March is Save Your Vision Month. One of the most preventable things you can do to save your vision is wear proper eye protection – whether you’re at home or at work. Each day about 2,000 U.S. employees suffer eye related injuries that end up requiring medical treatment. With proper precautions and eyewear it is estimated that upwards of 90% of those are preventable or would be lesser in severity. These numbers don’t even include incidents that happen at home.
The Bureau of Labor Statics conducted a survey which revealed in case where an eye injury occurred 60% of those involved where not wearing protective eyewear. Of those wearing eye protection a number of them were not wearing the appropriate kind for their task.
At both home and work there are four major categories for eye injuries:
- Projectiles – dust and debris that goes airborne
- Chemical – cleaners or other fluids that can have fumes or splash into the eye
- Radiation – more common in the workplace than home but caused by light such as welding
- Blood Born Pathogens – HIV, Hepatitis – again more common in the workplace
Depending on the category depends on what time of eye protection you need. For projectiles it is important to wear safety glasses with side shields. Regular glasses with side shields don’t cut it. It is important to make sure that the glasses meet ANSI standards. For both chemical and blood born pathogens you should wear goggles. Radiation injuries require special facemasks or shields, depending on the task. There are some situations which require more than one type of protection as well.
Despite following all precautions eye injuries can still happen. It’s important to know what to do when something does go wrong.
- Projectiles – try rinsing the eye out with either your natural tears or if need artificial tears or a saline solution. If there is any doubt that a foreign body remains it is important to seek immediate medical attention before the situation worsens.
- Chemical – flush the eye for at least 15 minutes. If you are wearing contact lenses remove the lenses before beginning the flush. Read the label or Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) for first aid for the given chemical. Following the flush seek immediate medical attention. Bring with you the name of the exact chemical and the MSDS if available.
- Radiation – seek medical attention
- Blood Born Pathogens – seek medical attention
In addition to the four major categories of eye injuries you may also suffer from a blow to the eye, cut, or even puncture. In these cases it is important to not put pressure on the eye or rinse the eye. If there is a puncture from a foreign body do not attempt to remove the object. Lightly pack around the object and seek immediate medical attention.
Remember to wear the proper eye protection, both at home and work, but accidents do happen. When this happens follow the appropriate protocol for the injury and then seek follow up care from a trained eye care professional.
Information provided by the American Optometric Association