Seeing 20/20: Creating a Vision Protection Program that Works
Understanding why workers aren’t wearing their vision protection will help identify program gaps.
Seeing clearly is one of the most important abilities employees can have when navigating the work environment safety. If vision is compromised by distortion or fog, workers may not be able to see the hazards in front of them. Distorted vision could result in slips, trips or falls, while fogged lens could lead a worker to take their safety glasses off entirely, leaving the eyes vulnerable to flying objects.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there were 18,630 cases of injuries to the eyes in 2019 that involved days away from work. In nearly all of these cases, better vision protection programs could have prevented an eye injury. Programs that take a workers’ feedback into consideration will ultimately have a higher rate of compliance.
Assessing the Hazards
The first step in ensuring compliance with your vision protection program is to assess the hazards present in your work environment. According to the CDC, there are three main types of eye injuries that may occur.
Striking or scraping.
Most eye injuries are a result of small partials or objects striking or scraping the eye. These materials could be dust, cement chips, metal slivers or wood chips, that are often ejected by tools, windblown or fall from a worker above. Workers could also suffer eye injuries from larger objects that may strike the eye or face, or a worker may run into an object causing blunt-force trauma to the eye ball or the eye socket.
Penetration. Objects like nails, staples or slivers of wood or metal can go through the eyeball resulting in permanent loss of vision.
Chemical or thermal burns. Industrial chambers 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 the surrounding tissues.
This article originally appeared in the June 1, 2021 issue of Occupational Health & Safety.