In America, an estimated 1,000 eye injuries occur in our workplaces every day. Annually, the financial cost of these injuries is enormous, resulting in more than $300 million in lost production time, medical expenses and Workers’ compensation filings. In addition to these expenses, there is also a personal toll to the injured workers that no dollar amount can adequately reflect. While the costs can cripple a company, the psychological and physical damage to a worker can be permanent and devastating.

There are many hazards to the eye that we are exposed to on a daily basis. These include, but are not limited to, exposure to dust, concrete, metal particles, falling or shifting debris, building materials and glass. Other exposures include smoke, noxious or poisonous gases, chemicals and blood-borne pathogens. Light itself can be a hazard in the forms of excessive light from welding or electrical arcing, and thermal exposure from heat sources or fire.

Injuries range from minor to severe resulting in corneal abrasions or lacerations, conjunctivitis (red eyes), particles or slivers of materials embedded in the eye, chemical splashes or burns to the eye, welder’s flash, facial or orbital contusions and fractures. Severe diagnoses are loss of sight to full loss of an eye. As an employer, you must conduct a hazard assessment to determine what hazards workers are exposed to, and determine what eye protection is required. The employer is required to both provide eye protection for the employee and properly train employees in PPE use and maintenance.

For the complete ‘Eye Safety and Protection’ article, a list of references and a Toolbox Talk to use with your employees, please visit the “Safety Resources” section