According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, more than 20,000 workplace eye injuries happen every year. These range from eye strain to severe trauma, which can potentially lead to permanent damage, vision loss and blindness. While devastating in terms of health, these injuries also put a financial burden on employers; OSHA reported that workplace-related eye injuries total around $300 million every year, costing employers in lost productivity, medical treatment and workers’ compensation.
Some causes of workplace-related eye injuries include initial undiagnosed vision loss, invasion of foreign objects, blunt force trauma, chemical exposure and conjunctivitis. The most common workplace eye-related injuries include:
- Eyestrain – usually from spending too much time focused on computer screens and digital devices
- Severe trauma – often causes by flying objects, includes bleeding in the eye, retinal detachment and injuries to bones around the eye
- Vision loss – can occur over time from eyestrain, severe trauma, chemical exposure or other undiagnosed issues
- Blindness – from exposure to job-related hazards including chemicals and other toxic substances
Understanding when it’s time to treat an eye injury can save your employees from sustaining irreversible damage. Common symptoms include trouble seeing, pain, cuts or tears on the eyelid, unusual or different pupil sizes, or the feeling that something is stuck in the eye. Often, a doctor’s examination is necessary to see the damage. Even minor issues should be addressed quickly, and employees should never try to treat injuries on their own.
Ninety percent of workplace eye-related injuries can be avoided with proper eyewear. According to the American Optometric Association, professions that pose the greatest risk for eye injury include construction, carpentry, welding, auto repair, manufacturing, mining, plumbing, electrical work and maintenance. Some of the widely suggested types of eye protection include:
- Non-prescription/prescription safety glasses, for those working around particles, flying objects, or dust.
- Goggles, for those working with chemicals
- Face shields and helmets, for those working with hazardous radiation
- Full-face respirator, for those working with unpredictable materials
- Anti-reflecting glasses, for those working in an office setting, spending most of the day at the computer
All eyewear must meet the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 standards, which ensures all employers provide a healthy work environment, safe from exposure to toxic chemicals, mechanical dangers, unsanitary conditions and more.
Preventing eye injury in the workplace saves your employees pain and potentially irreversible damage, while the company saves costs in lost productivity, workers’ compensation, medical treatment and more.
Vision has a major impact on one’s ability to get the job done. Encourage all employees to get annual eye exams to better understand the state of their vision. Offering vision insurance will help ensure employees have access to routine eye exams, vision screenings and prescription lenses. In addition, according to the 2015 National Healthcare Quality and Disparities Report, those with health insurance are more likely to seek treatment for eye problems.
Versant Health provides quality vision care plans that accommodate a wide range of individuals regardless of their current state of health.