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New brief stresses workplace eye protection

December 15, 2010
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Alarmed by the still-high incidence of workplace eye injuries – and the staggering costs of those injuries to businesses – the Vision Council and the American Society of Safety Engineers (ASSE) have released a new brief intended to alleviate the problem.

Eye Safety At-a-Glance: Protecting Your Vision at Work reminds employers and workers about the importance of protecting eyes while on the job.

“Although workplace eye injuries can be devastating, there is a positive story to tell about prevention when workers consistently use the right protective eyewear,” said Ed Greene, CEO of The Vision Council. “The Vision Council developed this issue brief to ensure that business owners and workers are aware that using the proper eye protection, such as safety glasses, goggles, face shields and helmets, can prevent countless eye injuries and cases of vision loss.”

According to a Vision Council press release, nearly 2,000 American workers a day suffer avoidable workplace eye injuries that require medical treatment. Despite the risks, many workers bypass appropriate precautions to protect their eyes.

In addition to the physical toll, eye injuries also come at great cost to businesses: an estimated $300 million annually in medical bills, compensation and downtime. Lost productivity is another significant consequence, with more than 27,000 reported days away from work among private industry employees in 2008.

Potential eye hazards can be found in nearly every industry. While 61 percent of eye injuries occur in manufacturing, construction or trade jobs, threats like chemical exposure are present in hospitals, laboratories and many other types of workplaces. Research also shows that nearly three out of every five workers injured were wearing either the wrong kind of eye protection or no protection at all. The brief by The Vision Council and the ASSE emphasizes that workplace eye injuries are “largely preventable.”

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration requires the use of eye and face protection whenever there is a reasonable probability of injury that could be prevented by such equipment.

The eye protection chosen for specific work situations should depend upon the type of hazard, the circumstances of exposure, other protective equipment used and individual vision needs.

Employers are required by law to assess eye safety hazards in the workplace and take measures to ensure employee safety through compliance with government regulations for eyewear and emergency eyewash stations. The Vision Council urges employees to also be aware of the potential for eye injury and seek ways to protect themselves.

Safety eyewear includes:

  • non-prescription and prescription safety glasses;
  • goggles;
  • face shields;
  • welding helmets; and
  • full-face respirators.
Eye hazards and vision safety in the workplace have been a top focus of ASSE members. ASSE serves as secretariat for several American National Standard Institute (ANSI) standard projects and was formerly secretariat for the Z87 standard, which focuses on vision safety, eye and face protection in the workplace and provides guidelines for eye protection design and construction. Eye protection in the workplace is very important to ensure employees return home injury and illness free to their families each day.

To view or download a copy of The Vision Council’s Eye Safety At-a-Glance: Protecting Your Vision in the Workplace issue brief, please visit www.thevisioncouncil.org.

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