Every day an estimated 1,000 eye injuries occur in American workplaces.
The financial cost of these injuries is enormous -- more than $300 million per year in lost production time, medical expenses, and workers compensation. No dollar figure can adequately reflect the personal toll these accidents take on the injured workers.
Eye Injuries at Work
Take a moment to think about possible eye hazards at your workplace. A survey by the Labor Department's Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) of about 1,000 minor eye injuries reveals how and why many on-the-job accidents occur.
Not wearing eye protection. BLS reports that nearly three out of every five workers injured were not wearing eye protection at the time of the accident.
Wearing the wrong kind of eye protection for the job. About 40% of the injured workers were wearing some form of eye protection when the accident occurred.
Flying particles. BLS found that 70% of the accidents studied resulted from flying or falling objects or sparks striking the eye in 2000. Injured workers estimated that nearly three-fifths of the objects were smaller than a pin head. Most of the particles were said to be traveling faster than a hand-thrown object when the accident occurred.
Contact with chemicals caused one-fifth of the injuries. Other accidents were caused by objects swinging from a fixed or attached position, like tree limbs, ropes, chains, or tools which were pulled into the eye while the worker was using them.
Where Accidents Occur Most Often
Potential eye hazards can be found in nearly every industry, but BLS reported that more than 40% of injuries occurred among craft workers, like mechanics, repairers, carpenters, and plumbers.
More than a third of the injured workers were operatives, such as assemblers, sanders, and grinding machine operators.
Laborers suffered about one-fifth of the eye injuries. Almost half the injured workers were employed in manufacturing; slightly more than 20% were in construction.
Preventing Eye Injuries
Always wear effective eye protection. To be effective, eye wear must be appropriate for the hazard encountered and properly fitted.
Better training and education. BLS reported that most workers were hurt while doing their regular jobs. Workers injured while not wearing protective eyewear most often said they believed it was not required by the situation. Even though the vast majority of employers furnished eye protection at no cost to employees, about 40% of the workers received no information on where and what kind of eyewear should be used.
Maintenance. Eye protection devices must be properly maintained. Scratched and dirty devices reduce vision, cause glare and may contribute to accidents.
2. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), most eye injuries are caused by _____.
a. objects striking the eye
b. striking the eye against an object
c. repetitive vibration trauma
d. ultraviolet radiation exposure
Protective eyeglasses are made with safety frames, tempered glass or plastic lenses, temples and side shields which provide eye protection from moderate impact and particles encountered in job tasks such as carpentry, woodworking, grinding, scaling, etc. Safety glasses are also available in prescription form for those persons who need corrective lenses.
Vinyl framed goggles of soft pliable body design provide adequate eye protection from many hazards. These goggles are available with clear or tinted lenses, perforated, port vented, or non-vented frames. Single lens goggles provide similar protection to spectacles and may be worn in combination with spectacles or corrective lenses to ensure protection along with proper vision.
Welders goggles provide protection from sparking, scaling, or splashing metals and harmful light rays. Lenses are impact resistant and are available in graduated shades of filtration.
Chipper/Grinder goggles provide eye protection from flying particles. The dual protective eye cups house impact resistant clear lenses with individual cover plates.
3. Which goggles provide similar protection to spectacles?
a. Vinyl framed goggles
b. Welders goggles
c. single-lens goggles
d. Chipper/Grinder goggles
These normally consist of an adjustable headgear and face shield of tinted/transparent acetate or polycarbonate materials, or wire screen. Face shields are available in various sizes, tensile strength, impact/heat resistance and light ray filtering capacity.
Face shields will be used in operations when the entire face needs protection and should be worn to protect eyes and face against flying particles, metal sparks, and chemical/biological splash.
These shield assemblies consist of:
vulcanized fiber or glass fiber body
a ratchet/button type adjustable headgear or cap attachment
Wear the shield or go blind.
a filter and cover plate holder
These shields will be provided to protect workers' eyes and face from infrared or radiant light burns, flying sparks, metal spatter, and slag chips encountered during:
bare or shielded electric arc welding;
oxyacetylene welding; or
4. Which type of face protection should be worn to protect the eyes and face from infrared or radiant light burns, flying sparks, metal spatter, and slag chips?
a. Welding shield
b. Face shield
d. Safety glasses
The employer must ensure that each affected employee uses appropriate eye or face protection when exposed to eye or face hazards from flying particles, molten metal, liquid chemicals, acids or caustic liquids, chemical gases or vapors, or potentially injurious light radiation.
The employer must ensure that each affected employee uses eye protection that provides side protection when there is a hazard from flying objects. Detachable side protectors (e.g. clip-on or slide-on side shields) meeting the pertinent requirements of the PPE standard are acceptable.
The employer must ensure that each affected employee who wears prescription lenses while engaged in operations that involve eye hazards wears eye protection that incorporates the prescription in its design, or wears eye protection that can be worn over the prescription lenses without disturbing the proper position of the prescription lenses or the protective lenses.
The employer must ensure that each affected employee uses equipment with filter lenses that have a shade number appropriate for the work being performed for protection from injurious light radiation.
