Every day, approximately 2,000 U.S. workers suffer a job-related eye injury, with one-third of them serious enough to require treatment in a hospital emergency room, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). More than 100 of these injuries result in lost work time. Those troubling statistics have prompted the American Society of Safety Engineers (ASSE) and The Vision Council to release information on the importance of eye safety and health in the workplace.

In a recent press release, the ASSE says that eye injuries are most common in the manufacturing, construction and trade industries, with threats of projectiles and chemical exposures. Workers in the health care industry at hospitals, labs and health clinics are also at risk of contracting infectious diseases through the eye’s mucous membranes as a result of direct exposure. Ensuring that employees have the proper eye protection for the job they are performing is key to helping reduce the risk of injury in hazardous situations.

In a 2009 ASSE Professional Safety Journal article, titled, ‘Safety eyewear: How much coverage does it provide?” ASSE experts James R. Harris, Richard Whisler, Douglas E. Ammons, Jim Spahr and Larry L. Jackson note that not only is eye protection important, but ensuring that eye protection is the correct type for the job being performed and fits properly is critical to preventing all injuries. Eye protection should fit properly and be appropriate for the job at hand; otherwise there is still a risk of eye injuries.

According to the Vision Council, approximately 90 percent of eye injuries are preventable. The issue brief, published in conjunction with ASSE, offers valuable information about workplace eye injuries in a variety of work settings, and also provides tips and product recommendations designed for their prevention. Employers are required to take measures to ensure employee safety by complying with government regulations for eyewear and emergency eyewash stations. Employees should also be aware of ways to protect themselves by choosing the best eyewear for their jobs. Eye hazards and vision safety have been a top focus of ASSE members and the Vision Council, both dedicated to ensuring worker safety and health when it comes to protecting the eyes.

ASSE members often reach out to students and their communities to raise awareness about wearing the proper personal protective equipment (PPE) on the job. Tools like the ASSE ‘Safety Suitcase’ provide excellent information for students about how to stay safe on the job and even provide information about proper eye protection for work. The ‘Safety Suitcase’ program for elementary school students is an interactive presentation program, complete with a case full of PPE, including safety glasses, that students can put on and experience what workers wear on the job to keep their eyes safe from injury. For more information about the safety suitcase program or to order a suitcase for a classroom presentation, please visit www.asse.org/newsroom/safetysuitcase.