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According to OSHA, eye injuries cost U.S. businesses more than $300 million per year in lost production time, medical expenses and worker compensation, and NIOSH reports that about 2,000 U.S. workers suffer job-related eye injuries each day. Clearly, eye injuries are a major concern for both workers and employers. October is Eye Injury Prevention Month, so now is the perfect time to review your workplace policies and procedures to make sure you’ve got eye safety covered.

Common causes of workplace eye injuries include exposure to chemicals, particles of hazardous materials, tools, and flying hazards.

“The majority of these injuries result from small particles or objects striking or abrading the eye,” NIOSH states on its eye safety page. “Examples include metal slivers, wood chips, dust, and cement chips that are ejected by tools, wind blown, or fall from above a worker.”

Many workplace eye injuries result in severe, irreversible damage – including permanent blindness – from accidents that could have easily been prevented if proper safety procedures were in place.

OSHA’s eye and face protection standard (29 CFR 1910.133) mandates that employers provide proper eye and face protection to employees and anyone else who enters a workplace where hazards are present. When a work-related injury happens that results in the loss of an eye, OSHA requires the employer to report the incident within 24 hours.

Key Tips for Eye Safety at Work

The American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO) recommends three simple steps for protecting your eyes on the job:

  1. Use proper eye protection, such as goggles, face shields, or full face respirators.
  2. Know the dangers – be aware of what can cause eye injuries in your work environment.
  3. Eliminate the hazards before starting work. For example, defenses such as machine guarding and work screens can serve as safeguards.

It’s also important to know the signs of eye injury. If you notice any signs on yourself or a co-worker, get medical help right away. AAO lists the following signs to watch for:

  • Obvious eye pain or trouble seeing
  • A cut or torn eyelid
  • One eye not moving as well as the other
  • One eye sticking out more than the other
  • Unusual pupil size or shape
  • Blood in the clear part of the eye
  • Something in the eye or under the eyelid that can’t be easily removed

You can also find a printable eye safety checklist from NIOSH here.

To make sure you’re taking the necessary steps for workplace eye safety, consider registering for training course, “Eye and Face Protection.” The course provides information on the general requirements of OSHA’s eye and face protection standard, and includes details on how to: recognize hazards; identify protective equipment to safeguard workers from specific hazards; understand proper fit of protective eyewear; be aware of special issues related to corrective lenses; and know how to clean and maintain protective eyewear.