Eye Safety at Work
It’s a distressing fact that thousands of eye accidents occur at work in the UK each year. Some of the accidents are minor but others, around 10–20%, result in partial or full blindness. It’s therefore essential for employers and staff to pay attention to eye safety.
Common Causes of Eye ProblemsSome of the common causes of eye problems at work are Chemical Spillages; harmful particles in the air; accidents with tools; radiation; and flying glass, metal and wood.
Some of these causes are particular to a certain type of work. If so, the employer should have identified the potential for an accident with a Risk Assessment. Whether you’re an employer or a member of staff, if you have a concern about eye safety at work review the risk assessment. Discuss and act on any omissions without delay.
Remove HazardsAny action depends, of course, on knowing what to do. The first thing is to remove any eye safety hazards. In practice, this isn’t always possible. But in some industries it’s relatively easy to spot where machine guards and screens, for instance, can help to protect an operator’s eyes.
Eye ProtectionThe second action to take is to use safety eye protection. In principle, it’s vital to wear safety eye protection if there is any chance of eye injury. This can cover a good many scenarios, especially in construction, engineering and Laboratory Work. Safety glasses are one of the most common types of safety eye protection. These come as non-prescription or prescription glasses. However, there’s also a wide range of other protection that includes respirators that cover the eyes as well as mouth; goggles with side shields; face shields; and helmets used for jobs such as welding.
LensesThe lenses for all such protection are usually made of glass, plastic or polycarbonate. Glass lenses may sometimes be heavy. Nonetheless they’re good at resisting scratches and chemical splashes. Plastic lenses can be as resistant to scratching as glass. They also have the added benefit of being lighter and less prone to misting over.
Polycarbonate lenses are the lightest of all three and the strongest. They are particularly good at resisting impacts and not shattering, but can develop scratch marks more quickly than plastic or glass.
Eye First AidThe moment an eye injury occurs it’s important to use appropriate First Aid. In part, this consists of what not to do. For example, if the injury is the result of a small foreign object, resist the urge to rub the eye. This can cause serious damage.
Similarly, if an object embeds itself in an eye, don’t pull it out. Leave this to the staff at a hospital.
For a cut in or around the eye, never rub the area or apply pressure. Don’t even try to wash the eye. It’s better to bandage the eye and see a doctor without delay.
On a more positive note, if the injury comes from dust or grit, pulling the upper eyelid over the lower and blinking may help. Alternatively, washing the eye with a sterile fluid can dispose of the irritant.
With a chemical splash, remove any contact lenses and flush the eye with water for ten minutes or more. Also go to hospital to confirm that everything’s okay. With a black eye caused by an impact, apply a cold compress regularly. If the colour of the skin looks particularly bad, go to a doctor.