Workplace Eye Safety

What are the potential eye hazards at work?

Stock photo of a woman construction worker wearing protective eye wear and a helmetSome working conditions include multiple eye hazards, it’s crucial to take all hazards into account when selecting the proper personal eye protection.

Types of potential hazards include:

  • Projectiles (dust, concrete, metal, wood and other particles)
  • Chemicals (splashes and fumes)
  • Radiation (especially visible light, ultraviolet radiation, heat or infrared radiation, and lasers)
  • Bloodborne pathogens (hepatitis or HIV) from blood and body fluids

Methods of eye protection differ for each type of hazard. The protector must be matched to the potential hazard. High risk occupations for eye injuries include:

  • Auto repair
  • Carpentry
  • Construction
  • Electrical work
  • Maintenance
  • Manufacturing
  • Mining
  • Plumbing
  • Welding

The type of safety eye protection you should wear depends on the hazards in your workplace:

  • If you work in an area that has particles, flying objects, or dust, you must wear safety glasses with side protection (side shields).
  • If you work with chemicals, you must wear goggles.
  • If you work near hazardous radiation, (welding, lasers, or fiber optics), you must use special-purpose safety glasses, goggles, face shields or helmets designed for that task.

In addition, employers need to make work environments as safe as possible by:

  • Conducting an eye hazard assessment of the workplace.
  • Removing or reducing eye hazards where possible.
  • Providing appropriate safety eyewear and requiring employees to wear it.

Your optometrist can assist you and your employer in evaluating potential eye hazards in the workplace and determining what type of eye protection may be needed.

How can I protect my eyes from injury?

  • Know the eye safety dangers at your work.
  • Eliminate hazards before starting work by using machine guards, work screens or other engineering controls.
  • Use proper eye protection.
  • Keep your safety eyewear in good condition and have it replaced if it becomes damaged.

Selection of protective eyewear appropriate for a given task should be made based on a hazard assessment of each activity. Types of eye protection include non-prescription and prescription safety glasses, safety lenses, goggles, face shields and helmets or other special protection eyewear.

Protective eyewear works best when you know how to use it properly. Combined with machine guards, screened or divided work stations, and other engineering controls, using the correct protective eyewear can help keep you safe from any type of eye hazard.

Can contact lenses be worn safely for industrial jobs?

While contact lenses cannot provide significant protection from ocular hazards in the workplace, the improved vision many patients experience can have a positive impact on workplace safety. Contact lenses can’t provide significant protection from eye hazards in the work place. There is no evidence that the wearing of contact lenses increases the risk of eye injury.

Contact lenses may actually contribute to worker safety and productivity because they often provide improved vision in the workplace.

Individuals who wear contact lenses usually obtain a wider field of vision than with eyeglasses and often have less visual distortion, especially with higher power lens prescriptions. In addition, wearing contact lenses instead of eyeglasses can provide a better, more comfortable fit of eye safety equipment, such as goggles and full face respirators.

Lenses may be worn safely under a variety of environmental situations. Check with your employer on their safety policy regarding the wearing of contact lenses. Your optometrist can assist your employer and you in determining whether you can safely wear contact lenses in your workplace.

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