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Take 5 for Safety: Eye injuries

By Ashleigh Petersen

Take 5 for Safety is a monthly article designed to give equipment and event rental stores the information they need to conduct a five-minute safety meeting on a particular topic. Below are talking points for this month’s meeting. The Take 5 for Safety signup sheet can be downloaded below. This can be used to take attendance during the meeting.


Each day more than 2,000 U.S. workers sustain a job-related eye injury that requires medical treatment — according to Prevent Blindness. About one in 10 injuries require one or more missed workdays to recover from. Of the total amount of work-related injuries, 10 to 20 percent will cause temporary or permanent vision loss.

Experts believe that the proper eye protection could have lessened the severity or even prevented 90 percent of eye injuries in accidents.

How do eye injuries happen to workers?

Striking or scraping: Most eye injuries result from small particles or objects striking or scraping the eye, such as dust, cement chips, metal slivers and wood chips. These materials often are ejected by tools, windblown or fall from above a worker. Large objects also may strike the eye or face, or a worker may run into an object causing blunt-force trauma to the eyeball or eye socket.

Penetration: Objects like nails, staples, or slivers of wood or metal can go through the eyeball and result in a permanent loss of vision.

Chemical and thermal burns: Industrial chemicals or cleaning products are common causes of chemical burns to one or both eyes. Thermal burns to the eye also occur, often among welders. These burns routinely damage workers’ eyes and surrounding tissue.

How do workers acquire eye diseases?

Eye diseases often are transmitted through the mucous membranes of the eye as a result of direct exposure to things like blood splashes and droplets from coughing or sneezing or from touching the eyes with a contaminated finger or object. Eye diseases can result in minor reddening or soreness of the eye or in a life-threatening disease such as HIV, hepatitis B virus or avian influenza.

What can workers do to prevent eye injury and disease?

Wear personal protective eyewear, such as goggles, face shields, safety glasses or full-face respirators.

The eye protection chosen for specific work situations depends upon the nature and extent of the hazard, the circumstances of exposure, other protective equipment used and personal vision needs. Eye protection should be fit to an individual or adjustable to provide appropriate coverage. It should be comfortable and allow for sufficient peripheral vision.

What can employers do to prevent worker eye injury and disease?

Employers can ensure engineering controls are used to reduce eye injuries and to protect against ocular infection exposures. Employers also can conduct a hazard assessment to determine the type of protective eyewear appropriate for a given task.

Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and Prevent Blindness