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 include metal slivers, wood chips, dust, and cement chips that are ejected by tools, wind blown, or fall from above a worker. Some of these objects, such as nails, staples, or slivers of wood or metal penetrate the eyeball and result in a permanent loss of vision. Large objects may also strike the eye/face, or a worker may run into an object causing blunt force trauma to the eyeball or eye socket. 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.
Eye injuries in the workplace are very common. The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) reports about 2,000 U.S. workers sustain job-related eye injuries that require medical treatment each day. However, safety experts and eye doctors believe the right eye protection could have lessened the severity or even prevented 90% of these eye injuries.
OSHA requires the use of personal protective equipment (PPE) to reduce employee exposure to hazards when engineering and administrative controls are not feasible or effective in reducing these exposures to acceptable levels. Employers are required to determine if PPE should be used to protect their workers.
If PPE is to be used, a PPE program should be implemented. This program should address the hazards present; the selection, maintenance, and use of PPE; the training of employees; and monitoring of the program to ensure its ongoing effectiveness.
PPE is addressed in specific standards for the general industry, shipyard employment, marine terminals, and longshoring.