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Thousands of employees go blind each year from work-related eye injuries that are preventable with the proper use of eye and face protection. OSHA requires employers to provide eye and face protection to safeguard against chemical, environmental, radiological, and mechanical hazards.

Neumann Brothers’ Safety Manager, James Machamer, shares proactive measures you can implement daily to keep your eyes healthy.

  • Wear polarized sunglasses. Protect your eyes from the sun by wearing sunglasses (even on cloudy days). Choose a pair of sunglasses that block 99%-100% of UVA and UVB radiation.
  • Wear protective eyewear. Safety glasses and goggles are designed to protect your eyes during construction work and home repairs. You can purchase protective gear from sporting goods stores and most eye care providers.
  • Follow the 20-20-20 rule. Gazing at computer and phone screens for extended periods can tire your eyes. To rest your eyes, take a break every 20 minutes to look at something 20 feet away for 20 seconds.
  • Keep your contacts clean. Always wash your hands before you handle your contact lenses to avoid eye infections. It is also important to disinfect your contact lenses and replace them regularly. To learn more about caring for your specific contact lenses, make sure you consult with your eye doctor.

According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), 2,000 U.S. workers sustain a job-related eye injury every day 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 away from work.

How do eye injuries happen at work? 

  • Striking & scraping. Most eye injuries result from small particles or objects striking or scraping the eye, such as dust, cement chips, metal slivers, and wood chips. These materials are often windblown, ejected by tools, or fall from above. Eye injuries may also occur when objects strike the eye or face or when a worker runs into an object causing blunt-force trauma to the eyeball or eye socket.
  • Chemical & thermal burns. Industrial chemicals or cleaning products are common causes of chemical burns to the eyes, and thermal burns often occur among welders. These burns routinely damage the workers’ eyes and surrounding tissue.
  • Penetrative objects. Objects like nails, staples, wood, and metal can go through the eyeball and result in permanent loss of vision.

In addition to workplace injuries, it’s helpful to be aware of eye diseases. Eye diseases can occur due to genetics, age, overall health, or specific job duties.

How do employees develop eye diseases? Eye diseases are transmitted through the eye’s mucous membranes from direct exposure to blood, coughing, sneezing, or touching the eyes with a contaminated finger or object. Minor eye diseases can cause reddening or soreness of the eye.

What can employees do to prevent eye injury and disease? Wearing personal protective eyewear, like goggles, face shields, safety glasses, and full-face respirators helps prevent injury and disease. The eye protection chosen for specific work situations depends on 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 good peripheral vision.

What can employers do to prevent employee eye injury and disease? Employers can ensure engineering controls are used to reduce eye injuries and protect against ocular infection exposures. Employers can also conduct a hazard assessment to determine the appropriate type of protective eyewear for a given task. If the job site or project hazard assessment identifies a particular form of eye protection, then it should be provided.

Neumann cares about promoting employee health and safety in the construction industry. Learn more about eye health and OSHA standards below.

OSHA Regulations (Standards – 29 CFR)

OSHA 1926.102 – Eye and Face Protection

OSHA 1926.96 – Criteria for Personal Protective Equipment