Whether it’s a scratch or an abrasion, even minor eye injuries can be extremely painful and result in long-term problems with your vision. Every day, about 2,000 U.S. workers sustain a work-related eye injury that requires medical treatment. A recent article published by Occupational Health & Safety noted that in 2008 alone, there were 27,450 work injuries or illnesses involving at least one eye that resulted in missed days from work.
Eye doctors have said that using a combination of appropriate eye protection and getting a yearly eye exam can help reduce eye injuries in the workplace and prevent up to 90 percent of all eye injuries. That would be a welcome change, as OH&S notes that in 2008 eye injuries made up 37 percent of all head injuries that resulted in missed time from work and 62 percent of all face injuries that involved days away from work.
Eye injuries at work typically occur when the eye is rubbed or scraped with a foreign object, such as metal chips, dirt, and splinters. Occupations that carry the highest risk of sustaining a work-related eye injury or illness include:
- Wholesale and Retail Trade Industries
- Educational and Health Services
While workers and employers can take measures to help prevent workplace eye injuries, they still happen frequently. The top reasons workers sustain on-the-job eye injuries are:
- Worker was not wearing any eye protection
- Worker was not wearing the appropriate type of eye protection
- Worker had an unknown vision disorder that contributed to the injury
Appropriate eye protection is determined by identifying what hazards are present, what the worker is being exposed to, what other protective equipment is being used, and the individual vision needs of the worker. Whenever eye hazards exist, workers are legally required to wear personal protective equipment (PPE), such as goggles, face shields, safety glasses or full-face respirators.
Employers Are Required to Train Workers to Use PPE
Even though it may seem like the burden to prevent workplace eye injuries and illnesses falls solely on the worker, employers must follow regulations, too. Employers have a legal obligation to recognize the existence of eye hazards and to adequately train every employee how and when to use PPE, along with proper care and maintenance. PPE should be provided at no cost to the worker and the employer is required to pay for replacement PPE unless the worker loses or intentionally damages the PPE.
Despite these regulations, a Bureau of Labor Statistics survey revealed that nearly 3 out 5 workers who sustained on-the-job eye injuries were not wearing any eye protection at all when the injury occurred. Some workers reported that they didn’t know they had to wear eye protection at the time, which explains why “eye and face protection” was among the most frequently cited workplace safety violations in 2018.
Additionally, employers should review company safety records and analyze the data to recognize the most common work areas where past eye injuries have occurred. The employer should identify and address:
- Any moving parts that could create projectiles
- Stationary objects that a worker could bump into and sustain an eye injury
- Heat sources that may cause an eye injury or infrared radiation exposure
- Exposure to chemical fumes or splashes
- Dust sources
- Any sources of radiation, such as visible light, ultraviolet radiation, heat or IR, and lasers
- Electrical hazards
- Exposure to blood and body fluid pathogens
- The overall layout of the workplace
See How a Workers’ Comp Lawyer Help Can Help After Your Eye Injury
Your employer has a legal obligation to make sure you are working in a safe environment and taking appropriate measures to protect yourself from a serious or potentially life-threatening injury. Unfortunately, some employers cut corners and don’t provide adequate training or appropriate safety equipment to their workers.
If you sustained a work-related eye injury or developed an occupational eye disease, it’s important to remember that you have rights. Since the early ‘90s, the Law Offices of Richard A. Jaffe has been protecting the rights of injured workers in Philadelphia and southern New Jersey.
Let our experienced Philadelphia workers’ comp lawyers fight to get you the benefits you need and deserve. Contact us today for a free consultation.