Every day in the United States, roughly 2,000 workers experience an eye injury serious enough to require medical attention, according to NIOSH. Although the majority of these injuries involve small particles striking or abrading the eye, some are far more serious and result in permanent blindness. However, eye injuries are preventable if proper personal protective equipment is worn correctly and consistently.
A worker’s eyes can be damaged in a variety of ways, NIOSH notes. Causes of work-related eye injuries include:
- Getting particles in the eye due to grinding, sanding and hammering
- Being splashed during chemical handling
- Being exposed to arc flashes when welding
- Working in dusty conditions
- Walking through a work zone without wearing PPE
NIOSH lists five main types of eye protection and recommends that workers consider the hazards that are present before selecting which type to wear:
- General safety glasses (including hybrid safety glasses or goggles): This type of eye protection is ideal for general work that exposes workers to dust and flying particles. Ensure safety glasses feature anti-fogging capabilities and side protection. For added protection, wear safety glasses that have foam or rubber around the lenses to help keep particles out.
- Safety goggles: NIOSH states that safety goggles are a good choice to help protect workers from high impacts, chemical splashes and welding light. When selecting safety goggles, look for goggles with ample airflow, little fogging and maximum splash protection.
- Faceshields: Faceshields help protect workers from high-impact, chemical and bloodborne hazards. Select faceshields that are tinted or have a metal coating for heat protection. Be aware that you should still wear safety glasses or goggles underneath a faceshield, as the curve of it can direct chemicals and particles into the eyes.
- Full-facepiece respirators: This is the best form of eye protection from smoke, dust and chemicals, according to NIOSH. However, note that these types of respirators do not seal completely over regular or safety glasses. If you need to wear a full-facepiece respirator and glasses, ensure you obtain prescription inserts that are compatible with a respirator and approved for use with your specific respirator.
- Welding eye protection (including helmets, goggles, faceshields and respirators):Welding can expose workers to light that can seriously burn the eyes. Workers should always wear safety goggles or glasses underneath welding helmets or faceshields for additional protection. Ensure workers near welding operations wear appropriate eye protection as well.