Imagine what it would feel like to never be able to see again?
Eye injuries are a significant cause of lost working days throughout Australia, particularly within the manufacturing industry. There are two main reasons why eye injuries would occur at work, not wearing any eye protection or more commonly because of wearing the wrong type of, or inadequate eye protection.
When injuries occur even though eye protection is being worn, the question has to be asked, how much protection is required? To answer that a simple hazard assessment should be made to determine which of several eye hazards exist in your workplace for each job. Such hazards include:
- Dust, concrete, metal and other particles;
- Chemicals such as acids, bases, fuels, solvents, lime and wet or dry cement powder;
- Falling or shifting debris, building materials and glass;
- Smoke and noxious or poisonous gases;
- Welding light and electrical arcs;
- Thermal hazards and fires; and
- Bloodborne pathogens (hepatitis or HIV) from blood, body fluids and human remains.
Where hazards are found to exist in the workplace, to help prevent eye injuries from occurring, employers or people in charge should:
- Ensure eye protection is adequate against identified eye injury hazards, this include selection of either safety glasses, safety goggles or a face shield;
- Know the latest eye protection information, procedures and provide the equipment;
- Provide information, training and supervision to ensure safe procedures are followed and that adequate eye protection is being worn;
- Ensure eye protection is worn by employees as well as any visitors to the site at all times in identified risk areas and situations;
- Consider providing both safety goggles and face shields for high-risk work;
- Ensure eye protection is properly maintained. Dirty or scratched lenses impair vision and are more likely to be removed;
- Ensure adequate first aid training is provided and first aid equipment is available for emergency treatment to eye injuries.
Of course this should be considered in conjunction with the organisation or workplace's overall safety program or plan.
For further information or reference material for understanding eye protection requirements, the legislation and standards that are relevant include Occupational Health and Safety Act 2000, Occupational Health and Safety Regulations 2001, Australian/New Zealand Standard 1336:1997 Recommended Practices for Occupational Eye Protection and Australian Standard 1337:1997 Eye Protectors for Industrial Applications.