Each year, nearly 25,000 Americans visit the emergency room due to a workplace eye injury. Each day, over 2,000 Americans suffer an eye injury. This means that almost one million Americans have experienced some vision loss due to eye injury, which has resulted in more than $300 million in lost work time, medical expenses and workman’s compensation.

March is Workplace Eye Wellness Month – a good time to focus on eye injury prevention and first aid.

Construction workers have one of the highest eye injury rates, according to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH). Even “minor” eye injuries can cause life-long vision problems and suffering–a simple scratch from sawdust, cement, or drywall can cause corneal erosion that is recurrently painful.

Some common construction industry eye hazards:

  • Particles of dust, metal, wood, slag, drywall, cement etc. are the most common source of eye injury to carpenters
  • Hammering on metal which gives off metal slivers and the rebounding of the ordinary nail are two of the most common causes of vision loss in construction workers
  • Hammering, grinding, sanding, and masonry work that may produce particles
  • Handling chemicals may lead to splashes in the eye
  • Wet or powdered cement in the eye can cause a chemical burn
  • Welding leads to exposure to arcs and flashes (intense UV radiation) for welders, helpers, and bystanders
  • Dusty or windy conditions can lead to particles in the eye
  • Eye injuries can result from simply passing through an area where work is being performed
  • Nearby coworkers may generate the hazard

How to reduce eye hazards at your worksite

  • Use engineering controls (best) such as machine guards that prevent the escape of particles or welding curtains for arc flash protection
  • Use administrative controls (good) such as making certain areas “off limits” unless that is your work assignment area or putting passage ways out of active work zones
  • Use the proper protective eyewear (required, but doesn’t remove all risk)

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