Thousands of Americans are blinded each year by work-related eye injuries that could have been prevented with the proper selection and use of eye and face protection. Eye injuries alone cost more than $300 million per year in lost production time, medical expenses, and worker compensation.

OSHA requires employers to ensure the safety of all employees in the work environment. Eye and face protection must be provided whenever necessary to protect against chemical, environmental, radiological, or mechanical irritants and hazards. There are specific eye and face protection standards for general industry, shipyard employment, longshoring, and the construction industry.

It is impossible to predict when and where an eye injury might occur. It is an employer’s responsibility to identify the eye safety hazards at the workplace and then provide workers with the best protection against injuries. Along with training on how and when to use eye protection equipment, workers should learn about cleaning, storing, and replacing equipment.

Here are some common causes of eye injuries, with suggested first aid responses. In all cases, professional medical attention should be sought as soon as possible after taking initial first aid measures are taken.

  • Foreign particles: Go to the nearest eyewash station or water source and flush the eye until the object is rinsed out. Don’t rub the eye, because the object can scratch or become embedded. If the object doesn’t rinse free, bandage the eye loosely and seek medical attention.
  • Chemical splashes: Seconds count. These accidents require immediate action. Go to the nearest emergency shower or water source. Look directly into the stream of water, hold the eyes open with your fingers, and flush the eyes for at least 15 minutes.
  • Light burns: Exposure to welding, laser, or other radiant light without appropriate eyewear does not cause immediate pain, but four to twelve hours later exposed eyes may begin to feel gritty and become sensitive to light. Redness or swelling may occur. Keep your eyes closed while waiting for medical attention.
  • Cuts: Don’t rub, press, or wash cuts near the eye. This can cause further damage. Loosely bandage both eyes to stop any movement.
  • Embedded objects: Never try to remove objects embedded in your eye. This can cause further damage. Loosely bandage both eyes and get medical attention.
  • Bumps and blows: Apply a cold compress for 15 minutes to reduce pain.

The best solution for when employees are doing any work that could result in an eye injury is to wear proper eye protection. But accidents do happen, so it is important to make sure your employees know what to do if they or a coworker suffers an eye injury.

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