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Focus on Eye Protection in the Workplace

Workplace eye safety

Though workplace eye injuries are a serious issue, they can be minimized. Today, more than 2,000 people across the U.S. will suffer some sort of accident-related eye injury at their place of employment. As well as tomorrow. And every day this year. One-in-ten of those injured will miss work to recover, and as many as 20% will suffer temporary or permanent vision loss due to their injury.

At this point, you’re probably ready for some good news. Well there’s plenty: According to safety experts and eye doctors, with proper protective eyewear, combined with everyday safety practices, 90% of workplace eye injuries could be lessened in severity … if not prevented altogether.

Preventing eye injuries in your own environment become attainable when you take the time to plan and follow a few best practices. We’ll lay out some of the ideas that have proven effective in preventing eye injuries that range from lacerations to the strain born of staring at a computer screen for days on end.

Knowing where the majority of accident-related eye injuries come from is a great place to start. The sources will of course depend on what sort of business your company is engaged in, but some of the more common causes of workplace eye injuries include flying shards of metal or glass, tools that may slip or malfunction, particles such as wood splinters, metal shavings or crystalline silica and spattered chemicals.

But let’s not limit our concerns to workplace eye injuries caused by accidents. Long term use of digital devices, such as computers, tablets and cell phones, can also be detrimental to eye health.

About 80 percent of adults spend at least two hours a day on a digital device, and nearly 67 percent use two or more devices at one time. This has resulted in almost 60 percent of adults reporting symptoms of digital eye strain, including dry and/or irritated eyes, blurry vision and headaches.

How Can Workers Protect Their Eyes from Injury?
1. Know the Dangers of the Work Environment

●     Abrasives
Abrasive blasting is where compressed air or water are used in a high velocity stream of abrasive materials to clean an object's surface, or prepare a surface for the application of paint or other type of coating.

Employers must protect workers from hazardous dust levels and toxic metals that may be generated from both the blasting material and the underlying substrate and coatings being blasted. OSHA provides guidance on protecting workers from abrasive mediums.

●     Chemicals
Direct contact with chemicals account for a huge number of eye injuries, according to OSHA. Since exposure to chemicals, vapors and fumes could result in eye incidents, companies could identify areas and workers in the facility at risk for chemical exposure.

For example, workers who work with industrial chemicals or cleaning supplies are at risk for chemical burns from substance splashing. These places could include storage areas for chemicals as well as sections for chemical production. Firms could look at their past history of incidents and talk to employees who are familiar with the ins and outs of their workstations, including their potential hazards.

●     Welding
Eye injuries account for one-quarter of all welding injuries, making them the most common injury for welders, according to research from the Liberty Mutual Research Institute for Safety. Those most at risk for welding-related eye injuries are workers in industries that produce industrial and commercial machinery, and fabricated metal products.

Helmets don't offer the right type of protection. Welders should also wear goggles or safety glasses with side shields that comply with ANSI Z87.1, and always wear goggles or other suitable eye protection when gas welding or oxygen cutting. Goggles provide better protection than safety glasses from impact, dust, and radiation hazards.

2. Choose the Right Protective Eyewear

Workers' eyes should be shielded in areas where there is a chance of eye injury. Everyone in hazardous areas should wear protection. This is particularly true for welders, who face a high risk of on-the-job eye injury. The eyewear you need depends on the hazards you face. Wear:

●     Safety glasses with side protection (side shields) if you work around particles, flying objects or dust;

●     Protective goggles if you handle chemicals;

●     Reading safety glasses for those who require prescription eyewear;

●     Specially designed safety glasses, goggles, face shields or helmets if you work near hazardous radiation, such as welding, lasers or fiber optics.

All protective eyewear should comply with OSHA regulations for eye and face protection and meets the protection standards set by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI). Make certain you’re aware of the types of filter lenses required for specific welding and cutting activities and understand the danger of eye irritation from welding fumes.

Workers will be more proactive to reduce and avoid hazards in a company that promotes a safety culture. Installing safety measures like plexiglass shields around tools and in areas where workers are at risk, will ensure that they're not relying on protective eyewear alone.

At new job sites, begin with an eye-hazard assessment and remove or reduce all eye hazards where possible. Provide appropriate safety eye protection for the types of hazards at the worksite and require all employees in hazardous situations to wear the appropriate eye protection.

Keep eye protection in good condition and assist workers with attaining the proper fit. Use caution flags to identify potential hazards, such as hanging or protruding objects and post first-aid instructions and information on how to get emergency aid.

●     The person has obvious pain or trouble seeing;

●     The person has a cut or torn eyelid;

●     One eye does not move as well as the other;

●     One eye sticks out compared to the other;

●     The eye has an unusual pupil size or shape;

●     There is blood in the clear part of the eye;

●     The person has something in the eye or under the eyelid that can't be easily removed.

5. In Case of Eye Injury, Find the Nearest Eyewash Station

Where is the eyewash equipment? Whenever they work with chemicals, employees should make sure they know the location of the nearest eyewash station; and that they can get to it in a matter of seconds even with eyes closed.

An eyewash station is a unit designed to wash chemicals and other substances that might splash into an individual's eyes before he or she can seek further medical evaluation. The injured worker needs to wash their eyes for at least 15 minutes at the eye wash station, and you supervisors should be alerted to make sure access to eyewashes and showers are not blocked by materials, equipment, or any other obstructions.

Can Office Workers Protect Themselves From Eye Strain?
Yes, office workers can take several easy steps in order to prevent the effects of digital eye strain. For those who spend hours working on a digital device every day:

●     Make sure computer screens are 20-26 inches away from the face and a bit below eye level.

●     Put a document holder next to the screen to avoid constantly changing eye focus.

●     Make the digital device’s text larger to make for more comfortable reading.

●     Adjust the lighting around the workstation to reduce glare and harsh reflections.

●     Follow the 20-20-20 break plan: Take a 20-second break every 20 minutes and look at something 20 feet away.

Protecting the sight of your employees is an absolute priority, whether their work puts them on a remote jobsite, in a lab handling volatile chemicals or on a factory floor. Your Imperial Supplies Dedicated Account Advisor will be glad to help make sure you’re prepared properly for the eye hazards in your industry.

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