How to Respond to These Five Workplace Eye Injuries

Eye injuries in the workplace happen more often than you think. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, more than 2,000 workplace eye injuries happen each year.

Eye injuries can cause serious complications and both temporary and long-term vision loss. Although we don’t recommend you attempt to treat a serious eye injury yourself, we do suggest you be aware of some common workplace injuries and how to appropriately respond to them.

Keep reading to learn how to respond to these five workplace eye injuries.

1. Flying Pieces of Debris, Metal, or Glass

Flying debris accounts for a large majority of workplace injuries. In fact, 70% of serious eye injuries are caused by flying or falling objects, and 60% of these objects are smaller than the head of a pin.

Metal and glass are especially sharp and harmful to your cornea because of an increased risk of scratching or gouging. A scratched cornea can take several days to heal and could require treatment.

How to Respond:

Stop and assess the situation to know what could have landed in your eye. Avoiding rubbing your eyes, taking out any contact lenses and avoid using objects such as tweezers. Don’t try to remove a foreign body from your eye yourself. Go straight to your doctor or the nearest hospital emergency department for help.

2. Flash Burns

Welding can expose your eyes to flash burns from the welding arc. A flash burn occurs when your eyes are exposed to bright ultraviolet (UV) light. The intense UV light sunburns the surface of the eye, which can be very painful.

How to Respond:

Remove yourself from the area and call for help. You can immediately apply a cool compress or take an over-the-counter pain reliever for comfort. It’s important to seek help from your doctor or emergency department to administer treatment and monitor damage. Common treatment may include dressing the eyes to allow them to rest. The cornea can start repairing itself in as little as two days.

3. Particles or Foreign Bodies

Particles or foreign bodies can include any object in your eye that shouldn’t be there. This can range from something small such as a speck of dust, a wood chip, or a metal shaving to a larger object, depending on the work being done.

Underneath the eyelid is the most common place for a foreign object to get lodged. Symptoms of a foreign body in the eye include a sharp pain followed by burning and irritation, feeling there is something in your eye, watery and red eye, and a scratchy feeling when blinking.

How to Respond:

Most of the time, a person can easily remove debris from the eye. It’s possible, however, to scratch a cornea while attempting to get an object out. Start by asking for help and try to blink the debris out.

In most trade-work environments, there are eyewash stations scattered throughout the warehouse you can use. First, wash your hands and follow instructions at the wash station and try to flush the object out.

If a wash station isn’t available, running artificial tears, saline, or, in an emergency, tap water over the eye while it’s open may also flush debris away.

4. Chemical Burns

A chemical eye burn can happen if a harmful substance enters the eyes. This typically happens when an employee rubs their eyes after handling chemicals or if a substance splashes into the eyes.

If harmful chemicals enter the eyes, it should be treated as an immediate emergency to limit damage that range from temporary redness to blindness. The chemical can also enter the bloodstream from the eyes, causing further harm to the body.

How to Respond:

Flush the eyes out immediately! It’s important to notify emergency services right away for proper care instructions determined by the chemical you were exposed to.

5. Sudden Eye Trauma

Eye trauma refers to damage caused by a direct blow to the eye. Equipment or tools can cause intense trauma to your eye, the surrounding area, and the bone structure.

How to Respond:

Gently place a shield or a type of protective cover over the eye. Even the bottom of a paper cup taped to the bones surrounding the eye can serve as a shield until you get medical attention. Don’t rinse or apply any pressure to the eye and get emergency medical help immediately.

man putting eye and ear protection on before working

How Can You Prevent Eye Injuries at Work?

The most important thing you can do to protect your vision at work is to always follow the recommended safety measures on the equipment you are using. Also, wear appropriate protective eyewear, which can prevent more than 90% of serious eye injuries.

Here are more measures you can follow to protect your eyes from Prevent Blindness:

  • Know the eye safety dangers at work and complete an eye hazard assessment with your management team.
  • Eliminate hazards before starting work. Use machine guarding, work screens, or other engineering controls.
  • Use proper eye protection.
  • Use shaded filter lenses such as goggles, face shields, welding helmets, or a combination of equipment to prevent flash burns.

Continue reading tips on how to keep your eyes healthy at your workplace on our blog. As always, if you have any questions or concerns about your eye health, contact us and request an appointment at DMEI today.

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