Because powerful chemicals are present in industrial facilities, employers must provide comprehensive protection, including for workers' eyes, against potentially harmful substances. Since chemicals could spill and splatter when employees handle them, companies should ensure workers always wear protective eye equipment that could reduce the number of eye-related injuries in the workplace.
In 2012, there were 20,300 occupational eye injuries that led to job absences, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health said about 1 in 3 injuries result in a hospital emergency visit. These injuries ranged from eye strain to other injuries that could have lasting health effects like long-term vision problems. In addition to protecting against instances where employees could get debris or contaminants in their eyes, employees should also guard against dangerous chemicals that could affect their ability to interact with their surroundings if they get inside workers' eyes.
With workers in the chemical industry at risk for eye accidents and injuries, employers could improve eye protection in the workplace by following these tips:
1. Identity Eye Safety Hazards
Direct contact with chemicals accounts for a huge number of eye injuries, according to the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration. Since exposure to chemicals, vapors and fumes could result in eye incidents, companies could identify areas and workers in the facility at risk for chemical exposure. For example, workers who work with industrial chemicals or cleaning supplies are at risk for chemical burns from substances splashing, according to NIOSH. These places could include storage areas for chemicals as well as sections for chemical production. Firms could look at their past history of incidents, as well as talk to employees who are familiar with the ins and outs of their work stations, including their potential hazards.
"Companies should ensure PPE properly fits around workers' faces."
2. Choose the Right Eye Protection Equipment
Another way companies can lower the rate of eye injuries is by making sure they supply workers with appropriate eye protection equipment. These include personal protective equipment like chemical splash goggles and face shields to prevent chemicals from splattering or misting onto workers' eyes and face. Companies should ensure PPE properly fits around workers' faces, covering every surface equipment is designed to protect while still remaining comfortable for workers. Employers may ask employees to test goggles or face shields for fit before workers wear them during possible chemical exposure.
3. Teach Workers About Eye Wash Stations
Finally, companies should prepare workers for emergencies that could result in chemical exposure and eye injuries. In the event workers do have contact with harmful chemicals, employers should install eye wash stations near places where employees could be at risk for accidental contamination. The eye wash stations are required to be in all hazardous areas as well as include first-aid instructions near danger areas, according to OSHA. employers should train workers about where the nearest eyewash station is in case they need to quickly go to one of these devices and their vision may be limited at the time.