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Eye safety is paramount in the workplace

By Chris Chop | | March 20, 2013

Each year thousands of workers suffer on-the-job eye injuries that cause permanent damage, or even blindness, according to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics. Prevent Blindness America reported that more than 2,000 people injure their eyes on the job daily.
Eye injuries on the job can range from temporary impairment to permanent impairment.
While a permanent loss of vision can be devastating and life-changing, even a minor eye injury can lead to a significant loss of wages due to time away from work. The financial cost of these injuries is enormous to both employers and insurance companies alike.
The best way to prevent eye injury at work is to wear safety eyewear, whenever there is a chance of eye injury or when posted signs indicate that protective eyewear is required.
Wearing the appropriate eye protection could not only prevent the injury, but could also lessen the severity. Employees working in or passing through areas that pose eye hazards should wear protective gear. The type of safety eye protection one should wear depends on the hazards in one’s respective workplace:
* Employees working in an area that has particles, flying debris or dust, must at least wear safety glasses with side protection (side shields);
* Employees working with chemicals, must wear goggles;
* Employees working near hazardous radiation (welding, lasers or fiber optics) must use special-purpose safety glasses, goggles, face shields, or helmets designed for the task.
When choosing protective eyewear, always check to make sure it meets the American National Standards Institute Z87.1 Eye and Face Protection Standard. This will be stamped on the protective eyewear. Types of eye protection include:
* Non-prescription and prescription safety glasses: Although safety glasses may look like normal glasses, they are designed to provide significantly more eye protection. Safety glasses provide eye protection for general working conditions where there may be dust, chips or flying debris. Additional side protection can be provided by the use of side shields and wraparound-style safety glasses.
* Safety lenses are available in glass, plastic, polycarbonate and Trivex(tm) materials. While all four types must meet or exceed the minimum requirements for eye protection, polycarbonate lenses provide the highest level of protection from impact.
* Goggles: Goggles provide impact, dust and chemical splash protection. Like safety glasses, safety goggles are highly-impact resistant. In addition, they provide a secure shield around the entire eye and protect against hazards coming from any direction. Goggles can be worn over prescription glasses and contact lenses to provide protection from flying debris, chemical splashes and in dusty environments.
* Face shields and helmets: Full-face shields are used to protect workers exposed to chemicals, heat, or blood-borne pathogens. Helmets are used for welding or working with molten materials. Face shields and helmets should not be used as the sole means of protective eyewear. They need to be used in conjunction with safety glasses or goggles. Wearing safety glasses or goggles under face shields also provides protection when the shield is lifted.
* Special protection: Other types of protection, such as helmets or goggles with special filters to protect the eyes from optical radiation exposure should be used for tasks such as welding or working with lasers.
One way to ensure that safety glasses provide adequate protection is to be sure they fit properly. Also, eye protection devices must be properly maintained.
Scratched and dirty devices reduce vision, cause glare and may contribute to accidents.
For more information on eye protection in the workplace, visit Prevent Blindness America’s website at www.preventblindness.org, or call the Risk Management Office at 229-639-5249.