SAFETY BY TOM O’CONNOR
Flying particles or objects cause the
majority of occupational eye injuries.
Some of these hazards include metal
slivers, dust, and wood and cement
chips, and they can be ejected by tools
or machinery, wind-blown hazards, etc.
Drywall and sawdust are common problems for electricians.
A wide range of PPE can prevent
these types of injuries. Safety glasses
with side protection, goggles and face
shields can prevent flying fragments,
objects, particles, sand, dirt and dust
from entering the eyes or striking the
face. These hazards are often created by
chipping, grinding, machining, sawing,
drilling, chiseling, powered fastening,
riveting or sanding.
When choosing safety glasses, there
are three common types of lenses to
consider: glass, plastic and polycarbonate. Each provides different degrees of
protection and comfort. Glass lenses
are typically difficult to scratch, can be
worn around harsh chemicals and can
be made with a corrective prescription.
However, glass lenses can also be heavy
and uncomfortable, and they tend to
fog up in humid conditions. Plastic and
polycarbonate lenses are usually lighter
than glass and less likely to fog, but they
are not as scratch-resistant. Polycarbonate lenses are stronger than glass
and plastic lenses, and they can absorb
a greater impact.
Electricians, linemen and wiremen
should wear eye protection or safety
glasses that are fully dielectric with no
metal parts when exposed to electrical
hazards or electrical arc. In some sce-
narios, a face shield may be needed to
protect against electrical arc, as well.
Electrical workers also may encounter
thermal-burn hazards, typically from
welding and cutting.
Employees involved in this type of
work are at an increased risk of experiencing injuries such as ultraviolet
(UV) radiation burns, also known as
“welder’s flash,” which can cause damage to the skin and surrounding tissue.
Welder’s flash is essentially like sunburn on the eyes. Mild cases can be
treated with eye drops or ointments or
by using an eye patch to protect the eye
while it heals.
Welding poses a number of additional dangers that require the use of
eye and face protection, such as safety
glasses, goggles, welding helmets or
welding face shields. These forms of
PPE come equipped with filter lenses
and a shade number that provides varying degrees of protection. Typically, the
greater the shade number, the greater
the protection to radiation. As a rule
of thumb, OSHA recommends starting
with a shade that is too dark to see the
weld zone. Then, go to a lighter shade
that provides a sufficient view of the
weld zone without going below the
minimum required levels.
In addition, eye injuries can occur
when working with chemicals. When
using chemicals and acids, workers
should wear special chemical goggles
with eye cups and a face shield. Using
approved eye and face protection when
working with these hazards will prevent
damage from vapors and irritant mists.
Chemical exposure to the eyes can
have permanent consequences if not
immediately treated. Whenever this
type of injury occurs, victims must avoid
rubbing their eyes and should flush the
area with water, using a water fountain,
shower, garden hose or other clean
water source, so long as the pressure is
controllable. Keep the flow at a safe setting for the eye. Avoid bandaging the eye.
Under any circumstances, eye-injury
victims who experience symptoms such
as blurred vision, worsening glare, seeing
spots or light flashes, pain while moving the eyes, or intensifying pain should
consult a doctor immediately or go to an
Eye injuries cost employers upward
of $300 million per year in lost productivity, medical expenses and worker
compensation. With a little diligence,
education and awareness, the number of
eye injuries can be greatly reduced.
For more information regarding eye
and face protection and hazards, visit
Easy on the Eyes
Protecting your peepers on the job
EVERY DAY, MORE THAN 2,000 PEOPLE INCUR JOB-RELATED eye injuries
that require medical treatment. It is estimated that proper eye and face protection
can prevent 90 percent of these injuries. Employers should be vigilant in promoting
eye and face safety through training, awareness campaigns and personal protective
equipment (PPE). The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has
some minimum requirements pertaining to these types of hazards; however, even
more can be done.
O’CONNO R is safety and regulatory affairs manager for Intec, a safety consulting, training
and publishing firm that offers on-site assistance and produces manuals, training videos and
software for contractors. Reach him at
firstname.lastname@example.org. I S T