Eye Safety in Construction

Originally published 03/07/2018

Construction is one of the largest and most dangerous industries in the United States. Bodily harm because of misusing equipment or through plain negligence can range anywhere from cuts and scrapes to loss of sight or limbs and even death. Because of all the hazards we encounter in a typical day, injuries occur regularly. Of those injuries, eye injuries, are one of the most common.

Two main reasons for eye injuries on the job are: not wearing eye protection or wearing the wrong kind of eye protection for the job. Not wearing eye protection is dangerous. Most workers don’t realize that wearing the wrong kind of eye protection can be just as hazardous. Unfortunately, construction workers contact with just about every eye hazard known to the safety industry: impact, ultraviolet radiation, liquid splash, and infrared radiation just to name a few, are common exposures in construction. Many construction tasks generate flying debris such as: wood, paint chips, dirt, concrete particles, and even nails.

While working outdoors, UV rays are present in ordinary sunlight and can cause damage to the eyes. Construction often takes workers both indoors and out, not realizing the hazards faced can be a serious problem. Workers also come in contact with highly toxic cleaning chemicals, paints, and adhesives that can cause liquid/chemical splash hazards. Contact from these substances can cause momentary vision loss or even blindness, not to mention burning and discomfort in the eyes.

Lastly is infrared radiation. Torch welding and cutting produces an invisible hazard that can damage the cornea and retina of the eye, and in extreme cases it can cause blindness.

By wearing appropriate eye protection workers should be able to avoid injuries to their eyes however, there is still a possibility that you or those around you might need first aid. Listed below are a few points to remember in case of an eye injury:

  • Wash hands before examining the eye, this will help prevent infection.
  • Avoid rubbing the eye, this may force the particle deeper into the tissue.
  • Do not attempt to remove a particle that is embedded in the eye, you can cause serious damage. Place clean, preferably sterile, patches over both eyes and get to a physician as soon as possible.
  • In case of a chemical burn to the eye, do not close your eyes as it can trap the chemical causing further damage. Rinse the eye for 15-20 minutes with clean water, get medical help as soon as possible.
  • Get periodic eye examinations. This is often the only way people learn that their vision is defective.
  • If you’ve had an eye injury, contact your doctor if you: have changes in your vision, have blurry vision, see flashing spots or lights, have eye pain that becomes worse or pain with the movement of your eye(s).

Clean your safety glasses daily, following the manufacturer’s instructions. Store them in a case when they are not being worn. Replace glasses that are scratched, pitted, broken, bent or ill-fitting.

Use only safety glasses that are manufactured to meet the American National Standards Institute’s standards for Eye and Face Protection Standard.

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