March is the month for eye health. Not only is it Save Your Vision Month, but it is also a month to raise awareness about eye health and safety in the workplace. Often, when we don’t experience injuries first or even second hand, we tend to think that they can never happen to us. Until these injuries do happen to us and suddenly we’re caught in a bind, a bind that could have easily been avoided.
Eye injuries are no exception. We take precaution to keep our heads safe with hardhats, steel toed work boots to protect our toes, gloves to protect our hands, but what about our eyes? An injured foot will heal with ease and before you know it, you’ll be back on the job. Eyes however, don’t heal as quickly or as easily and can sometimes cost people their jobs.
Reward your eyes this March by learning about eye hazards in the workplace, how to avoid them, and what to do if you’re injured on the job.
Eye Hazards and Dangers
Depending on your place of work, eye injuries will vary. An office worker will never have to worry about having chemicals splashed in their eyes, while a factory worker will never have to worry about developing digital eye strain (unless they spend an absurd amount of their free time in front of a computer screen). No matter the injury, they all produce the same consequences.
According to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, around 2,000 workplace eye injuries occur every day across America. Of those 2,000 injuries, about one third needs medical attention. Really, 2,000 injuries a day is 2,000 injuries too many, especially since many of them can be prevented by taking the right measures and wearing the right protection.
Common causes for eye injuries in the workplace are: flying objects such as bits of metal, glass and debris getting into the eye, mishandling of tools, chemicals in the eye, harmful radiation, blood borne pathogens (which mostly affects health care workers) and digital eye strain. Be sure to know the eye hazards specific to your line of work.
How to Avoid Eye Injuries at Work
The best way to avoid most eye injuries is to wear the right eye protection and to keep your safety wear in good condition. For those working with heavy machinery, be sure to use the proper machine guards, work sheets and any other engineering safety controls.
You want to make sure that you’ll be wearing the correct type of protective eyewear. There are a lot to choose from, here are some of the more common types:
- Prescription and non-prescription safety glasses: safety glasses look a lot like regular eyewear, but are built with sturdier materials. A stronger frame and glasses means that they will absorb impact better and won’t shatter if hit like regular eyewear. Safety glasses are generally used to protect from dust and debris from entering the eye, but can also prevent liquid from entering the eyes. Safety glasses also come available with side guards, and wrap-around styles.
- Safety goggles: safety goggles offer great all-around protection to prevent splashes and flying objects from every direction. Like safety glasses, they also have a high impact resistance. Goggles can also be worn over regular eye glasses.
- Face shields and helmets: for full face protection, these are your go-to items. They’ll shield your face and eyes from heat and sparks, making this an ideal means of protection for welders. However, it is highly recommended to wear safety goggles or glasses underneath the shield for further protection, especially when the shield is lifted.
You’re sure to be a safe worker with these types of safety eyewear. The more you know on how to use and take care of them, the less danger you put yourself and your eyes in.
Contact lenses are often debated as appropriate eyewear in situations where any of the above eye protection is needed. No study has been able to confirm contact lenses as a danger. In fact they may make working safer since better and clearer vision is always a good thing when working with machinery and various tools.
On the other hand we have office related eye injuries. Unfortunately these injuries are not as easily preventable, they require a bit more work that just slipping on a pair of safety glasses. Digital eye strain affects around 70 to 75 percent of all people who have computer-related jobs.
A national survey of optometrists has reported that an astounding 14 percent of their patients with vision conditions are computer work-related. This number will only continue to rise if workers continue to neglect their eye health at work.
There are a few sure fire ways to prevent digital eye strain from affecting you. First, adjust your screen brightness to a level that won’t strain your eyes. This will be different for everybody, so it’s best to take a day to play around with lighting and find what suits your eyes best. Also place the computer in a way that avoids glare either from artificial or natural lighting.
Give your eyes a break every once in a while by looking away at something else. This will give your eyes a chance to defocus and relax before you start working again.
A symptom of digital eye strain is dry eyes. Dry eyes can be uncomfortable and distract you from your work. A way to avoid getting dry eyes is to make a conscious effort to blink. Your eyelids will blink naturally, but the more frequently you force yourself to blink, the more moisture your eyes will get.
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What to Do After an Eye Injury
Should you do everything imaginable to protect your eyes but still have the misfortune of being injured; it’s important to know how to identify an injury and how to carry out the correct procedures to treat it.
Let me preamble this with if you have a serious eye injury that needs medical attention (such as blood in the eye, cut or torn eyelids, and objects stuck under the eye or eyelid), what you need to do in situations such as this is to keep calm and head on down to the hospital or clinic.
No matter what sort of injury you have however, there is one thing you must never do: rub the eye. Do not rub the eye that is injured. Doing so can make the injury significantly worse. Have someone in your workplace that is trained in treating injuries take care of you until you can see a doctor (if needed).
What to Do If You’re Alone
If no trained medic or first aid is available to you, you’re going to have to deal with the injury until you can get to a doctor. Here are a few things you can do after an eye injury to prevent it from getting worse:
- For torn eyelids or eyes: shield the eye somehow. Tape the bottom of a paper cup to the bones around your eyes if no other shield is available. This will suffice until you receive medical attention.
- Dust or other particles in the eye: blink until the tears naturally rinse out the particles. If pain or discomfort persists, see a doctor.
- Chemicals in the eye: immediately flush out with water and seek medical attention.
- Impact to the eye: apply a cold compress to the site of impact to reduce swelling. If troubled vision or pain persists, see a doctor.
- Digital eye strain: see your eye doctor for a proper diagnosis and take steps to strengthen them back to normal.
Don’t let neglect cause you serious pain. Eye injuries are among some of the most severe and impactful injuries. Avoid them by knowing your workplace’s safety rules and guidelines. And spread the word to your fellow workers, you never know when accidents may strike.