Protecting your eyesight at work
Posted on 19th Oct, 2015 | By Lorretta Tatham
Eye injuries in the workplace are very common. In fact, up to 2,000 people injure their eyes at work each day according to statistics from the Health and Safety Executive. From loose soil and sand, to chemicals, and dangers resulting from machinery, there are a whole range of hazards across multiple industries from agriculture to welding. With this in mind, we thought we’d share our safety advice on how to ensure eye protection in the workplace.
According to the NHS, the eye is particularly vulnerable because the cornea (the transparent layer protecting the eye) is only 1/2mm thick. Unlike our skin, which is tougher and more resilient, the delicate eye area is at a higher risk of serious injury. The HSE assess that of the total amount of work-related eye injuries, 10 – 20% will cause temporary or permanent vision loss. Of course, these numbers could be significantly decreased if the right eye protection was worn.
How injuries occur
There are various ways that the eyes can be damaged, from foreign objects to harsh chemicals – the workplace can present a number of risks, which need to be managed.
Common risk factors include:
Agricultural and forestry
Outdoor workers need to take special care of their eyes. Low hanging branches, grit and other sediment and loose soil can all irritate the eye. What’s more, dirty sediment and water, common in these environments, can potentially contain nasty pathogens – which can result in a whole host of infections and problems, such as corneal ulcers.
Angle grinding is just one of the activities than can pose a significant risk to the eyes. Like a fair amount of machinery work, risks come from splinters or slivers of material, such as metal, which are ejected at a high velocity towards the operator and other employees nearby. Unless protection is worn, serious damage can occur.
Welding produces an intense amount of light that can be harmful to the eye. This light has the potential to cause temporary or permanent eye damage at work.
Common in many factory jobs, chemicals carry a risk of serious irritation to the eye, along with the potential of burns. It’s not just chemicals in the lab you need to be weary of either. Weedkiller, plant sprays, bleach and other cleaning products all carry dangers. Alkaline substances can also cause more damage than acidic substances because they penetrate the eye faster.
Preventing eye injuries
Under The PUWER Regulations, employers have a legal obligation to protect themselves and their workers when using machinery or equipment. This includes risks to eyesight.
There are a number of ways to properly protect your eyes, including:
- Wearing the appropriate PPE
The appropriate safety goggles/glasses should be worn. When choosing appropriate eye protection, you should check they are impact-resistant and adhere to relevant British standards, as well as ensuring they fit properly.
If you are working in an area that has particles, flying objects or dust, you must wear safety glasses with side protection. If you are working with chemicals, you should wear goggles. If you are working near hazardous radiation (welding, lasers, or fibre optics) you must use special-purpose safety glasses, goggles, face shields, or helmets designed for that type of work.
- Make use of machinery controls
Where relevant you should use machine guarding, work screens, or other engineering controls.
It’s also worth attending one of our health and safety courses to make sure you’re well aware of every risk you face at work. Where relevant, we’ll share tips on how to protect your eyesight, choosing the right PPE and how to maintain employee wellbeing on the job. You can check out our range of courses over on the Safety Training page.