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PROPERTY & CASUALTY
NOV 21, 2017
The Eyes Have It: Eye Safety in the Healthcare Industry
We often don’t think about eye safety until it’s too late. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that three out of five people who suffer eye injuries at work weren’t wearing eye protection because they didn’t think it was necessary. According to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) these incidences happen nearly 2,000 times each day. We know these injuries are common in many industrial jobs, but they are also important in the healthcare industry. You can prevent these injuries by knowing what can harm your workers’ eyes, helping them choose the right protection and ensuring its correct use.
What are the hazards?
Common hazards that can lead to eye injury include:
Falling dust particles
Exposure to chemicals
Bloodborne pathogens from contact with blood or other bodily fluids
All of these hazards can happen at any workplace. For the healthcare industry, it is particularly important to be aware of any contact your workers will have with blood or bodily fluids.
Why do they happen?
Eye injuries typically happen for two reasons:
The worker was not wearing eye protection
The worker was wearing improper or ill-fitting eye protection
The first is the cause of the most eye injuries, but both can have serious consequences. Some potential consequences to the lack of or incorrect use of eye wear are cuts or scrapes on the cornea from foreign objects and chemicals, and burns from steam and radiation.
In the healthcare industry, your workers need to protect themselves from infectious diseases that can spread through the mucus membrane of their eyes. This can occur through direct blood splashes to the eye, exposure to pathogens from coughing, or touching of the eye with contaminated fingers or other objects.
What can I do to protect my workers?
The kind of eye and face protection depends on the circumstance of exposure and the type of risk posed. You are responsible for assessing the possible hazards and providing the appropriate protective materials. Different types of eye and face protection include:
prescription or nonprescription safety glasses are impact resistant and used for work environments with high risk of flying dust, wood or metal particles
safety goggles are also impact resistant, but also provide a secure shield around the entirety of the eye
Face shields and helmets:
full face shields protect workers from heat, chemical splash and the spread of bloodborne pathogens
You are responsible for protecting your workers from infection and eye damage. Read more about the Occupational Health and Safety Administration’s standards for eye and face protection