Every day, more than 2,000 U.S. workers receive some form of medical treatment because of eye injuries sustained at work, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. More than 800,000 work-related eye injuries occur each year.

Eye injuries can range from simple eye strain and minor cuts to severe trauma that causes vision loss or permanent blindness. Some workplace eye hazards include:

? Projectiles (dust, concrete, metal, wood and other particles)

? Chemicals (splashes and fumes)

? Radiation (especially visible light, ultraviolet radiation, heat or infrared radiation, and lasers)

? Bloodborne pathogens (hepatitis or HIV) from blood and body fluids

Prompt medical treatment for eye injuries is critical. Do not attempt to treat a serious injury yourself. The American Academy of Ophthalmology, on its website www.geteyesmart.org, offers the following advice:

How to recognize an eye injury

If you notice any of these signs in yourself or someone else, get medical help right away.

  • Obvious pain or trouble seeing.
  • Cut or torn eyelid.
  • One eye does not move as well as the other.
  • One eye sticks out compared to the other.
  • An unusual pupil size or shape.
  • Blood in the clear part of the eye.
  • Something in the eye or under the eyelid that can't be easily removed.

What to do for an eye injury

For all eye injuries:

  • DO NOT touch, rub or apply pressure to the eye.
  • DO NOT try to remove the object stuck in the eye.
  • Do not apply ointment or medication to the eye.
  • See a doctor as soon as possible, preferably an ophthalmologist.

If your eye has been cut or punctured:

  • Gently place a shield over the eye. The bottom of a paper cup taped to the bones surrounding the eye can serve as a shield until you get medical attention.
  • DO NOT rinse with water.
  • DO NOT remove the object stuck in eye.
  • DO NOT rub or apply pressure to eye.
  • Avoid giving aspirin, ibuprofen or other non-steroidal, anti-inflammatory drugs. These drugs thin the blood and may increase bleeding.
  • After you have finished protecting the eye, see a physician immediately.

 

If you get a particle or foreign material in your eye:

  • DO NOT rub the eye.
  • Lift the upper eyelid over the lashes of your lower lid.
  • Blink several times and allow tears to flush out the particle.
  • If the particle remains, keep your eye closed and seek medical attention.
  •  

In case of a chemical burn to the eye:

  • Immediately flush the eye with plenty of clean water
  • Seek emergency medical treatment right away.

 

To treat a blow to the eye:

  • Gently apply a small cold compress to reduce pain and swelling.
  • DO NOT apply any pressure.
  • If a black eye, pain or visual disturbance occurs even after a light blow, immediately contact your eye doctor or visit the nearest emergency room (ER).
  • Remember that even a light blow can cause a significant eye injury.

 

To treat sand or small debris in the eye:

  • Use eyewash to flush the eye out.
  • DO NOT rub the eye.
  • If the debris doesn’t come out, lightly bandage the eye and go to an eye doctor or the ER.

 

Practice prevention

Here are four things you can do to protect your eyes from injury, according to the American Optometric Association:

1. Know the eye safety dangers at your work.

2. Eliminate hazards before starting work by using machine guards, work screens or other engineering controls.

3. Use proper eye protection.

4. Keep your safety eyewear in good condition and have it replaced if it becomes damaged.

Prevent Blindness, the nation’s leading volunteer eye health and safety organization, outlines 10 ways to help prevent a workplace eye injury:

1) Assess: Look carefully at plant operations. Inspect all work areas, access routes and equipment for hazards to eyes. Study eye accident and injury reports. Identify operations and areas that present eye hazards.

2) Test: Uncorrected vision problems can cause accidents. Provide vision testing during routine employee physical exams.

3) Protect: Select protective eyewear that is designed for the specific duty or hazard. Protective eyewear must meet current OSHA standards.

4) Participate: Create a 100-percent mandatory program for eye protection in all operation areas of your plant. A broad program prevents more injuries and is easier to enforce.

5) Fit: Workers need protective eyewear that fits well and is comfortable. Have eyewear fitted by an eye care professional or someone trained to do this. Provide repairs for eyewear.

6) Plan for an emergency: Set up first-aid procedures for eye injuries. Have eyewash stations that are easy to get to, especially where chemicals are used. Train workers in basic first-aid and identify those with more advanced training.

7) Educate: Conduct ongoing educational programs to create, keep up, and highlight the need for protective eyewear. Add eye safety to your regular employee training programs and to new employee orientation.

8) Support: Management support is key to having a successful eye safety program. Management can show its support for the program by wearing protective eyewear whenever and wherever needed.

9) Review: Regularly review and update your accident prevention policies. Your goal should be NO eye injuries or accidents!

10) Put it in writing: Once your safety program is created, put it in writing. Display a copy of the policy in work and employee gathering areas. Include a review of the policy in new employee orientation.