Workplace Eye Safety Month: Keep Your Eyes Healthy at Work
Each day, nearly 2,000 U.S. workers injure one or both eyes in job-related accidents according to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health. These injuries often require medical treatment and can cost time away from work. Doctors at the Dean McGee Eye Institute (DMEI) see many cases of eye trauma each year.
“Unfortunately, workplace eye injuries are common, but thankfully they are preventable with proper precautions and appropriate eye protection equipment,” DMEI's Dr. Kamran Riaz says. “For people who work in professions with higher risks of eye injuries, it is especially important to wear safety goggles and seek care for any work-related eye injuries immediately."
Dr. Riaz will join DMEI and the OU Department of Ophthalmology as a clinical associate professor in cornea/external disease/refractive surgery in March.
Protecting your vision in any environment is important, but special attention should be placed on workplace safety.
Who Is At Risk of Workplace Eye Injuries?
Several types of eye injuries are common to workers in outside, workshop, or factory environments. Small objects or chips from materials like metal or wood pose a threat to eyes. Even dust and debris from machine or power tools can injure unprotected eyes. If you work with hazardous chemicals, power tools, or machinery be aware of the risks of those materials and the injuries they can cause.
Scratching, striking, and scraping
Small debris can hit the eye and cause a scrape or scratch. These small particles can be kicked up by tools, wind, or fall from above. Larger objects can hit the eye and cause blunt trauma to the eye or eye socket.
Penetration or punctures
Sharp-sided objects like wood slivers, metal strips, and nails can penetrate the eye and cause serious, often irreparable damage.
Chemical products of any kind can be harmful if they make contact with your eyes. Serious burning in the eye tissue can occur.
How to Prevent Eye Injuries
The protection worn and safety measures taken to protect eyes depend on the type of work environment.
Always be aware of the eye risks associated with your job. Use caution when performing tasks or working with material that’s potentially harmful. Wear the proper eye protection issued for your job or specific task. Never use machinery, tools, or engineering controls without eye protection.
Make sure all work screens and guarding are installed correctly before working with machinery or when working in areas where objects could harm your eyes. If you ever see equipment or eye protection not working correctly, alert your supervisor of the environment’s safety issue.
Protect Your Vision from Eye Diseases at Work
Machinery and flying objects aren’t the only factors that can harm eyes. Medical professionals know that it’s important to safeguard eyes against hazardous fluids. If you work in an environment where blood and other bodily fluids are present, safety precautions are required.
Diseases like HIV and hepatitis B can be transferred through the eye’s mucous membrane when exposed to splashes of blood or other body fluids. Eye disease can also result from touching your eyes with contaminated fingers.
To avoid infection, observe universal precautions and take extreme care around the bodily fluids of others. Wear medical gloves, goggles, and face shields when appropriate. Follow all workplace regulations about eye safety.
What to Do if You’ve Injured Your Eye
An eye injury can cause vision loss. If you or a coworker has pain or trouble seeing, a torn eyelid, one eye moving incorrectly or sticking out, unusual pupil size, blood in the clear part of the eye, or an object stuck in the eye, get medical help immediately. Never treat a serious eye injury yourself. Seek professional, emergency care.
"Patients may sometimes have an eye trauma, such as a foreign body or chemical injury, that may not cause problems until a few days later, Dr. Riaz explains. “It is therefore very important to seek out care as soon as possible to prevent bigger problems in the future."
If you have any questions or concerns about your eye health, contact us and request a DMEI appointment today!