Eye-Injury PreventionEasy and Affordable

July 1, 2008

Eye injuries, which occur at an estimated rate of 1000/day in U.S. businesses, take a great personal toll on American workers. Add up the lost production time, medical expenses and workers’ compensation claims, and the estimated cost of these injuries reaches $300 million/yr.

Yet, companies can prevent some 90 percent of eye injuries through the proper use of protective eye wear and by investing to create and implement an eye and face safety program. Protective eye and face equipment is inexpensive—a good pair of safety glasses or goggles costs less than $20—compared to the expenses related to eye injuries, bad publicity for the company and the negative impact on worker morale.

The goal of eye and face protection is to shield the eyes from injury. Most impacts to the face come from flying objects, usually particulates. If the particulate hits the eye, it causes direct damage that makes it difficult for the eye to repair itself. Almost 70 percent of eye accidents result from flying or falling objects, or from sparks striking the eye. Most of the objects are smaller than a pin head, and most travel faster than a hand-thrown object. (Contact with chemicals causes the remaining 30 percent of eye injuries.)

As with any safety program, the first step in establishing an eye- and face-protection program is to conduct a hazard assessment, which should list what personal-protective equipment (PPE) will be used to protect against the hazards. Hazards should be assessed by work activity, and the hazard assessment should determine the type of PPE required for each activity.

Eye-injury prevention

In addition, companies should prepare a written plan that specifies how the PPE will be selected, the worker training required to ensure proper use of the PPE, and how prompt emergency care will be provided in the event of an accident.

OSHA has an excellent Eye and Face Protection eTool on its website (osha.gov/SLTC/etools/eyeandface/ppe/ selection.html) that can assist managers in preparing a hazard assessment. It also provides information on selecting PPE, and summarizes OSHA requirements.

PPE Selection

The American National Standards Institute standard for eye and face protection (ANSI Z87.1-2003) specifies requirements for safety glasses, safety goggles, face shields, full-face and hooded respirators.

• ANSI-compliant safety glasses are appropriate for general hazards such as particulates and dust, but they don’t provide good protection against splashes or sprays.

• Goggles with anti-fog coating fit tightly on the face and provide protection around the eyes, so they are excellent for settings where splashes or sprays are possible. There are different types of goggles —direct vented, indirectly vented or nonvented—and it’s important to select the right type. Vented goggles may not prove as effective in protecting the eyes from splashes as non-vented or indirectly vented goggles.

• Wearing both goggles and a face shield protects the eyes and face, and may be appropriate when splashes or sprays are likely. If impact also is a risk, workworkers should wear impact-tested goggles under face shields, since not all face shields are rated for impact resistance.

Contact lenses can be a problem, because they can hold substances onto the eye and cause further damage. Therefore, workers should avoid wearing contact lenses in hazardous situations and instead wear prescription safety glasses or goggles.

Companies should take care to inspect PPE prior to use, ideally at the beginning of a shift. Immediately replace PPE that exhibits any sign of damage. A good rule of thumb on the usable life of PPE is about five years; older PPE may not be compliant with the latest ANSI standards.

Emergency Care

OSHA mandates that a means for flushing workers’ eyes must be provided where eye hazards exist. An eye- and face-protection program should include considerations for emergency eyewash stations that provide a full 15-min. flush. (The ANSI standard for eyewash stations is Z358). In the field, eyewash bottles can be on hand for interim assistance until an eyewash station can be reached. Companies also can invest in portable eyewash stations that can dispense water for 15 min.


Finally, all employees must be trained on the PPE needed to do their jobs, including eye and face protection. Training should review the written program and include discussions of when PPE is necessary, and how to wear, adjust and care for it. Employees also should be able to identify damaged PPE, and understand its limitations.

Industry-Related Terms: Impact Resistance
View Glossary of Metalforming Terms

Technologies: Safety


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