuries.
Workplace eye protection is needed when the following potential eye hazards are present:
• Projectiles (dust, concrete, metal, wood and other particles)
• Chemicals (splashes and fumes)
• Radiation (especially visible light, ultraviolet radiation, heat or infrared radiation, and lasers)
• Bloodborne pathogens (hepatitis or HIV) from blood and body fluids
Some working conditions include multiple eye hazards. The proper eye protection takes all hazards into account.
Computer Vision Syndrome, also referred to as Digital Eye Strain, describes a group of eye and vision-related problems that result from prolonged computer, tablet, e-reader and cell phone use. The average American worker spends seven hours a day on the computer either in the office or working from home.
The type of safety eye protection you should wear depends on the hazards in your workplace:
• If you are working in an area that has particles, flying objects or dust, you must at least wear safety glasses with side protection (side shields).
• If you are working with chemicals, you must wear goggles.
• If you are working near hazardous radiation (welding, lasers or fiber optics) you must use special-purpose safety glasses, goggles, face shields or helmets designed for that task.
Know the requirements for your work environment. Side shields placed on your conventional (dress) glasses do not provide enough protection to meet the OSHA requirement for many work environments.
Seek medical attention as soon as possible following an injury, particularly if you have pain in the eye, blurred vision or loss of any vision. Several simple first aid steps can and should be taken until medical assistance is obtained.
First aid for chemicals in the eye:
• Immediately flush the eye with water for at least 15 minutes. Place the eye under a faucet or shower, use a garden hose, or pour water into the eye from a clean container.
• If you are wearing contact lenses, immediately remove them before flushing the eye.
• Do not try to neutralize the chemical with other substances.
• Do not bandage the eye.
• Seek immediate medical attention after flushing.
First aid for blows to the eye:
• Gently apply a cold compress without putting pressure on the eye. Crushed ice in a plastic bag can be placed gently on the injured eye to reduce pain and swelling.
• In cases of severe pain or reduced vision, seek immediate medical care.
First aid for particles in the eye:
• Do not rub the eye.
• Try to let your tears wash the speck out, or irrigate the eye with an artificial tear solution.
• Try lifting the upper eyelid outward and down over the lower eyelid to remove the particle.
• If the particle does not wash out, keep the eye closed, bandage it lightly and seek medical care.
Some particles, particularly metallic ones, can cause rusting spots on the eye if left untreated for several days. If you are unsure if the object is gone, do not delay medical care.
First aid for cuts and punctures to the eye or eyelid:
• Do not wash out the eye.
• Do not attempt to remove an object that is stuck in the eye.
• Cover the eye with a rigid shield, like the bottom half of a paper cup.
• Seek immediate medical care.
Source: American Optometric Association