With all the dust, cement chips, splinters, flecks of metal and sparks flying on construction worksites, it is hardly surprising that eye injuries are a serious problem. Add in the hazards of chemical splashes, welding arcs and the sun’s ultraviolet rays, and the danger is compounded.

First Aid
For Eye Injuries

  • Wash your hands thoroughly before examining the injury; move the eyelids; do not touch, press or rub the eye itself.
  • If a foreign object is caught in the eye, use an eye washing station immediately.
  • If an eye washing station is not available, flush eyes with lukewarm water repeatedly for 15 minutes. Continue for 15 more minutes if lime, lye, ammonia, plaster of Paris or fireworks powder has entered the eye.
  • Do not try to remove foreign material except by pulling the upper lid over the lower (to induce tearing) or by flushing with water.
  • For blows to the eye by a blunt object, lightly apply a cold compress; do not attempt to wash, rub or apply pressure to the eye, even to stop blood flow; seek medical treatment.
  • For penetrating injuries, bandage lightly. If an object is stuck in the eye, leave it there and seek medical treatment.
  • If vision changes or signs of infection develop after an injury, seek medical attention.

Each year, construction workers endure more than 11,000 lost-time injuries related to eye hazards. But the problem is not confined just to construction.  Everyday, American workers suffer roughly 2,000 eye injuries, about one in ten causing lost workdays for recovery. Between ten and 20 percent cause temporary or permanent loss of vision. Eye injuries account for more than $300 million a year in lost production, medical expenses and workers’ compensation.

Experts estimate that 90 percent of all eye injuries can be prevented through the proper use of engineering controls and eye protection equipment. Sixty percent are suffered by workers who either did not wear eye protection or had removed it while working. In addition, most injuries that occur while wearing protection are caused by materials that enter around ill-fitting glasses or goggles. Thus, choosing properly-fitting equipment is as important as remembering to use it.

To make sure that glasses and goggles are truly safe, always look for equipment marked with “Z87,” shorthand for ANSI’s eye protection standard. When working outdoors, look for UV-rated equipment that protects against ultraviolet sunlight. Make sure all equipment is in good condition and fits properly and get in the habit of always wearing it.

LHSFNA Resource: Eye Injury in Construction health alert

[Steve Clark]