Common eye injuries occurring at work can result from chemicals or foreign objects in the eye and cuts or scrapes on the cornea. Other causes of injuries include splashes with grease and oil, burns from steam, ultraviolet or infrared radiation exposure, and flying wood or metal chips.
In addition, health care workers, laboratory and cleaning staff, and other workers may be at risk of acquiring infectious diseases from eye exposure. Some infectious diseases can be transmitted through the mucous membranes of the eye as a result of direct exposure to blood splashes, respiratory droplets generated during coughing, or from touching the eyes with contaminated fingers or other objects.
Two major reasons workers experience eye injuries on the job are because they were:
Not wearing eye protection, or
Wearing the wrong kind of protection for the job.
A Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) survey of workers who suffered eye injuries revealed that nearly three out of five were not wearing eye protection at the time of the accident. These workers most often reported that they believed protection was not required for the situation.
Potential eye hazards against which protection is needed in the workplace are:
Projectiles (dust, concrete, metal, wood and other particles)
Chemicals (splashes and fumes)
Radiation (especially visible light, ultraviolet radiation, heat or infrared radiation, and lasers)
Bloodborne pathogens (hepatitis or HIV) from blood and body fluids
Some working conditions include multiple eye hazards. The proper eye protection takes all hazards into account.
The type of safety eye protection you should wear depends on the hazards in your workplace:
If you are working in an area that has particles, flying objects, or dust, you must at least wear safety glasses with side protection (side shields)
If you are working with chemicals, you must 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 task