5. What is the PPE eye protection requirement if employees are exposed to flying objects?
a. Double strap
b. Wrap-around view
c. Rigid lenses
d. Side protection
Protective eye and face devices purchased after July 5, 1994 must comply with any of the last three national consensus standards, e.g., ANSI Z87.1-1989, ANSI Z87.1-2003, or ANSI Z87.1-2010 "American National Standard Practice for Occupational and Educational Eye and Face Protection."
Eye and face protective devices purchased before July 5, 1994 must comply with the ANSI "USA standard for Occupational and Educational Eye and Face Protection," Z87.1-1968, or must be demonstrated by the employer to be equally effective.
Eye and face PPE must be distinctly marked to facilitate identification of the manufacturer.
Employees whose occupation or assignment requires exposure to laser beams should be furnished laser safety goggles which will protect for the specific wavelength of the laser and be of optical density adequate for the energy involved.
Eye wash facilities and more!
Emergency eyewash facilities, such as in the photo to the right, meeting the requirements of ANSI Z358.1-2009 must be provided in all areas where the eyes of any employee may be exposed to corrosive materials. All such emergency facilities will be located where they are easily accessible in an emergency.
Check out this short audio clip by Dan Clark of the theSafetyBrief.com. Dan Clark covers first aid for four types of eye injuries: Specks of debris in the eyes, chemical exposures and burns, flying or falling object impacts and cuts or punctures.
6. Emergency eyewash facilities must be _____.
a. not more than 500 feet from the work area
b. provided in all work areas, regardless of potential exposure
c. easily accessible when there is exposure to corrosive material
d. able to provide at least 5 minutes of fresh water
Check your Work
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Selection Chart Guidelines for Eye and Face Protection
Some occupations (not a complete list) for which eye protection should be routinely considered are: carpenters, electricians, machinists, mechanics and repairers, millwrights, plumbers and pipe fitters, sheet metal workers and tinsmiths, assemblers, sanders, grinding machine operators, lathe and milling machine operators, sawyers, welders, laborers, chemical process operators and handlers, and timber cutting and logging workers.
The following chart provides general guidance for the proper selection of eye and face protection to protect against hazards associated with the listed hazard "source" operations.
Eye and Face Protection Selection Chart
Assessment of Hazard
IMPACT - Chipping, grinding, machining, drilling, chiseling, riveting, sanding, etc.
Flying fragments, objects, large chips, particles, sand, dirt, etc.
Spectacles with side protection, goggles, face shields. For severe exposure, use face shield over primary eye protection.
HEAT - Furnace operations, pouring, casting, hot dipping, and welding.
Splash from molten metals
High temperature exposure
Face shields, goggles, spectacles with side protection. For severe exposure use face shield.
Face shields, reflective face shields.
Screen face shields, reflective face shields.
CHEMICALS - Acid and chemicals handling
Goggles, eyecup and cover types. For severe exposure, use face shield over primary eye protection
DUST - Woodworking, buffing, general dusty conditions
Goggles, eyecup and cover types.
LIGHT and/or RADIATION
Welding - electric arc
Welding - gas
Cutting, torch brazing, torch soldering
Welding helmets or welding shields. Typical
Welding goggles or welding face shield. Typical
shades: gas welding 4-8, cutting 3-6, brazing 3-4
Spectacles or welding face shield. Typical
Spectacles with shaded or special-purpose lenses,
Notes to Eye and Face Protection Selection Chart:
(1) Care should be taken to recognize the possibility of multiple
and simultaneous exposure to a variety of hazards. Adequate
protection against the highest level of each of the hazards should be
provided. Protective devices do not provide unlimited protection.
(2) Operations involving heat may also involve light radiation. As
required by the standard, protection from both hazards must be
(3) Face shields should only be worn over primary eye protection
(spectacles or goggles).
(4) As required by the standard, filter lenses must meet the
requirements for shade designations in 1910.133(a)(5). Tinted and
shaded lenses are not filter lenses unless they are marked or
identified as such.
(5) As required by the standard, persons whose vision requires the
use of prescription (Rx) lenses must wear either protective devices
fitted with prescription (Rx) lenses or protective devices designed
to be worn over regular prescription (Rx) eyewear.
(6) Wearers of contact lenses must also wear appropriate eye and
face protection devices in a hazardous environment. It should be
recognized that dusty and/or chemical environments may represent an
additional hazard to contact lens wearers.
(7) Caution should be exercised in the use of metal frame
protective devices in electrical hazard areas.
(8) Atmospheric conditions and the restricted ventilation of the
protector can cause lenses to fog. Frequent cleansing may be
(9) Welding helmets or face shields should be used only over primary
eye protection (spectacles or goggles).
(10) Non-side shield spectacles are available for frontal protection
only, but are not acceptable eye protection for the sources and
operations listed for "impact."
(11) Ventilation should be adequate, but well protected from splash
entry. Eye and face protection should be designed and used so that it
provides both adequate ventilation and protects the wearer from
(12) Protection from light radiation is directly related to filter
lens density. See note (4) . Select the darkest shade that allows
According to Prevent Blindness America, 1,000 eye injuries occur each day. Of these, 16% take place at the worksite. Watch this Pursue Compliance video on the importance of effective eye protection.