Assessing and Controlling Visual Hazards in the Workplace
Eye injuries on the job today are far too common. Employers should conduct risk assessments to determine hazards and protect against them.
According to the CDC there are approximately 2,000 eye injuries each day (730,000 per year) in the workplace.
These injuries result from striking or scraping by flying objects, dust, etc., penetration from objects such as nails, staples or metal/wood slivers, optical radiation or chemical and thermal burns. Simply providing safety glasses or goggles is not enough to ensure that employees are protected from eye injuries.
Before implementing a visual protection program, it is first necessary to conduct a comprehensive hazard assessment of the work environment to determine the type and extent of the hazards present.
There are five basic steps to risk assessment that apply to hazards in the workplace, including:
1. Hazard Identification
2. Hazard Assessment
3. Control Development and Decision-Making
4. Control Implementation
5. Evaluation/Supervision of Controls
To understand hazard identification, it is first necessary to define a hazard. A hazard is a naturally occurring or man-made agent or condition that has the potential to cause harm.
The hazard identification process begins with a comprehensive review of the facility and its specific processes that pose visual hazards to employees. Such hazards might include:
Flying debris. Flying debris is often found in manufacturing, mining and other industries which have loose materials or materials that are being cut, welded or brazed. In addition, areas in manufacturing, mining and construction industries create significant falling object debris which can cause eye injuries.
Grinding operations. Most grinding operations release fine particles or sharp shreds that can cause eye injuries by embedding or penetrating the eye.
Dusty environments. One of the more common causes of workplace eye injuries is the presence of naturally occurring dust particles or particles created by work activities.
This article originally appeared in the November/December 2020 issue of Occupational Health & Safety.