Your eyes are important in almost all your activities, and because eyes come only one pair to a customer they deserve all the care and protection you can give them, particularly in the workplace. What actions can you take to protect the eyes that are so important to your happiness and well-being? Here are nine simple steps to follow to maintain eye safety:

1) Identify hazards

Employers must assess the workplace to identify hazards to eyes and face and provide sanitary, reliable, undamaged eye and face protection that guards against these hazards and meets ANSI standards. They must also inform their employees about available personal protection equipment (PPE) and ensure each individual a proper fit. Common causes of eye injuries include:

  • Flying objects from woodworking, cutting, machining, coarse grinding, riveting, spot welding and hand tools;
  • Splashes from hazardous chemicals, acids, corrosives and hot metal;
  • Dust from woodworking, buffing and unclean work areas;
  • Fumes, mists, gases and vapors;
  • Swinging objects such as ropes and chains;
  • Electrical arcing and sparks; and
  • Radiant energy from welding, cutting, brazing, soldering and ultraviolet or infrared light.

2) Make the right choice

Various types of eye protective devices, including safety glasses, goggles and full-face shields, are used for different types of work. This is why OSHA requires that specific hazards in a workplace be analyzed to determine which types of protective equipment are appropriate. Be sure to select eye and face protectors that provide the best protection against identified hazards, are reasonably comfortable and fit snugly enough to keep out hazards.

Some advice on how to choose the right protection:

  • Use eye protection with sideshields to keep out flying objects;
  • Use face shields plus goggles or spectacles for serious hazards;
  • Use goggles and face shields with proper filtered lenses to keep out harmful light or radiation;
  • Never use metal-framed eyewear around live electricity.

3) Know what you're doing

Employers should certify in writing that employees have been trained to know:

  • When to use eye and face protection;
  • What PPE to use - and its limitations;
  • How to put on, adjust, use and remove eye and face PPE;
  • How to care for, maintain and dispose of eye and face PPE.

It's also smart to practice performing tasks while wearing PPE and make any needed adjustments or replacements.

4) Wear it

Since you never know when an incident will occur, you must actually wear the eye protection. This simple suggestion may sound obvious, but no one's sight was ever saved while wearing safety glasses on the forehead or carrying them in their pocket. The most important thing you can do is wear the eye protection your employer requires when there is a danger of flying particles, dust or harmful liquids getting into your eyes.

5) Care for it

Before using eye and face protectors be sure to inspect them for damage, looking for such problems as knotted, twisted, worn or stretched goggle straps, or pitted or scratched lenses or faceshield windows. Turn in and replace damaged PPE.

When you're done wearing the protective equipment, inspect it again for damage, and clean the lenses with water and soap or mild detergent. The eyewear should be disinfected if it's been contaminated by chemicals or if other people may use it. Then store it in its proper place in closed containers.

6) Follow procedures

To prevent eye and face injuries, follow MSDS precautions when working with chemicals. Also, don't open a container just to see what's inside. Keep shields around all potential flying objects. Try to contain as many processes as possible, and be sure other workers in the area are protected before starting jobs that could create eye or face hazards.

7) Have first-aid ready

Medical attention and first-aid must always be available for dealing with eye injuries. Some good rules of thumb include:

  • Chemical splash in eye - Go immediately to an emergency eyewash station and flush the eye with water for at least 15 minutes. Get under the eyelids.
  • Chemical splash on face - Check the MSDS for water reactivity. If safe, rinse with running water for at least 15 minutes.
  • Something in the eye - If the object doesn't blink out, don't rub your eye. Keep the eye closed and covered and get immediate medical attention.
  • Blow to the eye - See a doctor.

8) Get regular checkups

Since you need good eyesight to perform your job efficiently and safely, detection and correction of vision problems can help workers avoid eye injuries by preventing incidents. Periodic eye examinations are important, because they are often the only way people learn that their vision is defective since defects often develop gradually. With clear vision, you'll be able to spot and correct or avoid hazards in your environment.

9) Use appropriate lighting

Adequate illumination is also necessary if you are to perform your job safely. If you think lighting is inadequate or if light bulbs or fluorescent tubes need to be replaced, notify your supervisor.

Don't risk losing one of your most precious possessions, your eyesight. Wear the required eye protection when needed and encourage others to do the same.

This article was adapted from material previously published by Business & Legal Reports, Inc., tel: (860) 510-0100.

SIDEBAR: Beware of contacts and eyeglasses

Contact lenses should not be worn anywhere there is a chance of foreign matter, especially harmful liquids, entering the eyes. Liquids can get trapped under a contact lens. Frequently, before a lens is removed and the eye is flushed with water, delicate eye tissue has already been damaged. Also, avoid wearing contact lenses in areas with dust or chemicals.

And for those of you who wear eyeglasses, you might think they offer enough protection against eye hazards. However, on impact, regular lenses tend to shatter more easily than safety lenses. Though safety lenses may, too, shatter, it requires a much greater impact to do so. Wear protective eyewear that uses your prescription or fits over prescription glasses.