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Workplace eye safety protection, prevention

By Stacey Williams | | March 31, 2011

Think of how life would be without the ability to see.  More often than not, people tend to forget the value of this important part of the body. The eye makes it possible to perform almost every task undertaken.

According to information posted on Prevent Blindness America’s Web site www.preventblind-ness.org/safety/worksafe.html, eye injuries in the workplace are very common. More than 2,000 people injure their eyes at work each day. About one in 10 injuries require one or more missed workdays. Of the total amount of work-related eye injuries, 10-20 percent will cause loss of sight. It is important to find ways to keep eyes safe in the workplace.

The eye is one of the most delicate parts of the human body and is exposed to numerous hazards in the workplace.

First, the particles, flying objects and dust that are present in most woodworking or machine shops could inflict severe damage to the eye. Second, exposing the eye to hazardous light (welding, lasers, or fiber optics) may render one blind. Finally, chemicals used during work processes may create/cause negative impact to the eye.

There are several ways to protect one’s eyes in the workplace.

First, one should conduct an assessment with a safety representative or industrial hygienist of potential hazards in the work area. Second, all potential eye hazards should be identified and then eliminated.

There are three methods used in protecting the eye. These methods are engineering controls, administrative controls and the use of personal protective equipment.

First, consider engineering controls such as machine guards that prevent the escape of particles, protective housing for lasers, or welding curtains for arc flash protection. Next, consider using administrative controls such as making certain work areas “off limits” unless it’s an assigned workplace. Finally, and the least preferred method is wearing eye protection. For instance, if working in an area that has particles, flying objects or dust, one must at least wear safety glasses with side shields.

When working with light radiation (lasers or welding operations), one must use special-purpose safety glasses, goggles, face shields or helmets designed for that task.

If there is a chemical eye hazard, wear a face shield and chemical goggles. These protective devices will shield the eye from hazards that may be damaging to one’s vision.

Do not wait for the next safety inspection to decide on how to protect the eyes in the workplace. Each work area should be inspected for potential eye hazards and implement engineering and administrative controls, and if applicable, wear eye protection.

Trying to visualize how it would be to live without the ability to see should motivate those to protect their eyesight.

For more information on workplace eye safety, visit the Prevent Blindness America Web Site at www.preventblindness.org/safety/worksafe.html.