Professional eye protection

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Each day many thousands of workers have a job-related eye injury that requires medical treatment. About one third of the injuries are treated in hospital emergency departments and more than 500 of these injuries result in one or more days of lost work. The majority of these injuries result from small particles or objects striking or abrading the eye. Examples include metal slivers, wood chips, dust, and cement chips that are ejected by tools, wind blown, or fall from above a worker. Some of these objects, such as nails, staples, or slivers of wood or metal penetrate the eyeball and result in a permanent loss of vision. Large objects may also strike the eye/face, or a worker may run into an object causing blunt force trauma to the eyeball or eye socket. Chemical burns to one or both eyes from splashes of industrial chemicals or cleaning products are common. Thermal burns to the eye occur as well. Among welders, their assistants, and nearby workers, UV radiation burns (welder’s flash) routinely damage workers’ eyes and surrounding tissue.

In addition to common eye injuries, health care workers, laboratory staff, janitorial workers, animal handlers, and other workers may be at risk of acquiring infectious diseases via ocular exposure. Infectious diseases can be transmitted through the mucous membranes of the eye as a result of direct exposure (e.g., blood splashes, respiratory droplets generated during coughing or suctioning) or from touching the eyes with contaminated fingers or other objects.

Controls on working places should be used to reduce eye injuries and to protect against ocular infection exposures. Personal protective eyewear, such as goggles, face shields, safety glasses, or full face respirators must also be used when an eye hazard exists. The eye protection chosen for specific work situations depends upon the nature and extent of the hazard, the circumstances of exposure, other protective equipment used, and personal vision needs. Eye protection should be fit to an individual or adjustable to provide appropriate coverage. It should be comfortable and allow for sufficient peripheral vision. Selection of protective eyewear appropriate for a given task should be made based on a hazard assessment of each activity, including regulatory requirements when applicable.

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  • Question: What is eye and face protection? Response: Eye and face protection is protective equipment such as spectacles, goggles, face shields, or welding shields that are designed to protect the wearer against a variety of hazards.
  • Question: Can any eye and face protection be used? Response: No, eye and face protection must be selected on the basis of hazards to which the worker is exposed.
  • Question: How can certified eye and face protection be recognized? Response: Certified protective devices shall be marked permanently and legibly by the manufacturer, so that it can be easily identified. The mark shall not interfere with wearer's vision.
  • Question: When must an employer provide eye and face protection for employees? Response: Employers must provide eye protection for employees whenever they are exposed to potential eye injuries during their work if work practice or engineering controls do not eliminate the risk of injury.
  • Question: What can be done if an employee has a very small face and has trouble being fit tested for a PPE? Response: Manufacturers make several different sizes. Eye and face protection may also vary in size from manufacturer to manufacturer. Users may be able to get a better fit by trying eye and face protection made by another manufacturer. Employers must help employees find suitable eye and face protection.
  • Question: If employees wear eyeglasses with prescription lenses, are these considered eye protection? Response: No. Eyeglasses designed for ordinary wear do not provide the level of protection necessary to protect against workplace hazards.
  • Question: What maintenance and care is required for eye and face protection? Response: It is important that all eye and face protection be kept clean and properly maintained. Cleaning is particularly important where dirty or fogged lenses could impair vision. Eye and face protection should be inspected, cleaned, and maintained at regular intervals so that equipment provides the requisite protection.
  • Question: My employees work in shifts. Could I provide one pair of protective eyewear for each position instead of each employee? Response: Yes. If you do this, however, you must disinfect shared protective eyewear after each use. If the goggles or spectacles do not have to be individually designed to incorporate an employee's corrective lenses and you disinfect the eyewear between uses by different employees, more that one employee may use the same set of protective eyewear.
  • Question: What is the proper way to store protective devices that are used routinely? Response: Goggles should be kept in a case when not in use. Spectacles, in particular, should be given the same care as one's own glasses, since the frame, nose pads, and temples can be damaged by rough usage.

    After disinfecting eyewear, the dry parts or items should be placed in a clean, dust-proof container, such as a box, bag, or plastic envelope, to protect them until reissue.

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