Preventing Eye Injuries At Work: How To Protect Your Eyes On The Job
It’s important to take steps to protect your eyes on the job. This is because eye injuries in the workplace are extremely common. Granted, certain jobs carry a higher risk of workplace-related eye injuries than others. But even jobs that take place mostly at a desk can damage your eye health, since, for example, overexposure to the blue light emitted by electronic screens can result in digital eye strain. With that being said, many potential hazards can be prevented by taking the proper safety precautions.
Citing statistics from the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), the American Optometric Association (AOA) reports that an average of 2,000 Americans experience eye injuries at work that require medical attention each day. This is often the result of a failure to wear the right kind of eye protection or forgoing any method of protection at all. However, the AOA estimates that up to 90% of workplace eye injuries can be mitigated or avoided altogether by utilizing proper eye protection.
Below, we discuss the occupations with the highest risk of eye injuries as well as what you can do to protect your eyes in the workplace.
Job with The Highest Risks of Eye Injuries
Given the risk of fluids or foreign objects making contact with the eye, the possibility of steam burns and chemical splashes, or exposure to radiation and even bloodborne pathogens, there are plenty of ways in which eye health can be compromised in the workplace.
Jobs in the following industries have the highest risk of eye injuries:
- Auto repair
- General Maintenance
How to Protect Eyes from Workplace Injuries
The steps necessary to protect your eyes in the workplace will differ depending on the type of industry you work in. But regardless of the type of job you have, taking the following general precautions will ensure you’re making your eye health a priority and will drastically reduce the likelihood (or at least the severity) of experiencing an injury in the workplace.
Do a Risk Assessment
When starting a job or taking on a new responsibility at work, it’s important to identify and become familiar with all of the different safety hazards that may put you at risk. This is why you should complete a risk assessment, which refers to an analysis of potential hazards or mishaps, including their likelihood and possible consequences, such as personal injuries.
There are two steps to completing a risk assessment. First, identify and analyze any potential hazards that could have a negative impact on yourself, your co-workers, or the environment and its assets. Secondly, evaluate the potential risks it holds, including the severity of potential injuries.
Completing a risk assessment not only makes you aware of the dangers in your workspace, but it puts you in a better position to determine what you can do beforehand to mitigate or prevent an injury.
Wear Proper Eye Protection
The type of eye protection needed on the job directly correlates to the type of industry you work in. Your employer should be able to give you information on the type of eye protection required for the specific job, and even more, many employers will provide the necessary protective equipment to their workers. In many industries, it is required to wear such protective equipment at all times.
Different types of eye protection include:
- Goggles: this type of eye protection specifically shields from particles as well as chemical splashes. They are high-impact and have the ability to protect your eyes from hazards in all directions. They can often be worn with prescription glasses or contact lenses.
- Face shields or helmets: these are often used to protect against exposure to chemicals and bloodborne pathogens. They are often used alongside safety glasses or goggles. This is to ensure the eyes still have a layer of protection even when the face shield is lifted or removed.
- Safety glasses: perhaps most common, and available in both prescription and non-prescription varieties, safety glasses protect against flying particles. They may look like regular glasses, but they are much more durable. They are often made from plastic, polycarbonate, or Trivex, with polycarbonate lenses providing the most protection. The AOA explains that you should look for the Z87 mark on the lens or frame of safety glasses to ensure it complies with the standards of the American National Standards Institute.
Even in industries that don’t carry a high risk of workplace-related eye injuries, such as an office job, it’s still important to take precautions to protect your eyes. For instance, blue light blocking glasses have recently emerged as a promising tool to protect against digital eye strain, which is a result of overexposure to blue light emitted by digital screens, like computers or cellular devices.
While the benefits of blue light glasses are still inconclusive, there are other proven ways to reduce digital eye strain, including:
- Avoid staring at digital screens before bed.
- Utilize a matte screen to reduce glare.
- Sit at least 25 inches away from a digital screen.
- Try the “20-20-20” rule: every 20 minutes, stare at an object that’s 20 feet away for at least 20 seconds.
Adjust Your Workspace
Finally, determine what you can do in order to adjust your workspace to be most conducive to your eye health. Identify the various engineering controls in place that are designed to protect workers from injury by putting barriers between the employee and hazard or removing the hazard altogether. This may include but is not limited to machine guards, divided workstations, or air ventilation. Engineering controls are usually required by your employer in order to comply with governmental regulations and standards.
Also consider what you can do on an individual basis. If you work at a desk, for instance, think about how you can make your workspace less damaging to your eyes. Maintain a proper distance between your eyes and computer screen – it should ideally be 25 inches or an arm’s length away. Try looking forward at your screen, as this is more comfortable not only for the eyes but also the back and neck. Modify your computer’s settings to reduce eye strain. This can include enlarging text size, reducing the colour temperature of your display to lessen blue light emissions, and reducing brightness. Similarly, ensure you’re using proper lighting, which can otherwise cause the eyes to strain. This is important in order to reduce or prevent glare from a computer screen, which is often the result of overhead lighting or windows.
Whether you work in an industry with a high risk of workplace-related eye injuries or a desk job, there are various steps you can take to protect your eye health while on the job. To learn more about all things vision, including how LASIK eye surgery may provide a long-term solution to your eyesight problems, be sure to visit our blog.