Current State of Eye Safety in the U.S.
March has been designated as Workplace Eye Wellness Month to help promote eye safety. It’s a good time for employers to examine their workplace safety protocols and for equipment manufacturers to ensure their risk assessment processes are thorough and address potential eye hazards where applicable. 20,000 workplace eye injuries happen every year in the United States, resulting in $300 million lost in worker compensation, medical treatment and productivity. To drill down these statistics even further, 2,000 workers sustain a job-related eye injury each day according to the Health & Safety Institute. It’s vital for everyone working in potentially dangerous environments to know how these injuries typically occur and how to prevent them from happening in the first place.
Eye Protection: Injury Prevalence and Common Hazards
As it did in 2019, eye and face protection made OSHA’s 2020 top 10 violations list, an update of the most frequently cited safety violations from the previous year. OSHA recorded over 1,300 violations pertaining to the misuse or nonuse of required eye and face PPE.
There are several occupations that are considered to have a higher risk for eye injuries, including construction, carpentry, welding, manufacturing, plumbing, electrical work and automotives, as these industries require the use of machinery and equipment that generate dust and other debris that can cause damage to the eyes.
- Eye injuries, even minor ones, can result in lifelong vision issues. Common eye hazards include:
- Getting a metal sliver in the eye due to hammering on metal
- Getting particles of wood, slag, cement or drywall in the eye due to carpentry
- Handling chemicals that splash into the eyes
- Sanding, grinding or other masonry work that can create particles
- Welding that exposes the eyes to flashes and arcs
- Getting wet cement in the eye, resulting in chemical burns
Eye Safety Tips for Workplaces and Equipment
By enforcing eye protection safety measures, injuries can be reduced. In the workplace, employers should look at their operations to see which areas are most prone to eye injuries. There must be
mandatory eye protection protocol, in line with the specific hazards and duties
present, in every single area of the workplace; it should be routinely reviewed
and revised. All employees should also know what to do in the event of an eye
injury. Employers should make this training part of new hire orientation. First
aid kits should be located throughout the building as well as eyewash stations.
These stations are particularly important in areas where workers could be
exposed to chemicals. A copy of your workplace eye wellness program should be
readily available where all employees can see it.
For equipment being designed and manufactured, it’s critical to perform a risk assessment on the product during its various design phases. That’s an essential part of nearly every product manufacturer’s development process, and for good reason. Risk assessment is all about identifying possible hazardous situations that could occur during your product’s lifecycle and then finding ways to eliminate or reduce the risks associated with those hazards. If potential eye hazards can be identified early on, either eliminated or guarded against, safety can be increased.
Eye and Face Protection Standards – and PPE
OSHA standard 1926.102 requires that employers ensure that their employees use appropriate eye or face protection when exposed to eye or face hazards from flying particles, molten metal, liquid chemicals, acids or caustic liquids, chemical gases or vapors, or potentially injurious light radiation.
To prevent eye injuries, workers should have five types of personal protective equipment or PPE present. This includes general safety glasses, which can be in the form of safety goggles or hybrid safety glasses. This is the ideal form of protection to prevent dust, drywall and other particles from getting into the eyes. Employers should invest in glasses that come with anti-fogging capabilities. Ideally, the glasses will have rubber or foam around the lenses to prevent the particles from reaching the eyes another way.
Faceshields are highly useful in preventing bloodborne, chemical and high-impact hazards. Some even come with a metal coating to protect against heat. Welding eye protection is essential when employees will work with intense heat. In some workplaces, full-facepiece respirators may be necessary. These offer protection for the eyes in the presence of chemicals, dust and smoke. A combination of some of these devices may be necessary to ensure employees are safe.
Benefits of Warning Labels, Signs and Tags
Effective labels, signs and tags – ones that use today’s best practices and are in line with ANSI and ISO standards – are an important way to communicate about hazards and remind about the necessity to use safety equipment to avoid injuries.
When employers require their workers to use PPE, safety signs become an integral part of their PPE program. Notice and safety instruction signs can help support company policies and PPE signs, including eye and face protection signs, serve as visual reminders that reinforce specific PPE training and compliance.
At the same time, from a product safety perspective, PPE labels on equipment communicates about the need to use PPE by those who install, operate, service and dispose of the product. That type of information is a key factor in fulfilling a manufacturer’s legal duty to warn.
Prepare Your Products and Workplace for Eye Safety
Eye injuries can affect employees for the rest of their lives – and have serious liability impacts for businesses. The goal for us all is to have zero eye injuries. Working together, that is entirely feasible. At Clarion Safety, we’re here to help. Get in touch with us to see which labels, signs and tags are right for your project. We can also assist with machinery risk assessments and label assessments.
If you’re ready to order your warnings, browse our line of visual communication safety products, or create your own with our fast and easy to use online customization tools; whether it’s a ‘Danger’, ‘Warning’, ‘Caution’, ‘Notice’ or ‘Safety Instructions’ message – we have you covered!
This blog was originally posted on 3/14/19 and has been updated with new information throughout.