The Canadian National Institute for the Blind (CNIB) estimates that 700 Canadians per day sustain eye injuries on the job, often resulting in lost time and/or vision loss. They also claim that 75% of vision loss is preventable. As Canadians celebrate Healthy Workplace Month as well as Eye Health Month in October, we couldn’t help but take a peek at this critical workplace safety issue.
Main causes of eye injuries
- Wearing the wrong kind of eye protection for the job – Many injured workers rely on eyeglasses without side shields. This allows debris, dust or vapors to get around the lenses and into the eye.
- Flying particles – Almost 70 percent of accidents that cause eye injuries are a result of flying or falling objects or sparks striking the eye. Most of the objects are smaller than a pinhead and travelling faster than a hand-thrown object.
- Contact with chemicals – Chemicals cause about 20% of eye injuries. Other contact accidents are caused by objects swinging from a fixed or attached position, like tree limbs, ropes, chains or tools.
Potential eye hazards can be found in nearly every industry, but tend to occur most commonly among craft workers, such as mechanics, repairers, carpenters and plumbers. More than a third of the injured workers were operatives, i.e. assemblers, sanders and grinding machine operators. Laborers suffered about one-fifth of the eye injuries. Almost half of the injured workers were in manufacturing.
Types of protection
The most common form of eye protection for general working conditions is safety glasses with side protection. The next step up is safety goggles, which provide better impact, dust and chemical splash protection than glasses. In some cases, it may be important to protect the face as well as the eyes. Faceshields can protect the face from spraying, chipping, grinding, and chemical and bloodborne hazards.
Each type of eye protection has a wide variety of specialized options designed to guard against very specific types of hazards. CCOHS has more information on how to choose the right product for the job.