When using PPE, whether it

Eyes on the Prize: No Injuries

Workers in a wide variety of industries depend on vision protection that complies with ANSI/ISEA Z87.1-2015, American National Standard for Occupational and Educational Personal Eye and Face Protection Devices.

Eye injuries in the workplace are very common. The American Optometric Association1 and other authorities cite NIOSH as the source for the estimate that every day, approximately 2,000 U.S. workers suffer job-related eye injuries that require medical treatment. As many as 90 percent of the injuries could be prevented, or made less severe, by wearing the right eye protection.

Chemicals or foreign objects in the eye and cuts or scrapes on the cornea are common eye injuries that occur at work. Other common eye injuries come from splashes with grease and oil, burns from steam, ultraviolet or infrared radiation exposure, flying wood or metal chips, and, among health care workers, the possibility of blood spatter and the potential risk of acquiring infectious diseases from eye exposure. Other common causes for workplace eye injuries include flying objects from equipment operation, tools, and even falling objects.

Occupations considered to have a high risk for eye injuries include:

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

Sustaining an eye injury, especially one that leads to permanent vision loss, can have devastating outcomes for the injured worker and his or her family. When vision is impaired, the individual's quality of life and ability to work are affected, which is why preventing eye injuries should be a priority for every safety professional in these and other industries.

Workers sustain eye injuries on the job for two main reasons:

1. They aren't wearing eye protection.

2. They are wearing the wrong kind of protection for the job.

According to AOA, a Bureau of Labor Statistics survey of workers who suffered eye injuries revealed that nearly three out of five were not wearing eye protection at the time they were hurt, with the workers most often reporting that they believed protection was not required for the situation.

Any employee working in, near, or passing through eye risk areas should wear protective eyewear. The type of eye protection to specify depends on the hazards in the workplace, so performing a job hazard analysis (JHA) is crucially important. If the job site has flying objects, particles, or dust, safety glasses with side protection (side shields) should be worn. Employees working with or near chemicals should wear goggles.

Once the JHA has been completed, employers can use the hierarchy of controls approach for controlling the hazards by elimination (most effective), substitution, engineering controls, administrative controls, or through the use of the appropriate personal protective equipment (least effective).

OSHA requires workers to use eye and face protection whenever there is a reasonable probability of injury that could be prevented by such equipment. Personal protective eyewear, such as goggles, faceshields, safety glasses, or full-face respirators, must be used when an eye hazard exists. The necessary eye protection depends on the type of hazard, the circumstances of exposure, other protective equipment used, and individual vision needs.

Selecting Vision PPE
Personal protective equipment should be used when other safety controls are not practical or may be used in addition to other controls.

ANSI/ISEA Z87.1-2015, American National Standard for Occupational and Educational Personal Eye and Face Protection Devices, establishes criteria for the general requirements, testing, permanent marking, selection, care, and use of protectors to prevent or reduce the severity of injuries from hazards such as impact, non-ionizing radiation, and liquid splash exposures in occupational and educational environments, including, but not limited to, machinery operations, material welding and cutting, chemical handling, and assembly operations.

ANSI Z87.1-2015 provides clarifications to markings on lenses and frames, and seeing a "Z87+" mark on your lenses and frames means the glasses or goggles have been tested for impact resistance and found satisfactory. The "Z87+" marking indicates high-velocity impact, while "Z87" alone means basic impact.

For their part, workers can do four things to protect their eyes from injury:

  • Know the eye safety dangers at their work.
  • Eliminate hazards before starting work by using machine guards, screens, and other types of engineering controls.
  • Wear appropriate eye protection for the hazards.
  • Keep vision PPE in good condition and have it replaced if it becomes damaged.

Eye Health National Summit Coming Up
Prevent Blindness will host the 8th Annual Focus on Eye Health National Summit on July 17, 2019, at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. The event aims to elevate the national dialogue among diverse stakeholder groups around vision and significant public health issues.

This year's meeting has the theme "A Lifetime of Vision" and an agenda featuring discussions on surveillance, health promotion, and state and community programs affecting vision and eye health at different points of person's life.

The event's closing plenary speaker will be the 2019 winner of the Jenny Pomeroy Award for Excellence in Vision and Public Health, Cynthia Owsley, Ph.D., MSPH, the Nathan E. Miles Chair of Ophthalmology and Director of the Clinical Research Unit at the University of Alabama at Birmingham School of Medicine, Department of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences. The award will be presented at the summit.

1. https://www.aoa.org/patients-and-public/caring-for-your-vision/protecting-your-vision
2. https://www.preventblindness.org/summit-2019

This article originally appeared in the June 2019 issue of Occupational Health & Safety.

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