Industrial Eye Injuries - common issues and prevention

Workplace eye injuries are common in the United States despite record spending by American industrial companies. 350 million dollars are spent on protective eyewear every year in the US

Consistent investment and enforcing PPE compliance in the workplace doesn’t seem to be enough. Approx. 300,000 workers in the US go to hospital with eye injuries each year. 270,000 of those injuries could have been prevented (90%) with proper PPE.

The current cost of all those visits to the emergency room average out at around 300 million dollars. This has been calculated to include loss of productivity, medical bills and compensation paid to the employee.

Who is liable for eye injuries in the workplace, employer or employee?

Companies are spending money on personal protective equipment (PPE) for their workers and this includes safety glasses. The money spent on protective eyewear works out at over 100 dollars per worker per year. This is based on the following industries in the United States (stats by

  • Manufacturing (15.5 million workers) 
  • Construction (11.1 million workers) 
  • Agricultural & related (2.4 million workers)
  • Mining, quarrying and oil & gas extraction (784 thousand workers)

For 100USD each you should expect the very best safety eyewear on the market for your employees. In most cases you should expect the item to last for more than one year of use.

It may be tempting to blame the employee given the facts and figures laid out above. Wearing PPE is more complicated than simply ‘to wear or not to wear.’ When it comes specifically to protective eyewear, employees cite the following issues, each contributing to the decision to remove their safety glasses:

  • Comfort and fit - eye protection that hurts or constantly falls off due to being the wrong size will be removed. The rationale is that it is more dangerous to keep them on as they are a distraction
  • Performance - perhaps the most common issue. Workers report that when they wear protective eyewear provided by their employer, they experience impaired sight from scratches, scuffs and fogging. In a factory environment or worksite with heavy plant, impaired sight presents a higher risk than eye injury.
  • Style - approx. 20% of workers cited aesthetics as the reason they removed their eye protection.

When it comes to liability, employers cannot simply state that they have provided personal protective equipment and told their staff to use it. Care and consideration must be given to the right type of safety eyewear with the concerns of the users taken into account

An effective PPE Program educates about the dangers and encourages employees to use the equipment provided. Such programs are the most effective methods to reduce industrial eye injuries. Sourcing protective eyewear that exceeds employee expectations in terms of comfort, fit, performance and style is the key to improving PPE compliance in the workplace.

Here is our range of top-performing safety eyewear guaranteed to fit comfortably. Users report they often forget they are wearing them, leaving them on for entire shifts. You will note we are significantly more reasonably priced than the average spend for the US.

Common workplace eye injuries you want to guard against

Chemical Eye Burns - It is not just laboratory technicians and chemical engineers that come into contact with hazardous chemicals. Highly corrosive acid and strong alkaline substances can be found in many substances in the workplace. Any one of them would trigger the need for medical attention if they came into contact with the eyes. Think bleach, anti-freeze, paint, cement (including in powder form) etc.

The pain from chemicals can vary, from mild stinging to painful burning. Chemicals in the eyes can result in blurred vision, corneal perforation, cataracts, glaucoma and ultimately blindness.

Foreign Body Invasion - something in your eye that shouldn’t be there. Foreign bodies can result in piercing injuries, corneal abrasion, infection and ultimately sight loss. This type of injury can be unbearably painful and long lasting. Foreign bodies are very common and the most easily defended against.

Blunt Force Trauma - safety glasses, spoggles and other protective eyewear cannot stop this type of injury but they can limit the impact. A serious facial injury such as a fractured eye socket could be reduced to a black eye. A potential black eye could be reduced to no eye injury at all 

Allergic Conjunctivitis - mainly a concern for the 2.4 million agricultural workers, and their employers, but can relate to other business sectors too. Working with exotic spices and produce can trigger this condition and UV exposure can increase the risk of it developing 

Eye disease (UV radiation) - associated with outdoor workers but includes environments where artificial UV light is used. Welding arcs, UV lamps and lasers are found in many industrial environments. Conditions include squamous cell carcinoma of the eye, pterygium and cataract.

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