Focusing On Eye Safety

Before getting into looking at how our eyes can become damaged and on how to prevent eye damage from occurring we will be looking at the story of the one eyed carpenter and what we can learn from his misfortune.

The One Eyed Carpenter

A carpenter asked his employer to pay for the damage done to his glass eye which was broken when a nail he had been driving flew up and struck it.  When he was asked how he lost the eye in the first place he replied, “Oh, the same way, a flying nail.” A dark world awaits this carpenter if the next nail hits his other eye before he decides to use safety glasses.  It may be difficult getting used to eye protection, but have you tried getting used to a glass eye?

There are two kinds of foreign particles that can get in your eyes on job sites. The first type is wind-carried material like:

  • sawdust
  • dust, dirt
  • rust, etc.

Although a bother, these aren’t as serious as the other type:  namely high-speed chips that go flying when a hard material contacts another hard material. Some examples include:

  • A jackhammer breaking rock or concrete
  • Drilling, scaling, or reaming steel
  • Cutting masonry products with a powered saw
  • Demolishing walls or ceilings
  • Striking a chisel or punch with a hammer
  • Using a powder actuated gun into steel or concrete
  • Cutting with a portable circular saw
  • Grinding all grindable materials

And don’t forget working with molten materials:

  • Soldering
  • Socketing wire rope end connections
  • Welding, Air Arc Gouging

Eye Protection Can Be:

  • safety glasses
  • safety goggles
  • face shields
  • prescription glasses with safety lenses

Each has a different use depending on whatever conditions exist for your particular job site.  It is very important to make sure that your eye wear fits correctly.  Remember that proper ventilation and sprays can help reduce fogging.

Eye Protection Tips:

  • To prevent scratching the lens, take care when setting your eye protection down or putting them away for the day.
  • Replace the lens or get new glasses when scratches on the lens become noticeable.
  • Clean eye protection regularly at the eye protection cleaning station. Or use water and a soft absorbent towel such as a paper towel. Don’t use your shirt or a rag that collects and holds dirt, it will scratch the lens.

Eye Injuries

Every day an estimated 100 eye injuries occur in Canadian workplaces.  No matter where we work, flying particles, dusts, splashes or flying objects expose us to potential eye injury. Fortunately, we can protect against these hazards by using the appropriate protective eyewear for our jobs.

A survey by the Labor Department’s Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) of about 1,000 minor eye injuries reveals how and why many on-the-job accidents occur:

  • Not wearing eye protection.  BLS reports that nearly three out of every five workers injured were not wearing eye protection at the time of the accident.
  • Wearing the wrong kind of eye protection for the job.  About 40 of the injured workers were wearing some form of eye protection when the accident occurred.  These workers were most likely to be wearing eyeglasses with no side shields, though injuries among employees wearing full-cup or flat-fold side shields occurred, as well.

What Causes Eye Injuries?

  • Flying particles. BLS found that almost 70% of the accidents studied resulted from flying or falling objects or sparks striking the eye. Injured workers estimated that nearly three-fifths of the objects were smaller than a pin head.  Most of the particles were said to be traveling faster than a hand-thrown object when the accident occurred.
  • Contact with chemicals caused one-fifth of the injuries.
  • UV Light exposure
  • Other accidents were caused by objects swinging from a fixed or attached position, like tree limbs, ropes, chains, or tools which were pulled into the eye while the worker was using them.

Eye contact with chemicals:

  • Immediately flush the eye with water or any other drinkable liquid.  Keep the eye open and as wide as possible while flushing.  Continue flushing for at least 15 minutes taking small breaks as needed.
  • DO NOT use an eyecup.
  • If a contact lens is in the eye, begin flushing over the lens immediately.  This may wash away the lens but the sooner you start the flushing, the better.
  • The flushing may cause eye irritation itself and once flushed thoroughly you can use eye drops if needed. However, eye drops are not a substitute for flushing the eye.

Specks in the Eye

  • DO NOT rub the eye
  • •Try to let your natural tears wash the speck out.  This is the best method.
  • •Try lifting the upper eyelid outward and down over the lower lid.
  • •Use an eye wash station or a bottled solution if your natural tears are not working.  Flush the eye for at least 15 minutes taking breaks as needed.

UV Light Eye Damage
The American Academy of Ophthalmology reminds us of the importance of protecting our eyes from the sun’s harmful rays by wearing sunglasses and wide-brimmed hats. One of the greatest threats to your eyes is invisible UV light. Long-term exposure to invisible ultraviolet radiation can damage our eyes and lead to vision loss.  Everyone is at risk, especially children.

Like your skin, your eyes never recover from UV exposure. Studies show that exposure to bright sunlight may increase the risk of developing cataracts and age-related macular degeneration, both leading causes of vision loss among older adults. UV exposure, wind, and dust can cause benign growths on the eye’s surface.  The more exposure to bright light, the greater the chance of developing these eye conditions.
In addition to the damage caused by a lifetime of exposure to bright sun, you need to protect your eyes from acute damage caused by outings on very bright days.  Excessive exposure to ultraviolet light reflected off sand, snow, water, or pavement can damage the cornea, the eye’s surface.  Such exposure can even occur if the sky is overcast and cloudy.  Sun damage to eyes can occur anytime during the year, not just in the summertime.  Although July is designated as UV Safety Month, you should protect your eyes from damage all year long.

Generally, UV light is at the greatest level at midday (10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m.), but you need to protect your eyes whenever you’re outside for a prolonged period, even when it’s gray and overcast.  Your eyes can be harmed by UV light sources other than the sun, such as welding, carbon arc type spotlights or tanning lights.  So remember to wear eye protection when using these sources of invisible, high-energy UV rays.

Image safety glasses by donielle