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How to Protect Your Eyes in The Workplace

About 2,000 U.S. workers each year sustain job-related eye injuries that require medical treatment, according to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health. However, safety experts and eye doctors believe that proper eye protection can keep you safe and lessen the severity of eye injuries by up to 90%. Here are some tips to prevent eye injuries and what to do if you are injured on the job.

Potential Risks to Eye Safety

Chemicals or foreign objects in the eye and scratches on the cornea are common eye injuries that occur at work. Other common eye injuries come from fluids splashed in the eye, burns from steam, and ultraviolet or infrared radiation exposure.

How to Eliminate Eye Safety Risk

It’s essential that every workplace regardless of industry or size prioritizes a safe environment for all employees. Hopkins Medicine suggests the following steps be taken to ensure safe working conditions:

- Educate and train all employees on the dangers specific to your workplace.

- Instill procedures that encourage safety throughout the workplace. This should include information on where protective equipment, first-aid kits, and emergency eye wash stations are located.

- Ensure employees working in hazardous environments have access to and are always wearing eye safety equipment.

- Install barriers such as shields in areas prone to flying debris and dust.

By wearing proper personal protective equipment (PPE), you can prevent eye damage and keep yourself safe. There are several types of eye protection available to use: face shields, safety glasses, and goggles. By ensuring your team is properly equipped, you can reduce workplace injuries.

What to Do When You’ve Been Injured

The Dean McGee Eye Institute has a thorough list of action items to take when you are at work from an eye injury. Here is how to respond to these top three eye injuries:

- Flying pieces of debris, metal, or glass. Flying debris accounts for a large majority of workplace injuries. 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. How to respond: Stop and assess the situation to know what landed in your eye. Avoid rubbing your eye or removing any debris. Go straight to the doctor.

- 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 apply a cold compress or take an over-the-counter pain reliever. Seek immediate help from a doctor.

- Chemical burns. If harmful chemicals enter the eyes, they should be treated as an immediate emergency to limit the damage that ranges 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.

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