Sit back and relax, now as you sit there, close your eyes and clear your mind, start to absorb in the darkness. Now as you take in that complete darkness, I want you to think about what it would be like to have to live in darkness every day, just like this. How different would your life be if you were to never see again? What if you could never again see the faces of your children again? How would that make you feel? Very bad “right”. “OK then, let’s hit the pause button now.” No, no, no one is trying to hypnotize you, but every day workers receive eye injuries at work. Some may even lose part of their sight, or even worse, some may be completely blinded. “According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, more than 20,000 workplace eye injuries happen each year. Injuries on the job often require one or more missed work days for recovery. In fact, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) reports that workplace eye injuries cost an estimated $300 million a year in lost productivity, medical treatment and worker compensation” (Dang, 2016).
OSHA requires employers to access workplace hazards. Part of that assessment is for potential hazards that can effect worker’s eyes. Those hazards can come from many sources such as welding activities, employees using grinders or other power tools, cutting, brazing, painting, carpentry or many thousands of other sources. Once employers have completed that assessment and the use of PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) needed, then employers shall select the correct eye protection for effected employees, then those employees are trained on the limitations and usage of that PPE.
The employer shall ensure that each affected employee uses 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.
The employer shall ensure that each affected employee uses eye protection that provides side protection when there is a hazard from flying objects. Detachable side protectors (e.g. clip-on or slide-on side shields) meeting the pertinent requirements of this section are acceptable.
The employer shall ensure that each affected employee who wears prescription lenses while engaged in operations that involve eye hazards wears eye protection that incorporates the prescription in its design, or wears eye protection that can be worn over the prescription lenses without disturbing the proper position of the prescription lenses or the protective lenses (OSHA, 2016).
OSHA requires us to follow the ANSI (American National Standards Institute) standards of eye and face protection meeting ANSI Z87. “ANSI/ISEA Z87.1-2015 prescribes the design, performance specifications, and marking of safety eye and face products, including millions of safety goggles, spectacles, faceshields, and welding helmets, worn by workers in thousands of manufacturing and processing facilities, university and research laboratories, and other occupational settings” (ISEA, 2016).
As employers, it is your duty to ensure that you protect your workers, as a part of that protection, you must insist, no better yet, demand that your employees protect their vision by always using the correct eye PPE for the activity. A famous American once said “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” Benjamin Franklin, (1735). How would it effect the family of an employee that was hit in the eyes with a corrosive chemical and that employee lost part or all of his sight? The effect would be devastating to that employee and the family.
As employers, we can never let our defenses down when it comes to safety and following the safety rules. We must enforce all safety rules and ensure all employees are trained in the hazards of their work and the environment that they work in. It is our duty, as we have a duty of care for all our employees, that they return home at the end of the day, the way their families sent them to us.
What can you do?
There are many things we can do to help prevent employees from having eye injuries. We can train them in the nature of eye injuries for their work or the site. Provide employees with the correct eye protection PPE. We can conduct hazard hunts focusing on preventing eye injuries. We can hold safety meeting focusing on eye safety, we can use safety posters and other eye safety awareness materials. We can train supervisors on company safety rules and have them properly enforced supervisors. Managers can conduct eye safety walkthroughs to reinforce eye safety as a concern for them, that “no one receives any eye injury today, nor any other day”.
There are many things we can do but first we have to recognize that eye safety is so very important, and then we have to take action and do the things we have just discussed and more to help prevent eye injuries at work. Safety must be driven from the top down, never from the bottom up. So as employers, managers and supervisors we must take the lead and ensure all our employees know and understand the companies eye safety policy and that they follow that policy for the benefit of the employee, their family and the company.
How do you protect your workers eyes?
ANSI/ISEA Z87.1-2015 Standard. (ISEA, 2016). Retrieved from https://safetyequipment.org/isea-standards/ansiisea-z87-accredited-standards-committee/ansiisea-z87-1-2015-standard/
Dang, S. (2016, February 22). Eye injuries at work. Retrieved from http://www.aao.org/eye-health/tips-prevention/injuries-work
OSHA Subpart E Standard 1926. (OSHA, 2016). Retrieved from https://www.osha.gov/pls/oshaweb/owadisp.show_document?p_table=STANDARDS&p_id=10665
Always use the correct PPE for the job!
Looking away, is not protection!