The construction industry has the highest rate of eye injury, with approximately 120 workers disabled or forced to miss work daily. The two most common causes of vision loss in construction workers are: 1) metal slivers entering the eye, and 2) nails that rebound during normal carpentry.
Other causes of eye injury include:
- Flying debris, chips and dust from grinding and windy conditions;
- Chemical splashes from acids and cleaning solutions; and
- Loose straps, cords or branding that breaks under extreme tension.
These hazards can cause a corneal abrasion, a scratch on the eye’s cornea (the clear, protective covering over the iris and the pupil). The cornea helps you see and protects the eye.
To remove a particle from your eye, flush the surface of the eyes with clean water or sterile saline solution and seek medical attention. If the abrasion is deep enough, the physician might prescribe antibiotic eye drops or ointment to prevent infection and other drops to ease pain and inflammation. A minor scratch should heal on its own within a few days. Severe abrasions may take longer to heal.
Eye injuries can occur at any time on the job. Some injuries occur simply by passing a work area or working next to someone who is grinding, sawing or welding.
Because some injuries can occur even when you’re wearing eye protection, it is important to wear properly fitted protective equipment at all times. Types of personal protective equipment include:
Safety goggles – These enclose the whole area around the eyes to prevent debris from entering.
Safety glasses and side shields – These should be made of impact resistant material to provide protection against airborne particles.
Grinding shields – Shields can help protect from grinding debris, flying projectiles and chemical splashes.
Protective eyewear should have the stamp “Z87” on the frame or lens. To test safety glasses, manufacturers shoot a quarter-inch BB traveling at 100 miles per hour at the lens and drop a one-pound, pointed weight from a height of four feet. If the glasses break during the testing, they won’t receive the Z87 rating.
Do everything in your power to protect your eyes. Remember – your properly fitted protective eyewear only works when you wear it.