More than a few health and safety organizations name March as National Eye Safety month and there is no better time to think about protecting your eyes than today. It is reported that over 2000 eye injuries happen on the job site every day across this nation. About one in ten of those require missed work days to recover. Of the eye injuries reported in a year’s time, 15% will cause permanent vision loss in the affected individual. Most people assume that eye injuries occur more often in manufacturing, construction or other trade jobs, but nearly 40% of eye injuries occurring on the job happen in offices, healthcare facilities, and other similar environments. As you might imagine, flying objects, chemicals and UV radiation are the most common causes of eye injuries, but those who stare at computer screens for extended periods throughout the day can suffer temporary eye disorders including pain and altered vision. We’ll cover more about this in a later email, but let’s focus on the most obvious ways to avoid eye injuries for now.
There are three ways to protect your eyes from injury.
Here’s a really quick example; let’s say you were going to be using a circular saw to cut a sheet of plywood. Since the hazard would be flying particles and dust, you would want to make sure that you donned a pair of safety glasses with side shields, goggles or even a full face shield. You might even consider a combination of these. You would want to make sure that the saw guards were functional. You would want to make sure that you planned the cut to avoid being directly in the path of its dust ejection chute or if so equipped, attach a vacuum hose to its ejection port. You would also want to think about the possibility of others walking through your job site as well and try and point the ejection chute in a safe direction or set up a work screen where flying particles are not thrown into them. You should also remember that eye protection needs continue even after the saw stops spinning. Since saw dust has a way of clinging to surfaces, yet be easily blown around or dislodged, you want to be very careful prior to removing your safety equipment that you have brushed off – don’t use compressed air here – your head, hair, ball cap or other head protection, forehead and eyelashes, as well as the safety equipment being worn to prevent those particles from entering your eye during their removal.
I want to stress the importance of knowing the hazards and selecting the appropriate PPE for eye protection. A simple pair of clear safety glasses is a good start for a number of hazards, but they will not protect your eyes from chemical splashes, mold spores, vapors or gasses, or the UV radiation produced when brazing or welding. The type of safety eye protection you should wear always depends on the hazards. If you are working in an area that has particles, flying objects, or dust, you must at least wear safety glasses with side protection (side shields). If you are working with chemicals, you should wear goggles and/or a full face shield. If you are working near hazardous radiation (welding, lasers, or fiber optics) you must use special-purpose safety glasses, goggles, face shields, or helmets designed for that task. Please consult our safety manual at SF.102 page 16, for assistance in appropriate safety equipment selection.
Nearly a million Americans have lost some degree of their vision to an eye injury and more than 700,000 Americans injure their eyes at work yearly. Luckily, 90% of all workplace eye injuries can be avoided, if we use the proper safety eye wear. Please don’t let the few moments it takes to understand the hazard, eliminate those that can be, and procure and wear the appropriate eye safety PPE, be the reason you did. Put the odds in your favor by always taking care of the eyes you have.
Have a great week and stay safe.
Director of Facilities Services