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A Brief Guide to Eye Protection in the Workplace

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Because of their structure and composition, the eyes are at particular risk for damage in hazardous working environments. Yet nearly all eye injuries are preventable. To minimise the danger, many national standards have been developed, including several that focus specifically on eye protectors. Always refer to national, state and local laws for the standards that apply to your workplace. Presented here is a brief general guide to eye protection in the workplace.

eye injuries in the workplace keyword cloud

Keyword Cloud “Eye Injuries in the workplace” by Safety Check Shop

1. Potential Hazards

According to the National Occupational Health and Safety Commission, workplace eye hazards fall into four major categories.

  • Impact or blunt force injuries occur when a heavy object – e.g. stones, balls, fists and others - contacts the eye cavity, especially at high speed. Note that closing the eyes does not prevent this type of trauma, but it can minimise visible damage to the eyeball. Even so, eyelids and soft tissue can become bruised, the bones of the eye sockets can be damaged, and blood vessels can start bleeding. Always seek treatment for a blunt force eye injury, even if the eyeball does not appear hurt.
  • Foreign bodies, like dust or splinters from timber or metal, are particles that settle into the eye. Depending on what the particle is made of, it can scratch or even penetrate the eyeball surface. Some particles also cause biological reactions including allergic reactions. Foreign bodies that become embedded can cause particular damage, but all particles should be taken seriously.
  • Most chemical substances as well as heat have the ability to irritate the eyes. Strong acids and bases, as well as organic compounds or great heat, are likely to cause severe damage. Some chemicals cause eye irritation only on direct contact with the eye, while others can irritate the eyes as a secondary reaction to the inhalation of vapours.
  • Radiation, including ultra-violet and lasers, generally affects both eyes at the same time. Different types of radiation damage different parts of the eye. Depending on the type of radiation and the duration of exposure, effects range from momentary disorientation to lasting blindness (i.e. “welder’s flash”). Radiation exposure damage often builds over time, so it is important to protect the eyes during every exposure, for example in the welding area.

2. External Safety Precautions

External safety precautions include all measures that the company can take to lower the risks to the worker. Regular environmental evaluation of the work site and efforts to minimise or contain hazards are important first steps. Look for opportunities to improve dust suppression, ventilation and safe storage of hazardous materials. Employers should also monitor workers’ eyesight through regular ophthalmic examinations./p>

Display warning signs, and provide eye protection and eye wash stations in areas where eye hazards are present. Ensure that everybody is aware of the location of the closest first aid kit and eye wash station. Install screens or movable partitions where practical to limit the exposure risk to workers who are not involved with a particular project. Ensure that each work space has adequate lighting to prevent workers’ pupils from increasing in diameter and thus increasing the likelihood of damage.

3. Personal Protective Equipment

When used in tandem with external safety precautions, personal protective equipment (PPE) can help lower the risk of eye damage. Australian Standards (AS) 1336, 1337 and 1338 provide detailed information on different types of eye protectors and their suitability for different applications.

Transparent face shields are useful for providing supplementary protection, but should only be worn over safety glasses or goggles. Except in unusual circumstances, contact lenses may be worn underneath protective eyewear, but employees should make employers aware that they wear contacts. In case of injury, special precautions must be followed for contact wearers.

Corrective eye glasses may be worn underneath protective goggles as long as sight is not compromised. However, it is better to wear safety glasses or goggles that also provide the needed corrective function.

4. Treating Eye Injuries

Eye injuries often result in pain and watering. The eye tries to flush foreign objects and substances out by producing tears. But in most cases, this is not enough.

Before starting the treatment, it is important to always wash hands and wear powder-free gloves (wash powder off with water if necessary).

The right treatment should always be conducted by a trained medical professional and depends on the nature of the injury:

  • Bleedings should be controlled.
  • Injured eyes should be covered with eye pads and/or bandages without putting any pressure onto the eyeballs.
  • Ask the patient not to move the injured eye.
  • Foreign bodies should be flushed out with water or saline solution.
  • Penetrating objects should NOT be removed.
  • In case of a chemical or heat burn gently wash the eye with either water or saline for 20 minutes.

Always seek medical help or call 000 (triple zero) for an ambulance.

Don’t risk your workers’ sight. With flat rate shipping and all prices inclusive of GST, the Safety Check Shop is your one-stop resource for protective workplace equipment including a variety of eye protection devices as well as a range of first aid treatments for injured eyes.

To summarise:

eye injuries in the workplace infographic

Infographic “Eye injuries in the workplace” by Safety Check Shop

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