According to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), an estimated 2000 eye injuries occur in the workplace everyday, costing roughly $300 million a year in lost time, medical expenses, and worker's compensation.
And while many of these injuries occur in construction and manufacturing seetings, there is a new hazard threatening the vision of workers around the world on a daily basis: technology.
By the Numbers
Vision loss isn't always the top priority when it comes to workplace safety, with many workers overlooking them when they are also faced with falling hazards, or potential injuries to their extremities and limbs. However, statistics show that eye protection is the strongest defense against eye injuries in the workplace:
- Eye injuries account for almost 45% of all work related head injuries
- 70% are caused by flying or falling objects striking workers in the eyes
- 10 to 20% of these injuries will cause permanent vision loss
- 90% of these injuries could have been avoided if workers has worn the appropriate PPE for the task at hand.
Though construction sites, mines, and manufacturing plants are the most common places for workplace eye injuries to occur, office workers also have a high risk of eye injuries. A 2014 study by Vision Council showed that 70% of American adults suffered from eye strain related to the use of computers and other electronic devices, which can result in dry eyes, headaches and blurred vision.
But enough with the statistics. What can we do about it?
While eye injuries are often thought of to be caused by chemicals or particles getting into the eye, workplace eye injuries can range from eye strain related to computer use, to severe eye trauma, such as impalement or chemical damage.
In an effort to prevent eye injuries before they occur, the American Academy of Ophtamology has designated the month of March to be Workplace Eye Wellness Month. Over the course of the month, they aim to make both employers and workers aware of all hazards to their vision while at work, and what they can do to prevent injuries.
- Wear the right protective eyewear for the job. The approriate safety glasses, goggles or faceshields can prevent 90% of eye injuries if used correctly.
- Make sure you are aware of hazards the job entails before starting the work. This will help you identify any PPE or auther precautions that need to be taken to protect you from injury.
- Follow the 20/20/20 rule. If you spend most of your day looking at a screen, your eyes will begin to feel fatigued and unfocused. Every 20 minutes, take a 20 second break to focus your eyes on something 20 feet away.
- Focus on blinking. Blinking properly can help your eyes from drying out and fend off eye fatigue. When staring at a screen, blink at least once every 5 to 8 seconds and make sure your top and bottom lids touch.
How to treat an eye injury
All eye injuries should be treated as emergencies, and should be treated by a medical professional as soon as possible. However, there are a few things you or your coworkers can do to help until you can get to a medical professional.
- Never rub your eyes. This can cause the irritant to spread and cause greater damage.
- In the event of chemical exposure, start rinsing your eyes as soon as possible. Whether you have access to an eyewash station or a water bottle, irrigating the eye with clean water will help dilute the chemical and flush it out of the eye before more severe dammage occurs.
- Cover punctures or cuts with something rigid. A cup can shield the wound from bacteria or any other particles that could infect it.
- If a foreign body is stuck in the eye, do not remove it on your own! Seek medical attention immediately. Pulling it out without a doctor's intervention could cause more damage.