Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Workplace Eye Health & Safety

Contributed by Eric Tofte, Director of Training, Evergreen Safety Council
According to NIOSH, “each day about 2000 U.S. workers have a job-related eye injury that requires medical treatment. About one third of the injuries are treated in hospital emergency departments and more than 100 of these injuries result in one or more days of lost work. The majority of these injuries result from small particles or objects striking or abrading the eye.”
Examples of injuries to the eyes include metal slivers, nails, staples, wood chips, dust, and cement chips that are ejected by tools, wind blown, or fall from above a worker. Some of these objects penetrate the eyeball and result in a permanent loss of vision. Chemical burns to one or both eyes from splashes of industrial chemicals or cleaning products are common. Thermal burns to the eye occur as well. Among welders, their assistants, and nearby workers, UV radiation burns (welder’s flash) routinely damage workers’ eyes and surrounding tissue.
In addition to common eye injuries, health care workers, laboratory staff, janitorial workers, animal handlers, and other workers may be at risk of acquiring infectious diseases via ocular exposure. Infectious diseases can be transmitted through the mucous membranes of the eye as a result of direct exposure (e.g., blood splashes, respiratory droplets generated during coughing or suctioning) or from touching the eyes with contaminated fingers or other objects. The infections may result in relatively minor conjunctivitis or reddening/soreness of the eye or in a life threatening disease such as HIV, B virus, or possibly even avian influenza.
ESC Trainer Al Filmore looks cool in his safety glasses
Engineering controls should be used to reduce eye injuries and to protect against ocular infection exposures. Personal protective eyewear, such as goggles, face shields, safety glasses, or full face respirators must also be used when an eye hazard exists. The eye protection chosen for specific work situations depends upon the nature and extent of the hazard, the circumstances of exposure, other protective equipment used, and personal vision needs. Eye protection should be fit to an individual or adjustable to provide appropriate coverage. It should be comfortable and allow for sufficient peripheral vision. Selection of protective eyewear appropriate for a given task should be made based on a hazard assessment of each activity, including regulatory requirements when applicable.
In order to help you look at eye hazards, NIOSH has developed the following checklist.
  • Create a safe work environment
o    Minimize hazards from falling or unstable debris.
o    Make sure that tools work and safety features (machine guards) are in place.
o    Make sure that workers (particularly volunteers) know how to use tools properly.
o    Keep bystanders out of the hazard area. 
  • Evaluate safety hazards.
o    Identify the primary hazards at the site.
o    Identify hazards posed by nearby workers, large machinery, and falling/shifting debris. 
  • Wear the proper eye and face protection.
o    Select the appropriate Z87 eye protection for the hazard.
o    Make sure the eye protection is in good condition.
o    Make sure the eye protection fits properly and will stay in place. 
  • Use good work practices.
o    Caution—Brush, shake, or vacuum dust and debris from hardhats, hair, forehead, or the top of the eye protection before removing the protection.
o    Do not rub eyes with dirty hands or clothing.
o    Clean eyewear regularly. 
  • Prepare for eye injuries and first aid needs.  Have an eye wash or sterile solution on hand.
In closing, eye safety/protection is just one of the many issues that an employee must navigate through when dealing with safety issues.  We at Evergreen understand this and are ready to assist you in meeting your safety needs.  Give us a call now 800-521-0778 and let us become your “Safety Solution.”

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