What You Need to Know About Eye Safety

Author: Harry Watt  Date Posted:23 February 2021 

Work related eye injuries continue to put Aussies out of work and in hospital year after year, with the majority of incidents being easily preventable.

Why is eye safety important?

You guessed it, we need our eyes to see, and if we can't see we can't work. Experts say proper protective eyewear could prevent up to 90 percent of all eye injuries. In Australia, there are over  50,000 eye injuries each year, with a cost to people and businesses around $60 million.

So let's delve into the difference between regular glasses and safety glasses, and why it's important to wear the proper pair and not the ‘this’ll do’ pair.

Safety glasses have to follow a higher standard of impact resistance than regular eye glasses which applies to both the actual glass and the frame. The Majority of safety glasses in Australia are certified by an independent organisation. Certification means that the manufacturer is subject to an annual independent audit, ensuring that the safety requirements are being met.

You may have thought by now that the type of safety glasses you wear depend on the type of work environment you are in, and guess what, you are absolutely correct.

3 common types of eye safety equipment include safety glasses, safety goggles and safety shields (see below):


Common workplace eye injuries

Striking and scraping

Small particles, dust, cement chips, slivers of metal, wood chips, you name it — frequently get kicked up in the course of day-to-day work, especially in workshops and construction. Without proper protection you are at risk of potentially irreversible damage.

Chemical hazards

Chemicals can strike fast — and they can also do so invisibly, critically harming skin and lungs even before physical symptoms appear.

Here are some of the most important symptoms of chemical hazards to take note of when working around them:

  • sharp pain in your eye/s, followed by burning and irritation
  • a feeling that there is something in your eye
  • watery and red eye/s
  • ‘scratchy’ feeling when blinking
  • blurred vision or loss of vision in the affected eye
  • sensitivity to bright lights
  • bleeding into the white of the eye (subconjunctival haemorrhage).

Below is an example of the damage an alkali chemical burn can cause to an eye.


3 ways to prevent eye injuries at work

  1. First and foremost, know your workplace.
    Every industry and workplace may have possible eye hazards of varying risk levels. Here's a few of the dangers a worker may face
    • Poisonous or noxious gases
    • Shifting or failing materials, debris, and glass
    • Metal particles, concrete, and dust
    • Fires and thermal hazards
    • Welding or cutting electrical and light arcing
    • Chemicals such as cement powder, lime, solvents
  2.  Shield your eyes in areas where there is even the slightest chance of eye injury.
    Anyone passing through those areas should also wear protection. Protective eyewear is designed to comply with the regulations of OSHA to avoid specific eye dangers like high impacts, excess heat, smoke, dust and chemicals.

  3. Develop proper training programs and signage.
    Hazard signs, reminders and training posters are all simple additions that can be made to any workplace to reduce the risk of injury  and keep everyone safe. Training can be used for educating employees on eye injury statistics and demonstrating the right ways to use eye safety gear.

Alright, so you’ve ignored the 3 ways to prevent eye injuries and have gone and done yourself a mischief, now what?

What to do if an injury has occurred?

If you have sand, dirt or other small, similar particles in your eye

Having small particles like sand or dirt are not always cause for an emergency. We can usually rely on our eyes to flush these out, so it's worth seeing if the issue takes care of itself before moving on to more serious measures

Now, if you’ve gotten something more serious like glass, metal or plastics in your eye more serious treatment is likely to be  necessary. If treated incorrectly, these objects can become embedded in the eye itself and cause more damage and irritation over time.

So, here’s an order of actions to take if you find yourself in an eye injury situation:

  1. DO NOT rub the eye.
  2. Blink several times and allow tears to flush out the particle.
  3. Lift the upper eyelid over the lashes of your lower lid to let the eyelashes, try to brush the particle out.
  4. Use eyewash, saline solution or running tap water to flush the eye out.
  5. See a doctor or go to the emergency room as soon as possible if you can't get the particles out of your eye.

All eye injuries should be treated with caution. As tempting as it may be to give it a rub to satisfy that itch, take the time and treat it properly. One thing worth noting is that over the counter eye drops can sometime be more painful or make the injury worse - proper eye protection is a much better investment. 

Clearly we are not doctors, nor officially certified to guide you on correct treatment options, but we definitely can advise you to go about it the proper way if you ever experience an eye injury.  Always get help from a professional if you suspect a problem.

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