Eye Wellness Month is about preventing eye-related injuries at work. Every workplace should install safety measures to limit staff exposure to eye hazards, including chemicals, debris, sharp objects, and excess screen time. Both workplace safety measures, as well as eye protection equipment should be addressed.
Prevent Blindness, a volunteer eye health and safety organization dedicated to fighting blindness and saving sight, has declared March as Workplace Eye Wellness Awareness Month to highlight important eye health information among various industries. Workplace eye injuries are quite common — more than 2,000 people injure their eyes at work each day. About 1 in 10 injuries require one or more missed workdays to recover from. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there were 15,730 eye injuries involving days away from work in 2020 alone. Of the total amount of work-related injuries, 10-20 % will cause temporary or permanent vision loss. Don't be part of these statistics. Make sure your eyes are covered.
Every workplace must have an eye protection safety program to ensure workers can see clearly on the job while keeping their eyes safe. We all need our eyes to complete various tasks. They also happen to be one of the most vulnerable parts of the human body. Dust, mold, chemicals, sharp objects, airborne debris, and even excessive screen time can all permanently damage a person’s eye. Even slight eye irritation can cause innumerable problems at work, taking workers off the job for considerable periods.
We are celebrating Eye Wellness Month all month long at PK Safety. Here’s what you can do to keep your eyes safe from harm on the job.
Know the Hazards
You don’t have to work with toxic chemicals to damage your eyes. Many people put their eyes at risk every day without realizing it. Workplace eye injuries usually fall into one of four categories:
Scraping: Many industrial workplaces and settings have machines that produce debris that can get into a person’s eyes, causing irritation and temporary blindness. These materials can include dust, wood chips, bits of cement, or metal shavings. They are often ejected from machines that propel them through the air. Fans and vents can also circulate this debris.
Penetration: The workplace may also have sharp objects, such as needles, spears, hooks, and staples, that can penetrate the eye. Such incidents typically result in permanent vision loss.
Chemical: Certain industrial chemicals and cleaning products are hazardous to the eye. Exposure can lead to chemical or thermal burns in one or both eyes. It can also damage the surrounding tissue.
Screen Time: Workers have seen their average screen time increase dramatically over the last few years. Office workers may look at a computer or cell phone screen for over eight hours daily. But all this artificial blue light can potentially damage the eyes. It can lead to what’s known as computer vision syndrome, which can lead to eye irritation and fatigue. Over time, this will damage the retinal cells, making it harder to see. It can lead to headaches, visual desensitization, dry eyes, and neck and back pain. Looking at a screen too much reduces the frequency of blinks, which decreases lubrication.
Employers should be aware of the eye hazards present in the workplace before making changes to the site. It begins with a complete eye safety assessment. The company can consult with an independent safety consultant for more information.
Once the hazards have been identified, the company can look for ways to reduce exposure.
When it comes to scraping and the spread of airborne debris, companies should do their best to remove these contaminants from the worksite by increasing ventilation, regularly cleaning surfaces, moving the activity outdoors, installing barriers, or moving the worker further away from the machine that’s generating the debris.
Sharp objects that can penetrate the eye should be kept in a secure location where they are less likely to threaten those occupying the space. The tips should be capped or pointed down if someone may accidentally fall onto the pointed end.
Companies can limit exposure to hazardous chemicals by switching to less harmful cleaning supplies, detergents, and other materials. If there is a risk that workers’ eyes or skin may be exposed to corrosive material that could cause permanent injury, employers will need to supply eyewash and shower stations. These stations allow workers to quickly wash their hands, face, and eyes after they have been in contact with such harmful substances.
Screen time remains the most common eye problem in the workplace. There are several measures workers can take to limit their exposure to blue light. They can install anti-glare filters on their glasses or the screen to reduce the glare. Workers should also remember to blink regularly, drink plenty of water, and insert eye drops to increase moisture levels. The 20-20-20 rule can also be helpful. Workers should try to look away from their screen every 20 minutes and focus on an object at least 20 feet away for at least 20 seconds before returning to work.
Companies should post images and posters depicting healthy eye habits in and around the worksite to remind everyone of the potential hazards.
Wear the Proper Eye Protective Equipment
Workers must wear the proper safety eyewear and eye protection equipment since avoiding all hazards is nearly impossible. Types of safety eyewear include safety glasses, goggles, faceshields, welding helmets, and full-face respirators. The item must fit correctly over the person’s head or face without cutting off their circulation or range of movement. The outer seal should be flush with their skin to prevent debris from slipping through the cracks. Most protective items come with an adjustable strap that will accommodate most sizes. Employers should provide a range of safety workwear options, so workers can choose the item that makes them feel the most comfortable and protected.
The gear should be kept in a dry protected area or a sealed case or cabinet where it won’t be exposed to debris, sunlight, or moisture. This equipment also needs to be cleaned regularly and inspected for damage. Damaged equipment should be properly discarded and replaced immediately to ensure it won't accidentally be used.
It is the company’s responsibility to train the workers on how to use this equipment. Posting reminders in high-risk areas will encourage compliance.
Celebrate Eye Wellness Month by ensuring your workers aren’t damaging their eyes. Contact PK Safety to learn more about these protective measures.