Roughly 2,000 eye injuries occur in the workplace every day. An estimated 20,000 of these injuries require medical treatment and at least one day away from work. It is estimated that of the total number of eye injuries, roughly 33% of these injuries are treated within an emergency room. According to data collected by the Occupational Health and Safety Administration, these injuries cost more than $300 million in lost productivity, wages, and treatment.
Causes of Eye Injuries
Flying Objects – Roughly 70% of workplace eye injuries are caused by flying objects such as shards of metal or glass. Objects can easily become airborne during construction, manufacturing, and landscaping activity.
Chemicals – Chemical exposures can include contact with cleaning products, solvents, fertilizers, pesticides, etc. Even with prompt treatment, these injuries can cause permanent damage to the eye.
Tools – Almost every tool in the workplace from hammers to saws can cause an eye injury. However, the most dangerous tools are those that launch potential projectiles or particulates including nail guns, riveters, saws, and tree trimmers.
Radiation – Workers face more risk from radiation that just the UV rays of the sun. Welding, fiber optics, and laser cutting can pose a significant risk of injury.
Burns – Chemical contact or exposure to hot metal fragments ejected during welding, cutting, or grinding can cause severe damage to the cornea, retina, and surrounding tissues.
Trauma to the Eyes
Trauma to the eyes can include scratched corneas, detached retinas, burns, and infections. In a best case scenario, these injuries can be temporary or corrected through medical treatment. However, more commonly these injuries cause long-term damage to the individual’s eyesight. A workers’ compensation attorney can assist individuals in determining how severe the injury is and how much the injury diminishes their ability to perform their regular work functions.
Liability for Eye Injuries
One of the most common reasons for any eye injuries within the workplace and subsequent workers’ compensation claims is a lack of safety equipment. Employers can be held liable for eye injuries if they fail to provide employees with eye protection such as face shields and safety glasses that comply with OSHA’s standards for the tasks being performed. Other factors that employers can be liable for include failure to maintain equipment such as splinter guards, shields, and ventilation systems designed to deflect, trap and collect particulates generated during cutting, welding, shredding, or manufacturing operations.