Workers at Auger Services, a PLH Group company, wear appropriate eye protection for the individual and specific work duties
The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) reported that about 2,000 U.S. workers suffer job-related eye injuries requiring medical treatment each day. Prevent Blindness, a century-old U.S. organization advocating eye health and safety, declared March Workplace Eye Wellness Month. Though the importance of the topic warrants year-round discussions, consider making your team’s safety focus throughout the month of March eye wellness.
There are intrinsic risks to eye health no matter the work environment – ranging from chemicals or foreign objects in the eye to eye strain and exposure to ultraviolet or infrared radiation. However, the American Optometric Association (AOA), which represents more than 44,000 doctors of optometry (O.D.), optometric professionals and optometry students, believes that 90% of workplace eye injuries could have been lessened or prevented with proper usage of appropriate eye protection. In fact, a Bureau of Labor Statistics study found that almost three of every five eye injuries suffered by workers occurred while the worker was not wearing eye protection.
A basic understanding of proper workplace eye safety begins with:
Thoroughly understanding your job’s inherent risks to eye safety
Adequately eliminating hazards prior to starting work
Appropriately wearing proper personal protective equipment to protect the eyes
Suppose, though, that the risks in your work were not avoided and injury has occurred. Do you know the proper first aid measures to take to ensure the injury does not worsen before professional medical attention is available? Use the AOA guidelines below. Discuss first aid measures associated with your team’s work during your next safety meeting.
If a chemical gets into the eye:
DO: Remove contact lenses (if applicable). Then, flush the eye with water for no less than 15 minutes. Place the eye under a running faucet or garden hose. If these are not available, pour water onto the eye from a clean container. Many worksite first aid kits will include an eye station. Be sure to seek professional medical attention.
DO NOT: Bandage the eye or attempt to neutralize the chemical with another substance.
If a particle gets into the eye:
DO: Allow natural tears to release the particle or apply an artificial tear solution. If that does not work, lift the upper eyelid over the lower eyelid to try to release the particle. If the particle is still in the eye, lightly bandage the eye closed and seek professional medical attention.
DO NOT: Rub the eye or leave the irritation untreated. These may cause additional eye damage.
First aid for blows to the eye:
DO: Gently apply a cold compress. Seek medical attention if the eye creates severe pain or reduced vision.
First aid for cuts and punctures to the eye or eyelid:
DO: Cover the eye with an inflexible shield, such as a cup. Seek immediate medical attention.
DO NOT: Rinse the eye or attempt to remove any objects in the eye.
While workers on construction and manufacturing sites pose an elevated risk to eye injuries, those working several hours a day on a computer or another digital device are not exempt from work-related eye injuries. According to The Vision Council, 80% of American adults use a digital device for more than two hours a day, and 59% have experienced symptoms of digital eye strain. Digital eye strain, as defined by AOA, is an eye and vision condition resulting from prolonged use of digital devices. Symptoms may include headaches, blurred vision, dry eyes, and neck and shoulder pain. The effects of digital eye strain may sometimes require professional intervention. However, symptoms are usually corrected with minor adjustments.
Treatment for digital eye strain includes:
Correcting minor vision issues
Adjusting lighting of digital devices
Taking breaks from looking at the screen
Blinking frequently to minimize development of dry eye
Correcting posture and distance between eyes and screen
Practicing eye exercises
For more information about digital eye strain and other work-related eye hazards, refer to this previously published PLH Group article focused on eyesight hazards.
No one is exempt from work-related eye injuries, regardless of job duties or industry. Therefore, practicing adequate eye safety is the responsibility of each individual and team. PLH Group encourages workers to not only equip themselves with a comprehensive understanding of proper eye wellness, but also practice it with every task performed. After all, you were only given one set of eyes—protect them.