Workers Skip Protective Measures, Experience Eye Injury and Vision Loss

Workers Skip Protective Measures, Experience Eye Injury and Vision Loss

Vision and safety experts release paper on best practices for protecting eyes in the workplace

Alexandria, VA (December 6, 2010) - Each day nearly 2,000 American workers suffer the pain of avoidable workplace eye injuries that require medical treatment. Yet, despite the risk of eye injury, many workers bypass appropriate precautions to protect their eyes. Today The Vision Council, in conjunction with the 100-year-old American Society of Safety Engineers (ASSE), announced the release of a new issue brief, Eye Safety At-a-Glance: Protecting Your Vision at Work, about the importance of workers protecting their eyes while on the job.

In addition to the physical toll exacted by workplace eye injuries, they also come at great cost to businesses. An estimated $300 million annually in medical bills, compensation and downtime is the result of workplace eye injury. Lost productivity is another significant consequence, with more than 27,000 reported days away from work among private industry employees in 2008.

Although workplace eye injuries can be devastating, there is a positive story to tell about prevention when workers consistently use the right protective eyewear, said Ed Greene, CEO of The Vision Council. The Vision Council developed this issue brief to ensure that business owners and workers are aware that using the proper eye protection, such as safety glasses, goggles, face shields and helmets, can prevent countless eye injuries and cases of vision loss.

Potential eye hazards can be found in nearly every industry. While 61 percent of eye injuries occur in manufacturing, construction or trade jobs, threats like chemical exposure are present in hospitals, laboratories and many other types of workplaces. Research also shows that nearly three out of every five workers injured were wearing either the wrong kind of eye protection or no protection at all. The Vision Council has partnered with ASSE to develop this issue brief in order to spread the message that workplace eye injuries are largely preventable.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration requires the use of eye and face protection whenever there is a reasonable probability of injury that could be prevented by such equipment.

The eye protection chosen for specific work situations should depend upon the type of hazard, the circumstances of exposure, other protective equipment used and individual vision needs.

Employers are required by law to assess eye safety hazards in the workplace and take measures to ensure employee safety through compliance with government regulations for eyewear and emergency eyewash stations. But employees should also be aware of the potential for eye injury and ways to protect themselves.

Safety eyewear protection includes:

  • non-prescription and prescription safety glasses;
  • goggles;
  • face shields;
  • welding helmets; and
  • full-face respirators.

Eye hazards and vision safety in the workplace have been a top focus of ASSE members. ASSE serves as secretariat for several American National Standard Institute (ANSI) standard projects and was formerly secretariat for the Z87 standard, which focuses on vision safety, eye and face protection in the workplace and provides guidelines for eye protection design and construction. Eye protection in the workplace is very important to ensure employees return home injury and illness free to their families each day.

To view or download a copy of The Vision Council's Eye Safety At-a-Glance: Protecting Your Vision in the Workplace issue brief, please visit our website or contact Maureen Beddis at (703) 740-9496 or mbeddis@thevisioncouncil.org; or Starla Stiles at (202) 745-5065 or sstiles@gymr.com.

Serving as the global voice for vision care products and services, The Vision Council represents the manufacturers and suppliers of the optical industry. We position our members to be successful in a competitive marketplace through education, advocacy, consumer outreach, strategic relationship building and industry forums.

Founded in 1911, the Des Plaines, IL-based ASSE is the oldest professional safety organization and is committed to protecting people, property and the environment. Its more than 32,000 occupational safety, health and environmental professional members lead, manage, supervise, research and consult on safety, health, transportation and environmental issues in all industries, government, labor, health care and education. For more information about ASSE's standards projects and the work of more than 32,000 member occupational safety and health professionals, please visit www.asse.org.